You might know Amy Edwards as a local musician. She’s also a mom and – as of Mother’s Day – a published children’s book author. Her first work, Starla and the Boogie Deluxe, goes on sale May 12. After five years of laboring over the story and illustrations, bringing the work to fruition at this time of year holds special significance to Edwards, for whom creativity is a trait passed down from mother to daughter. On a recent morning, we met for coffee to talk about motherhood and artistic vision.
AFM: Tell us about your family.
Edwards: My oldest daughter is Sidney, and she is 13. Gigi, my little one, turns 10 in May. They are a big reason why I did this book. It’s about a little girl who wants to be a singer, and I have two of those. Actually, Sidney sings the song that’s the download for the book. It’s called “That’s What Friends Do.” It’s so cute.
AFM: What led you to write a children’s book?
Edwards: I had a lot of life transitions going on. My mom died. I got a divorce. I got remarried and had Gigi. I was in my mid-30s, and I wasn’t sure what my next steps were. Some friends were like, “Hey, let’s get together and learn instruments.” I had never played guitar or anything. We formed a band and started getting more serious, and we really liked it. Unfortunately, that fell apart, but I started writing some of my own music.
I’ve learned so much, just about overcoming fear and negative self-talk and things that we all struggle with. One day I thought, “Man, I want to write a children’s book.” I thought of the basics, that she wants to be a singer and is misunderstood. I started collaborating with my then-spouse and Gigi’s dad, Kevin Green, who’s the co-writer. It has taken so long. This book is five years in the making. I wanted to do something for my kids. They’ve heard me talk about it for years. Even Starla’s shirt in the book is based on a hand-me-down from Sidney that Gigi wore nonstop until she grew out of it.
AFM: Do you have other works inspired by your kids?
Edwards: I’ve written songs. I recorded some songs and had them come in and sing backup. On my album, “Little Birds,” Sidney did the art and they both sang backup. I’m going to look back on this book – and I’m getting all choked up just thinking about it – and I’m going to know how much it meant. So, whether it succeeds or not isn’t really the point. The point is that you put out something that means something.
AFM: What do you hope to pass down to your children?
Edwards: Oh, that’s a big part of everything I do. I always look at it and think, “What is this showing them?” And I have one that’s now on Instagram, doing the teenage thing. Her friends follow me. She sees everything I do, and it gives you a whole different perspective on what you’re putting out. And I’m not always great at it. But I do hope that long term, that inspires them and reminds them that women can continue to grow throughout life. You can change, and you can figure it out. Make mistakes and fail and keep moving.
I just keep saying yes and trying new things, even when it scares me. In fact, that’s the indicator: if it scares me, I’m like, “Shoot, I should probably do it.” I look to a lot of other women that are doing things, and that’s very motivating to me. Sometimes I know that not doing it is going to be worse. [laughs] Even though it’s going to be really hard, what’s the alternative?
AFM: How did your mom influence you?
Edwards: My mother’s name was Sidney, and I was pregnant with my Sidney when my mom passed away, so I named Sid after her. My mother was a writer. And I grew up hearing her typing away on her typewriter. She was never really published – she self-published a book of poetry. But she wasn’t afraid to just keep going with something she was passionate about. And she kept writing until she passed away. She was never afraid to speak her mind and use her voice. She always said she was born a little too early. I’m proud of who she was, and to see that she just kept going and kept trying.
AFM: What are you working to improve on as a mom?
Edwards: Everything. All the time. I have a teenager now, and I try to keep perspective and say, “I get to be her mom through this.” She’s a great kid, but we all go through it, and I get to be her mom. And as someone who is on my own — I don’t have a spouse — I really, really work on valuing the time that we’re together and staying very engaged. Figuring out ways to manage what good parenting looks like. I would like to improve on figuring out how to navigate all the things we want to engage our kids. It’s really hard. But there’s room for improvement everywhere.
AFM: Tell us more about your book.
Edwards: We worked hard on looking at the story from a kid’s perspective and how they’d be feeling. Starla tells a lie in the book, and then has to deal with how she feels after that. “What am I going to do?” I like that we reflected that in the story, and then she has to make it right. She has to face what she did, and that’s why she writes the song, because she doesn’t really know what else to do. And she learns a lesson in a couple different ways.
Also, we have these two hamsters hidden on every page. Kids will really like to look for that. They’re always tucked away somewhere. It was a big process of envisioning these pages. We wanted to keep skin color very inclusive. So, I looked to the Muppets for inspiration. We made Starla orange, and her parents are green and blue. Her friends are all different colors. I can credit our illustrator, Jillian Tito. She’s just incredible. She did so much detail work.
And starlasings.com is where you can go to download the song. It’s all coming out on Mother’s Day.
Sherida Mock is the editor Austin Family Magazine.