Our Member Interview Series welcomes Belinda Mays, author of six picture books, including the independently published Daddy, Can I Go with You?, I Am, God’s Affirmations for Little Girls and I Am, God’s Affirmations for Little Boys. Belinda holds a BS in Computer Science and Communication from Huston-Tillotson University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from The University of Texas at Austin. She has worked 20 years as an IT professional and is also an award-winning public speaker, presenting “How To Re-Purpose Your Children’s Book Content” at the 2022 Women in Publishing Summit. A speech she delivered at Toastmasters International led to her first children’s book idea.
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up in Beaumont, Texas, which is almost halfway between Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Beaumont shaped who I am because of the food, my family, and my parents. Our family was always gathered around a good meal, whether it was a crawfish boil, BBQ, or gumbo on Christmas Eve. We always celebrated with food.
My parents also inspired me to be a children’s book author, even if I didn’t make those connections until I was an adult. My mom owned a day care, and I grew up listening to her make up songs and stories to teach kids everything from their ABC’s to manners. And my first book, My Amazing Dad, started off as a tall tale-styled speech about my dad, who we called “Mr. Fix-it,” growing up.
Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later?
No, I actually wanted to be a news anchor or talk show host. In fact, I originally went to college to major in Communications. I ended up falling in love with coding and double-majored in Computer Science and Communications.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
They would see organized chaos. There is never a dull moment as a mom of three, working full time, and running a business. My husband and I are constantly juggling schedules and trying to squeeze in date nights.
How does your everyday life feed your work?
I try to have a lot of conversations with my kids, and they really help inspire the books that I write. Each of my books can be attributed to a family member or family tradition.
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
Winning the 2020 Christian Indie Book Award for I Am, God’s Affirmations For Little Girls
What surprises you about the creative life?
That I have more ideas than I can actually act on, and that the finished books are not often my first choices. They are the ideas that got fully flushed out and completed by God’s plan.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I hope they find an author who has focused on promoting positive Black family images and literacy. I hope they find joy in reading the funny tall tale, and they discover the entertainment in learning through storytelling.
You have mentioned your family’s mission is “to be health conscious, fiscally responsible, civically engaged and spiritually driven.” So …
What’s your favorite healthy food?
Salads, because they are versatile.
What’s a recent purchase and/or reason to save?
Saved for a road trip with my girlfriends!
Where have you enjoyed a recent civic engagement?
Lately, I have been attending numerous fundraisers where we party with a purpose. I love seeing thousands of dollars gifted to our youth through organizations like Austin Community Foundation and Raising the Standard Foundation of Fort Worth.
What is one of your favorite spiritual quotations/thoughts?
A candle loses nothing of it’s flame by lighting another. Pour into others—that is the best gift we can give.