Arkansas Literary Festival with Gabrielle Simone & Morgan Billingsley

Gabrielle and Morgan 1 Arkansas Literary Festival with Gabrielle Simone & Morgan Billingsley

You know that feeling, when you wake up excited about something you’re going to do that day? That was me recently!

I sprung out of bed (sounds cheesy I know), and did not do any of my Saturday chores. That could wait. I was headed to the Arkansas Literary Festival. To be more specific I was excited to attend a presentation of two young writers Gabrielle Simone, a seventh grader, along with Morgan Billingsley, an eighth grader.

The two young authors have co-authored two books The Perfect Present, and The Perfect Summer, with a third young lady Jackie Lee. Jackie wasn’t available, Morgan was Skyped in, and Gabrielle, a Little Rock native was in person for the event.

“You’re never too old to be a superstar in the making!! XOXO” 

Gabrielle’s English teacher, Mr. Tyler Eatherton conducted the interview style presentation. I was so very impressed with the ladies level of maturity. Although very young, they spoke and interacted with the intellect of 20-something young adults.

Mr. Eatherton asked if they’d consider being professional writers when they got older. Both said they have other interest they’d like to pursue, as well as continuing to write. Morgan made it clear “I consider myself a professional now.”

I wanted to give her a high five. You should have seen the huge grin on my face. Not many adults get it. And she so does.

Influences

Both Morgan and Gabrielle are currently working on separate projects outside of their co-authored books. They shared excerpts of stories they’re currently working on.

Morgan is influenced by writer author mom ReShonda Tate-Billingsley, along with other family members. Things her mom says, family activities, or something her bus driver does may end up in one of her stories, especially if she thinks it’s funny.

“She sends me back to the drawing board,” Morgan says of her mom, when she gives her writing to review that’s not her best. “She gives it to me straight.”

Gabrielle is also influenced by her mom, author Celia Anderson, along with family, friends and “All those writing prompts,” she laughs. She identifies with, and loves creating her wacky characters.

Difficulties 

Writers block has not been a problem for Morgan, but explained she can be forgetful. Life is busy with school, volley ball, friends, and writing. It’s easy to forget that cool idea if she doesn’t write it down.

“I have a lot going on,” Gabrielle says. She plays several sports, and right now it’s basketball. Finding the time to write has been difficult. After the literary festival Gabrielle was off to a basketball game that afternoon.

Both young ladies agreed the deadlines are a dreadful part of writing.

LaTonya Gabrielle Simone Arkansas Literary Festival with Gabrielle Simone & Morgan Billingsley

 

Advice

The pair had sage advice for would be writers. I’m telling you, they are wise beyond their years.

“Don’t worry about grammar, just write and come back and fix it.” – Morgan Billingsley

“It’s all about your imagination. Don’t just write and give up, stick to it.” – Gabrielle Simone

When that thing you were so excited about, lives up to and fulfills your greatest expectations… It’s awesome. That’s how I left the presentation of these two young authors. I was so inspired!

Gabrielle signed my copy of The Perfect Summer… “You’re never too old to be a superstar in the making!! XOXO”

Art, History, & Inspiration

Torri Richardson painting 1024x1024 Art, History, & Inspiration

Recently, our youngest daughter Torri has been working hard on creating art work to enter into the Arkansas Young Artist Association spring competition.

She’s spent a lot of time drawing, painting, and looking for inspiration for each piece. As an 11th grade high school student, she’s thinking ahead about college, scholarships, and careers. You guessed it, she’s leaning towards art.

Seeing her passion and commitment to her work, I talked with Danny Campbell, chair of the Art Department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. That conversation led to her signing up for Portfolio Day, along with their upcoming High School Pre-College Art & Design Program in June.

I expressed my interest in taking her on a tour of museums this summer. Without hesitation Mr. Campbell suggested Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the Mosaic Templar’s Cultural Center, both in Arkansas. He also handed me a flyer for the Kinsey Collection opening April 8, at MTCC.

Kinsey Collection Photo Art, History, & Inspiration

Torri and I were in attendance of the opening of this amazing collection of African American History. I don’t know what expectations we had of the exhibit, but we came away being inspired, and having a greater appreciation and pride for our history.

Little Rock is the 21st city of this traveling exhibit since 2007. During this time, more than 5 million people have had the opportunity to view the collection. In December it will open in Hong Kong!

“We don’t assume people don’t want to see it. Not only are we valuable, we have to own it, and project it.” -Bernard Kinsey

Bernard Kinsey and Torri Richardson 1024x959 Art, History, & Inspiration
Bernard Kinsey, and Torri Richardson

This exhibit is a mix of original and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that weave together a perfect story of African American achievements and contributions.

Some of those artifacts I was so intrigued by included Dr. Maya Angelou’s typewriter, a book of poems by Phyllis Wheatley, along with love letters written by Zora Neale Hurston. I’m drawn to other writers, and literally ogled these treasures.

Maya Angelous typewriter  1024x848 Art, History, & Inspiration

“Our People matter… These people came from good stuff. When you feel you come from good stuff, you walk different.” – Bernard Kinsey 

Documents of the earliest known black baptism (1595), and the first recorded black marriage (1598), both of St. Augustine, Florida moved me in a way I’m unable to put into words. Mr. Kinsey said it best…

“You’ll see things [in the collection] you won’t ever see again.”

If you have the opportunity to see this collection in person, drive, hop a train, fly or walk… You will not be disappointed.