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Independent authors Artika Tyner, Julie Gilbert, and Heather Texle discuss the hopes and personal growth they associate with writing, and what it was like to win the 2023 Minnesota Author Project awards.

Artika Tyner, Julie Gilbert, and Heather Texle pose with their Minnesota Author Project awards.

"Aya" author Dr. Artika Tyner

How did the experience of writing "Aya" help you grow as a person?

Writing "Aya" was the fulfillment of a vision set forth by the late Congressman John Lewis. When we met, I sat in awe as he spoke about his leadership journey. It was the first time in my life that I could not find the words to say. Anyone who knows me can confirm that I have a lot to say. My family jokes that I was talking and advocating for justice since birth. 

When I tried to open my mouth, the words failed to emerge. I could not believe that I was sitting in the room with my hero. I eventually asked a question about what I should do next with my life: How can I be of service in the community? His answer was simple: train and motivate the youth by helping them to unveil their leadership potential. He gave me the blueprint on how to get into "good trouble" alongside our young people in the quest for justice and freedom. Aya was a "good trouble" endeavor where our young leaders shared their vision for promoting racial justice and healing.

What is your highest hope for the impact it might have on those who read it?

I hope it will inspire others to discover the writer within. We believe in the community organizer's mantra: "Got Voice, Got Power." Our voice is the tool for sharing our stories while preserving our cultural history. Our power is our commitment to take international action to build a more just and inclusive society. 

How do you react to winning this competition?

Winning this competition was motivation for our team to continue growing our impact. We are now working on two additional community anthologies, "Rondo: History and Values" and "Building a Better Financial Future." Our goal is to train, inspire, and publish 100 Black Authors within the next 10 years.

Read Aya: An Anthology of Racial Justice, Healing, and the Black Experience on Indie Minnesota.

"Cemetery Songs" author julie gilbert

How did the experience of writing "Cemetery Songs" help you grow as a person?

Researching and writing Cemetery Songs helped me explore themes and questions that were important to both me and my family. As a member of a transracial family formed through adoption, I am committed to better understand the lived experiences of all members of the adoption triad (child, birth family, adoptive family). I also wanted to explore the history of Black people in Minnesota. I highly recommend William D. Green’s works for those wanting to learn more about this important history, especially his book, "A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota." As an indie author, I was also tremendously fortunate to connect with some fantastic book professionals, and I learned a lot about publishing.

What is your highest hope for the impact it might have on those who read it?

I come back to S. R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science. Number 3 is “Every book its reader.” My highest hope is that "Cemetery Songs" continues to find its readers. I hope it resonates with other families like mine; I also hope it gives other readers a glimpse - like all good books do - into the lives and experiences of others. There are studies that suggest reading fiction can increase compassion. If "Cemetery Songs" can generate even a little compassion in the world, that’s success enough.

How do you feel about having won the contest? What's next for you?

I am so excited to have won this award! I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that it’s real. Awards like this do so much to help readers discover the many excellent indie-published books out there, and I’m thrilled that "Cemetery Songs" was recognized in this way. In terms of future projects, I continue to write middle grade novels for Capstone, including several titles in the Girls Survive series. I’m also working on another young adult novel. This one is about a young woman whose magical powers can cut through others’ mental defenses. She also has an evil grandfather and goes on a road trip to save her found family. I look forward to working with more amazing publishing professionals to bring this into the world some day.

Read Cemetery Songs on Indie Minnesota.

"On Impulse" author Heather Texle

How did the experience of writing “On Impulse” help you grow as a person?

There’s a certain vulnerability inherent in sharing your creative work with the world, particularly when it’s brand new and easily scuffed. Writing, editing, and publishing “On Impulse” required me to confront those nagging moments of self-doubt head-on. It can be a long and grueling process, but I’m a more confident person because of it.

What is your highest hope for the impact it might have on those who read it?

I want people to have fun reading my book. There’s action, adventure, and a whodunit murder mystery to solve. If you scratch the surface, you’ll find some philosophical questions about advancing technology and the fuzzy line between pushing boundaries and going too far—but mostly, I hope the story provides a few hours of escapism to a universe where faster-than-light travel is possible and snarky, mechanical AI cats help fly your spaceship. Life is hard. Reading should be fun.

How do you react to winning this competition?

Is “Kermit-flailing” an acceptable answer? I was humbled and honored, as there are incredibly talented authors in Minnesota and the competition must have been stiff. Libraries played a significant role in my childhood. They introduced me to books, thoughts, and ideas that I might otherwise never have discovered. I’m thrilled that “On Impulse” may now become a part of that experience for someone else.

Read On Impulse on Indie Minnesota.

Written by

Zach Miller
Head of Communications