Maria L. Ray resides in Sarasota, Florida with her husband Cliff. She has a daughter, a son, and 3 grandchildren. She was born in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain. She has survived both colon and breast cancer diagnosis and now spends her time with her husband split between her daughter’s family in Florida and her son’s family in Costa Rica. Maria and her son, Aric Ray co-authored “DreamVenture: A Spiritual Quest” in 1997. “From God to Us” is her first picture book.
Hi, Maria! Thank you for joining us today on Reader Views Kids! To get started, why don’t you tell our readers a bit about your new book, “From God to Us.”
Hello Sheri and thanks for having me. I wrote “From God to Us” to tell the story of emotions I have experienced in raising my son. When he was 14 years old he was hit by a car while walking and was placed in a coma. He went through a long and difficult recovery and I always saw him struggling with peer acceptance and self-esteem issues. I tried to reassure him that he was special and loved and that is the message put forth for every child in the book.
When did you decide to put your family’s story into a book for children?
I am an immigrant from the Canary Islands, Spain and when I first came to this country I did so as a student sponsored by two wonderful people, the Lincoln’s. My sons accident occurred in 1993, by 1996 both of my parents and the Lincoln’s had passed away and I began thinking about how I wanted to leave something of my story for my children and grandchildren to be able to hold and read a representation of my love for them.
How long did it take you to write “From God to Us?”
In 1998, I sat and wrote the initial draft and drew all but the last page and the cover. Over the years, I would revisit the project, but life would get in the way. It wasn’t until last year that, with my son’s encouragement, I connected with two grad-students from a near-by college who I communicated well with and who were able to help me put it into a formalized layout and format. By that time, my son had self-published a few books and worked with one of the students to finalize and publish the manuscript.
Now, you also illustrated this book. The very first picture of the expectant mother was very emotional for me, bringing back sweet memories. How long have you been doing illustrations? Is it a hobby or do you freelance?
I received a degree in commercial art from the Maryland School of Art and Design in 1975. After college, I worked for a year or so doing layout for the Today paper in Florida when I discovered I was pregnant with my son. In preparing for my new family, I began helping my husband with his construction business and put my art on the back burner. Since then, I have produced art in paintings and sculptures for my own home and occasionally for a friend.
Our young reviewer, Lydia, really enjoyed the story because she could relate to how God loves her, but it seems appropriate for a wider audience as the story covers the lifespan of the boy in the story. Who is your target audience?
I cried when I read Lydia’s review. What she got from the story is exactly what I hope all children will be reassured of always, that God loves them, and they are very special. I now have three grandchildren and I am always telling them that they are loved and that they are special. My target audience is children, all children, but the message that God loves you and that you are special is a message for everyone.
What lessons will young readers learn reading “From God to Us?”
First, of course, that they are loved, and special, and matter. As the story takes you through an entire life, I tried to hit upon issues like negative peer pressure, self-esteem issues, antisocial and isolation issues. I wanted a story to which all children could relate; a story that a child could read through which could see a happy ending during the times of confusion we all go through while growing up.
I also really enjoyed your writing style. Have you been writing long? Have you taken any creative writing classes or how did your style evolve?
Thank you, that question is quite flattering as I have not taken any writing courses and I do not journal or write very often. I love reading and it is from watching my son’s passions with regards to his writings that I have been inspired to write what I have. The “style” is really just a form of raw expression from the heart.
What kind of reaction to your writing do you most seek from your reading audience?
If everyone reacts to it and learns from it like your reviewer Lydia, then there is nothing more I could ask for.
What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite book from childhood?
I am most interested in nonfiction about surviving traumatic struggles or events. The human spirit is a very powerful thing and when I read such a story it empowers me to deal with my own struggles. As a child I always enjoyed La Ratita Presumida which is a Spanish children’s book series about the adventures of a little female mouse.
What do you enjoy outside of writing and illustrating?
I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren and family. I enjoy travelling, play tennis, and am very fond of the beach and walking on the beach.
So what’s next? Do you plan to write anymore stories?
I am actually in the process of putting together a story inspired by my grandson, Hudson. Since he was very small, one of his first statements was, “I love people!” As you can imagine, I am really enjoying this one and I hope my son will publish it 😉 .
Where can readers connect with you on social media?
You can use the contact form at YouthWide.com
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
My mother always told me, “Memories, experience, and education are things that can never be taken from you. If something doesn’t work, don’t worry about it, but try and try again.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging authors?
Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it and find a way.
Maria, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing a bit about your story!