Nyasha If you could introduce yourself, that would be amazing.
Maryah Yeah, of course. My name is Maryah Green. I am known as the plant doctor and stylist to some, and I guess now an author to others. I'm a former teacher and elementary school educator, and I moved to New York in 2017 to pursue teaching full-time and made a bit of a pivot to the plant doctor and stylist, but I'm now in the season of seeing all things come together.
Nyasha Beautiful. Okay. And what led to both your knowledge, loving and caring for plants?
Maryah I feel like talking about plants is impossible for me to do without talking about my love for education and children. While I made the pivot from being a formal educator in a classroom, I've always just felt this craving and desire to be closer to people who want to learn about a new thing. I found that plants are that thing that we all loved, but couldn't seem to care for masterfully. And so I decided to become one of those people.
I found that there was a need to understand our plants and how to care for them in ways that are sustainable. Once I realized that there was that need, I think my teacher brain clicked on, and it was, okay, well, let me see what people are struggling with and how I can meet that need. It started with the intention of 'Why don't I just create an Instagram account with fun tips and tricks' and it blossomed into, 'Okay, well, I'll just come to you and support you in saving your plants'. So I don't want to say that I necessarily sat down and thought, 'Oh, plants are going to be my new thing', but it was more that I wanted to fill a need and support people that were struggling to keep their plants alive.
Nyasha I similarly had a transition out of the classroom. I wanted to learn a little bit more about yours and why you made that transition. Just want to hear a bit more about what that journey was like for you.
Maryah Yeah, I love talking about that journey from like, quote-unquote, nine to five to following your love because it's different for everyone. And I hate it when it sounds overly simplified. For me, I was in grad school full-time and also a student teacher on the way to getting my master's in education. So I wasn't qualified to get a teacher's salary yet- still living that student life. So I was making like 20 to $50 stretch every week. Eventually, I'm like, okay, I'm good at this one thing, and I think I'm going to make it my side hustle.
Nyasha What is teacher life without a side hustle?
Right?! And so if I can charge every client like $20 an hour. That's like big bang compared to what I'm currently making as a teacher while trying to better myself and go through school and jump through all the hoops that society says we should.
For me, the transition wasn't me having that thing that most people have, and that's like, oh, I have this, this secure job that felt like the wrong fit and choosing to take a big pay cut when leaving it. My side hustle was what propelled me into becoming an adult and having consistent money. I decided to cut my losses, and I was just going to go for it.
But what that looked like in actuality was that once I finished school and received my first full-time teaching job (this is off the back of, like the month where I was getting the most press.) So, like in Good Morning America, New York Times, and all that wanted my story on my then-plant side hustle. I had to choose whether or not I wanted to go on in Good Morning America or if I wanted to pursue this teaching role full-time because, as a first-time teacher, you can't take any days off. I just was like, I feel like I can always go back to teaching. I feel like if Good Morning America wants you, they probably reach out once in a lifetime, if ever, so I'm just going to see this through. I think that symbolizes a lot of moments in my life where I just was like, you know what, I'm just going to go for it and see what happens. In the worst case, I can always go back to my job.
Nyasha Yeah. It's that like a pivotal moment. You see that fork in the road. Very fool card energy in tarot of taking a leap.
Maryah Yeah, and you don't even realize it in the moment! It's just like, this is going against everything I know. You're supposed to go to school and get a good job and whatever. But I'm like, this wasn't and doesn't seem like it's in the plan, but equally would feel really silly to not just go for it and give it a shot.
Nyasha Absolutely. So, my next question for you: I know that you're really connected to Japanese culture and living. I wanted to know, what do you think within Japanese culture can be better revered in the Western world? Things that we may have forgotten or lost touch with. What aspects of Japanese culture and living maybe we could learn from and gain from that may be missing this side?
Maryah I think about that all the time. Especially in my classroom, because when I first moved to New York, again, I started with absolutely nothing. But my classroom was the space that I could curate. And so, without actually realizing it, I was curating a space that was based on all the fundamental values that I knew growing up in Japan. And that involved leaving space.
In America, we love stuff. We love to fill a corner and hang things on the wall. We just love to fill our space. I don't find that I'm one of those people and I think that's where the plant design came in. I found that when I started, it was this curiosity and love for plants. In my eyes, no shade, it just felt like hoarding of plants, and I realized it didn't feel sustainable. I think a lot of people are getting down on themselves that they're not plant parents because they can't manage to keep 100 plants alive. That's not realistic.
And so what is plant design? What is it to choose a big statement plant and put it in the corner? Sometimes that's all that you need and to be intentional about what you want in your space. So I would say that was the main one. Then I think the second piece is leaving space for conversation and for quietness. So, in our culture, Western culture, it's you talk, and someone responds and we don't want any dead air. That's awkward. Whereas the Japanese really fundamentally hold space for hearing someone, listening rather than like listening to respond. And I really try to hold that space for my clients when they're telling me what their experience is and caring for houseplants and what their difficulties are. I try to approach it with a, you tell me what's going on, and I'll figure out where I fit into that equation.
Nyasha Yeah, yeah! I am comfortable with silence and quietness with my partner, but not always with general everyday people. Which I think is an area for growth and expansion for sure. I think Gen Z's are doing it in their own unique way. I feel like I see it in my youngest sister. She'll call me and not specifically want to talk to me, and she's just doing stuff while on the phone, right? But it's like she wants my space and comfort and me to be there, and I hold space. And they're doing it through tech, which I'm like, you know, it's interesting, it's their own vibe with it. But yes, I know exactly what you're saying in terms of people feeling like they have to listen to respond or fill that silence.
Maryah Yes. It's the way that we respond, like right after you just finished speaking, I'm like, oh, I need to go now. But it's like, there's this moment of pause, there has to be a name for it in Japanese. But it's like after you're finished speaking, it's like I'm taking that in, it's a couple seconds, and then someone responds. and that space just, I wish I could like live in that space. It's so sacred, and it just feels really safe.
Nyasha I sit in that moment often to absorb what someone has said, sometimes I hear the call to write what was said or an idea down. But it definitely breaks up the expected flow in. a conversation causing me to feel the need to explain myself.
I have to just say, like, even at this point in our conversation, I'm like, oh my God, I wanna write a book with you. Like, I just feel like, like there's so many ideas that have like come up in my head just from what we've been talking about. So I'm excited.
Maryah Okay! I am going to hold you to that.
Nyasha Okay. So the next question is, what is your advice to those of us who identify as chaotic gardeners open to advice from a plant whisperer?
Maryah Yes. For those that think to be chaotic gardeners, I think there's something so fun about chaos. I think that we subscribe again, not to get all woo-woo, but in our society, we're constantly subscribing to schedules, checking off boxes, and making sure we've done everything. We don't even pause to think, what even is everything? What does it mean to be finished? If you can have a moment of intentional chaos, I think that's, So fucking dope.
That was one of the things I loved about plants in my classroom. If we were repotting a plant, how often is it that you can tell a kid to play in dirt and make a mess? And that is okay. And welcomed. It gives something so freeing. I have a plant client after this, and it's in this really bougie, beautiful office in Soho. Everyone's just in their little boxes working, but I'm like over here playing in dirt, and that feels so freeing and chaotic good and just peacefully disruptive. I'm so here for it. If it means 50 plants on the windowsill because that makes you feel good, do that. If it's one plant, and that's your statement plant, and that makes you feel good, I love that for you. But there's no specific thing you need to subscribe to in order to be the perfect plant parent.
Nyasha I love that! Yes, I identify as a chaotic gardener, and I just speak forth that each year is its own and that I get a little better in my knowledge as a gardener. And every, like I welcome any harvest, and no matter how it looks, whatever feels nurtured enough to grow.
Maryah Yes, Exactly! It's this notion that everything is perfect, prim, and proper in your garden.
No, I have a pothos upstairs giving me hell. And it can be embarrassing. I feel like it could be on TMZ. My plant, 'My Pothos is Dying,' but it's like, that's the phase that it's in. And when I get to it, I'm gonna repot it, and it might not make it, but then the time that it served me, it's over like whatever your journey is.
Nyasha I think that's beautiful for you. Reminds me of the Wabi Sabi. I didn't know about Wabi Sabi at all. My husband really introduced me and like was like, you just gotta find that peace in the imperfect, you know?
Maryah Yes. Yeah, it's so calming, to say the least.
Nyasha Yes. Okay. So I wanna know what makes the Monstera plant hold such a special space in your heart because it's so centered in the book.
Maryah Yeah. I went with the Monstera because...I'm looking over here because there's a Monstera.
I went with the Monstera because I found that that was the plant that time I brought it into a client's home... I guess I should preface this with the fact that 70% of the time when I have a client reaching out, they're going through something. So it's like, I'm going through a divorce, and this is my new space, and I just want to do it right, or this is the baby's nursery, or I just moved here. They're just a reason why they've made it to contacting me at this point. So upon realizing that after hundreds of clients, I realized that it seems like everyone wants to find comfort in the plants they already have, and they just want to see them grow. It's actually quite simple. They want the satisfaction of seeing their plants grow and knowing that it's something they did and not because of me.
I found that the plant that consistently didn't let me down time and time again was the Monstera, mainly because it has such dramatic leaves to come out and open. The next one is bigger than the one before, and there might be a hole or holes. And there might not. I think I've always thought of it as the instant gratification plant. So whenever I have a client I gather is specifically going through something, whether it's traumatic or a fresh start, I make sure to give them a monstera, and I don't tell them all of this, but I'm like, this is gonna be the thing where you're like working at your computer, and you look over to the right, and you see a little leaf coming out like it's so dramatic. So I think that's why I was like, this is gonna be the plan that serves as the symbol for this story.
Nyasha Absolutely, I feel that way with the Monstera you sent my way. Every time I see a new leaf starting to uncurl, I'm like, 'Oh my gosh!' and have to tell my husband a new leaf is coming in, being so giddy. I just get so hyped. I don't think he notices the way I am, but I'm like, look, it's starting to uncurl, and I just get so hyped about it. So yes, I love that. I have other plants that are doing well in my space, but I don't see them growing the same way. They are growing, but I'm not seeing the same gradual release and like being able to be there as that gradual release is happening.
Maryah Yes. Exactly. Yeah. It's like, even before it's like completely opened, that little tipper when the stem starts to get big enough where you know something's coming. It's like a three-week Christmas. And I think everybody needs to experience that!
Absolutely. Beautiful. I feel like you are really giving people plant feng shui of what they need in their space, which is really cool.
Maryah Wow. Thank you. Yeah.
Okay. So, I hear my Ancestors clearly when I connect with the elements in any form. And so, I wanted to know if this connection is similar for you when you engage with greenery. I'm like, you said, woo-woo. I'm like, man, I welcome all the woo-woo. I'm here for the woo-woo.
Maryah Definitely! I have to say, I think that the easy answer would be, when I'm with my clients, do I connect with my Ancestors? Yes. For me, I don't think it's that simple if I'm being honest. While I don't feel any larger pull calling when I am with plants, I do feel that when I see the light bulb go off from a client or just like a breath of relief from a client who's been trying to figure it out for so long. I think that's when I feel most connected to a higher power and my Ancestors, who have been with me along the way.
I think it's because I'm providing a source of comfort for someone who has been looking for it for so long. It's not like you fell and scraped your knee, and I got you a band-aid. By the time you reach out to me and spend money to have me come to your house, you are at wit's end. I am fully aware that this is a luxury service. So you have to be hearing an urgent need to have me come out to read you. So, the least I can do is listen, be empathetic, and validate everything you've been experiencing. once I see that moment on your face, I feel like the Ancestors are like, 'Yes, you got it!'' That's why you're here. It's to provide peace and calmness. And I felt that same way in the classroom, too.
Nyasha I love that you said reading people because when I'm doing work, especially Ancestral work, tarot, oracle, all of that, that's the same verb which we use- reading people or reading. I think that's why people have to step into their gifts intuitively within themselves as you've stepped into plants because plants are like one of your divination tools you're using to aid people, which I think is so powerful.
Maryah Thank you. Yeah, I completely agree with that. I don't feel like I was given this gift of being able to read plants. I think that just so happens to be where I'm able to speak and read and connect with people, and I'm just collaborating with the universe. If I'm able to meet you where you are, then that's great. And sometimes I don't always get there. Maybe the energy was off, but my goal is to see that light bulb go off and for you to find peace and calmness. the last thing that I want, I'm very weary of any sort of practice where it's revolved around a guru, or this is the person that, you're the plant doctor, you're the Oprah of whatever.
Yes, we're not here for staning.
We're not here for staning, absolutely. No, yeah, It can't be that after I leave, it's chaos. I want you to feel like this is approachable, and that you can do this.
Nyasha Yes! I mean, that's always should be the approach with like any anyone who's doing divination. People reach out for guidance and want help on their journey and we're here to provide that. But our ultimate goal is to empower people to be able to do it themselves or see that the power is within them all along, you know?
Maryah Totally, yeah!
Okay, so talk to us about the call to write Good Things.
The call to write Good Things has a name, and that is Molly Welsh Kruger. Molly is my advisor at the Bank Street College of Education. In short, before you graduate, you have to do one of three things. You have to write a curriculum, a children's book, and one other thing I can't remember. I immediately went with curriculum because I'm like, I can do that with my eyes closed, and I'm just trying to graduate. Molly calls me into her office and is like, 'I feel like it's a missed opportunity if you don't write a book. I feel like you have so much to say and like your plant work isn't separate from your teacher work'.
I felt like I had two hats during this phase of my life. So I was like, 'Okay, fine' because she is one of those teachers where you can't let them down, or it feels like a reflection on you. So, I wrote good things while I was finishing up my degree at Bank Street. The way the universe works is crazy because, separate from this, I then heard from a publisher who reached out and said, 'Hey, we're interested in you, Mariah, writing a coffee table book about houseplants. Are you interested in that? I was like, oh my god, that's amazing. I'm honored. However, again, this is like the guruism. I explained I didn't think I had anything to say, such as, 'This is how plant care really works.' But I thought, let me just go for it, letting them know that I was working on this children's book. I asked, 'Can I send you the manuscript?'
I sent it to them, and they really liked it. So, while that's how it happened, I feel like the book was inspired by my time in the classroom, working with underserved youth who are experiencing trauma that a lot of us will never experience in our lifetime, specifically loss in the death of someone close to them. It wasn't until I started working with my plant clients and doing this work that I found the metaphor to talk about that. It's mainly because, as a society, we are so cringy about talking about loss or saying the word death. But the one community that has no problem talking about it are plant parents. 'Oh yeah, I killed my fiddle leaf fig,' and I just felt like that was so ironic.
That's a good point.
I think it dawned on me, that's the metaphor. I think I can talk about it through plants because a plant dying is like, 'Well, shit, get another one.' But I found those two things, and I thought, I think this might be it.
Nyasha That's powerful.
I think that's healing work that people are starting to recognize. I've seen so many more death doulas come up in all these different spaces, and I think that that is necessary. I think it's interesting because I correlate it all with religion. Religion has this interesting intertwine with death because a lot of people fear the afterlife and what happens after death. And religion came in as this comfort within that. People trying to find a way to calm that fear. It is very interesting. interesting dynamic, and just yes, it's definitely something that and I think again, some other cultures do a better job with it because certain cultures are better about honoring and embracing their Ancestors.
A lot of BIPOC cultures are better about recognizing that ancestors are not gone, that they're with us. They're present and practicing veneration towards their Ancestors. As a Western society, we have distanced ourselves from that. I mean think about the number of products tied into capitalism in which we are running from the end, running from death, running from aging, running from getting older. Yeah, it's a very interesting dynamic. So, thank you for seeing that gap for us and trying to fill it in the ways that feel correct for you.
For sure. Yeah, I think you can value, or you can understand a lot about, a society in the way that it treats its kids.
Maryah In the Western world, the funding is low, and our schools are cutting budgets left and right, but it's like if we're scared to talk about this one thing, and that's death, and the kids are going to be scared about it. And we know that kids do one thing and one thing only, and that is ask questions. So we can be prepared with the tools for when they ask those questions, I feel like a book is always a great thing to be prepared with.
Nyasha Yes. No, it's funny you said that because that's one of my favorite quotes. 'And how are the children?' from the Maasai tribe? I put it as the beginning quote of my book that comes out in December, Keep Dreaming Black Child.
Maryah Oh my God, it comes out in December. Yes. I'm so excited. Congratulations!
Nyasha Thank you. Thank you. I love that quote, too.
Maryah It's powerful. It makes me equal parts sad and equal parts inspired.
Nyasha Absolutely. Absolutely! So I want to know, if you had to describe good things in three words, so your novel in three words, what would you say?
Maryah Oh, I would say necessary, honest, and the word space is coming up for me. I know that's not like a descriptor word, but like I've just never seen space in children's libraries or something like this. I think this book is creating, it's forcing space.
Nyasha Yeah. I mean, we need books that challenge what exists. And I mean, Good Things is definitely doing that.
Maryah Thank you.
Nyasha Which character do you relate most to in the book?
Maryah It changes every day. I think, I think Big Mon. I'm not even gonna lie. I think because I see the plants as characters, and so I think Big Mon and how Big Mon reacts after this sadness and being separated from Pops after he dies. Just like the journey big man goes on from being like, Everything's good, Pops is taking care of me, and then Pops dies, and then it's like, okay, now I'm mourning too. It's almost like Big Mon mourns before Malcolm does, and Malcolm's not able to make sense of that till later. I feel like I'm the type of person that's like, 'Oh shit, everything's gone downhill, I'm losing leaves left and right,' and then it just takes me a while of nothingness and like being intentional and space for hearing what's going on in my head to then be like, okay, I can persevere. It's okay. So I would say big man for sure.
Nyasha Okay, and your names and your books, I'm curious: where do your names come from? How do you come up with those?
Maryah I didn't have a process for that. It just kind of fit. I knew I wanted this to be a Black book, from the colloquialisms to the names. Like Pops and Big Mon, I just wanted something that could be undeniably Black. I don't have any white friends named Malcolm. It was a mixture of me watching a lot of my favorite Black films, and that's like from Crooklyn, all the way to just so many different things. Yeah, I wish I had a better answer for that.
Nyasha I understand. I feel the names authors use come from various places. I know that some of mine come from my time in classrooms with the kids. I brought in some of my kids back from when I was a teacher as names in my book, I am Somebody, that came out this summer. I included one of my teacher friends whom I taught with and who has a big space in my heart, one of my close friends. I had her created as the teacher in the book; she is a long last name, and she almost never uses her full last name in the classroom. But I was like, I'm gonna honor your full last name here, you know.
Maryah I Love that. No, that's really good. I guess it's making me think the one person who is a true person in the story is Desiree, Malcolm's best friend. Desiree is the first person, in-short when I was like, 'Hey, I think I'm gonna do this plant thing for real.' Desiree was like, 'Let's do it I'm down to help you, dropping everything, and they are just absolutely amazing., So Desiree is a real person, and I knew that Malcolm was gonna need a sidekick through his mourning. So that's who they are.
Nyasha I love that and how long did it take you to write the book?
Maryah On and off, I would say about two and a half to three years Okay, but literal start to finish, I'd say three years.
Nyasha Okay, Yeah, and there are so many gorgeously illustrated scenes in the book. Where did you get your ideas for the various scenes, and which is your favorite?
Maryah Aliana Harris, the illustrator, is absolutely amazing. All kudos to her because all she received from me was the manuscript. I didn't even attempt to do sketches because that's not my bag, and she brought it to life. I didn't go deeply into the visual vision with Aliana. There were three pages that I knew for sure that I wanted. I described them out loud.' to Aliana, saying, 'If you can make them come to life, that'd be great.' Everything else, I want you to create your world.
One of those three is the page where Malcolm and Pops are spraying the misting bottle on the plants, and money's coming down. I just saw a P-Diddy music video, and I just wanted it. Again, I wanted this to be real Black, and I was like, this is my chance to do a music video. The other two pages I imagined were when the first leaf of holes was coming out of the limo. Those were two of the three that I really needed to hold space for. Those were important to me.
Nyasha Beautiful. What books from your childhood do you feel shaped you in writing this book and becoming a writer?
Maryah I don't remember too much of what I read growing up apart from like, what's her name? Ramona and Beezus. I was obsessed with Beezus and Ramona because Ramona was just always acting a fool, but everything she did made sense to her.
Nyasha I have the perfect show for you based on your love of Ramona and Beezus. I feel like I have the perfect show for you that's going to fill your inner child because I'm out here watching all the kid shows. On Netflix, there's a show called Ivy and Bean. I feel like that will really fill you.
Maryah I've seen that! I haven't watched it.
Nyasha Yes. Do it.
Maryah Okay. I'm going to watch it. I just love the chaos of it, and it makes me want to go off. It's like it's the audacity.
Nyasha I love that! Yes! Yes. You will be filled with that show.
Maryah Okay. I'm going to watch that tonight.
Nyasha I wanted to know, what do you know now that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your writing or publishing journey?
Maryah I can only pick one thing.
Nyasha It can be more than one thing, too.
Maryah Okay. I wish I knew. I think I have a habit of wanting to be liked, especially in corporate spaces, because I work alone. I don't I don't necessarily find myself working with teams very often. I wish I had known to say better what I want or advocate for myself when working with the publisher. The experience has been very similar to everyone else's publishing experience. But I think I so badly wanted to be liked, and I was thinking, this is Penguin Random House, and they know what they're doing. I don't know if they didn't offer it. I wish that I, if I'm being very honest, just showed up for myself in some way. While it was my first time doing a project like this, I do need to give myself myself grace. And I say that because I feel like a lot of people need to hear that because it can be very intimidating going into working with these dream businesses, but then you get there, and you just sort of shiver up.
So that's one. Then the second one would probably be, and it's so silly, but this book isn't for everybody. I went into this being like, this is for Black kids and Black parents and families. And some people who are more comfortable talking about death and that's okay. But in the same way that Kendra Lamar puts out an album and not everybody likes it, his first two albums were not for everybody. So, I think I need to remind myself of that on a daily basis. I think during my writing process, I was trying to make it for everybody. That's not helpful.
Nyasha Sometimes, I don't know if you felt like this happened to you when you gave your product to the big traditional publishers, but it's like their hands are in your product now. It's like it's not only yours anymore, and they shape it in ways that generalize the creation to everybody rather than what your intent was. This is why it's important to know who you're working with and why some people don't work with big publishers and rather go to small publishers for that reason. Or self-publish because they want it to be how they envision their work, you know, that's coming through for them. I'm in terms of how you are creating and doing business and how you're moving: do you hear to move with the seasons through the plants or hear the plants speak to you in that way? Living seasonally is a big theme for me, and I like moving that way.
Maryah Yeah, 100% like in a very simplified way, during the colder months, plants go dormant. They go to sleep. There's a reason I included that in a glossary at the back of the book. I often subscribe to this: how long can you sprint for mentality, and that's you 'doing your best.' That's just not sustainable; It's okay to have seasons. Seasons of literally just recovering and not needing to earn. That needs to be embedded in the cycle of anything. It needs to be the first priority, and so I try to subscribe to my plant cycle, too. We have four hours of sunlight today, of course, you don't feel like doing anything, and that's okay. My plans aren't pushing out leaves, and I don't always need to be either. That's really important to me. Our capitalistic systems are quick to cause us to feel like we are in the wrong or feel guilt or shame if we're taking rest or not doing anything.
Nyasha I see it in people so quickly. I see them just as I have to catch it in myself sometimes. It's just so deeply embedded that you always need to be doing something and on it, you know?
Yeah! Yes, so I absolutely hear that.
I also feel like the more that I have moved into Ancestral Veneration and living more seasonally, connecting with the elements, the Gregorian calendar is just not doing it anymore for me. I know it's hard because when you're doing business and you're trying to work in the 'real' world, everything is currently aligned with our imbalanced systems. It's hard, but I feel like when spring spring feels like the new year to me. Everything's opening up, everything's starting again.
It's like we're just moving in ways that just make no sense. I mean, for December, the holiday season, to be so rushed and so crazy and everything, there much movement during that time when nature's like, 'Hey, we we asleep right now'. It just makes no sense, logically. People feel this pressure, and then people are supposed to come January and set intentions with these New Year's resolutions. We then wonder why New Year's resolutions don't really pan out. It's because that's not when you're supposed to be doing that. You're supposed to be resting, planning, and reflecting during that time, and then spring, when spring hits, that's when you start ready to kick off and start anew.
Maryah You know? I completely agree. I feel like I probably inadvertently subscribe to that in working with plants. It's been so helpful. My busy seasons are in the spring. Everybody wants to buy plants and let things grow.
Nyasha Have you done any sandboxing or connecting or critique group work with any other creatives or authors? Are you making space for that in your life right now?
Maryah Not yet. I feel like I'm so fresh into this, the author world. I think the space that I'm holding right now is discovering what it is that I want to discover from this. Who am I as an author? I'm the plant doctor and stylist who had a book come out, and I would love more than anything to make this transition into being a writer. Yeah. I wear so many different hats, but I don't feel like I'm confident enough to be in those spaces yet. Okay. And I, I don't think I could have admitted that even like three weeks ago. So it's been a fun journey to realize that, okay, wait, I want to go to this author session. That's dope.
Nyasha I am in the process of building a new critique group. So if you're open to that, it'd be like a once a month and, you know, you bring your work. I'd love to have you a part of that group and join that space with us.
Maryah I would be honored to. Yeah. I think I just needed to be invited. Yeah, I'm not seeking them out. But it would be amazing. Yes, please. Beautiful. I'd love to be there.
Nyasha So, if you could co-author with any author, who would you love to co-create with?
Maryah Derek Barnes. Derek Barnes is that guy. He is a rock star, and he has helped me and shepherded me through this entire process so much. Just having the ability to bring a Black experience to 28 pages for children is so cool. And he's just so down to earth. So, a no-brainer. Definitely, Derek Barnes.
Nyasha And then in terms of your dream illustrator, like when you've been looking who is your dream illustrator to work with?
Maryah Aliona Harris, and that's not the easy out. I know I've already worked with her, but out of all the things that have happened in this publishing process, I'm most grateful for Aliona Harris. I feel like I can't write a book without her. I'm so grateful for her. I don't see it happening without her. I'm sure they will come where she's unavailable or something, but she's just amazing to work with, and she's also a Leo who's from Philly, and she just gets it.
Nyasha Wait, I want to know your top three now. Your top three are in an astrological sense.
Maryah Oh, okay, I see I can't remember all three. I do know that I've got double Leo going on. Okay. It makes me feel good. So it's your rising, your...
Nyasha Your sun, your moon, and your rising are your top three.
Maryah My rising and my sun are Leo. I don't know what my moon is.
Nyasha I'm a Leo rising, too.
Maryah Okay, yes, yes! Have you seen the thing where Leos asked other people what their signs are just to proudly say their own sign?
Nyasha And I feel... I hear you on that! I'm an Aquarius sun, Leo rising, and then my cancer moon.
Maryah When is your birthday?
Maryah Okay, my partner's, my mom's, and my dad's birthday are all in January.
Nyasha Ooh, you got a lot of early January babies! So, a lot of Capricorn Aquarius energy, okay.
Maryah Exactly, yeah, they drive me crazy.
Nyasha Okay, what are you working on next?
Maryah I'm working on a book tour. I had to mourn the idea of the publisher not investing in a book tour. I didn't know that you don't get a book tour automatically. No. A tour's gonna happen. I need to make it happen. So I realized that quite quickly. I think going to these really nice, amazing bookstores and seeing the people that were coming out is wonderful, and I'm so grateful for the support.
But I wasn't seeing us come out. So I was like, how can I reach us? One thing I'm grateful that I have is my teaching background, so it feels like it's nothing for me to hit up schools and be like, can I come do story time? Yes. Of course, you might not always have the budget to have an author come out, but maybe the parents can each buy a book. Even if I just sell five books, that's great. So, it's a non-traditional book tour in the sense that I'm going to as many schools as I can in the New York City area.
Nyasha Sweet! I love it. Thank you. I have never set up anything like that, but you're inspiring me to step into these things. I feel like sometimes it feels overwhelming, sometimes to do things alone sometimes, and I think it also can feel overwhelming financially, especially if you want to go beyond your state. I'm wondering if, even in critique groups, these are things that we could talk to people about. How do we collaborate to go on book tours together, building that space in community so that it doesn't feel as overwhelming? ,
Maryah And we are building a community in that way. That's so real because the connection is necessary. I'm finding how gate-kept this industry is and your connection to the right publisher or editor or literary event. It's like, Black History Month will have you, and I don't subscribe to that. I'm not coming if that's your whole reason for having me.
Nyasha Oh yeah, my top request times for me as an author are Black History Month and Juneteenth. This one's generally when people will call me out.
Maryah Yeah, and I'm like, that's fine. Just know the rates are doubled during that time. However, I also just want to have access year-round because I exist year-round. So, I agree with you in creating spaces where we're all relying on each other to come to the table.
Nyasha To build our own tables. Often rebuilding. Thank you again for gracing me with your time for this author interview. I will reach out about the critique group, and let me know what you think of Ivy & Bean.
To our future collaborations!
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Full Name: Maryah Greene
Name of Business: Greene Piece