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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Lea Maryanow

Lea Maryanow is a mother, wife, teacher, and writer. As a teacher, she has been published in the journal California English and The New York Times Learning Network. She majored in English and Theology and also has a minor degree in Educational Science/Pedagogy and Psychology. Born in Germany, she has traveled the world to New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and Africa. In 2020, she was introduced to the Enneagram of Personalities which has fascinated her so much that it became the inspiration for her debut book Stripes. She enjoys yoga, horse-riding, being in nature, good food, and a minimalist lifestyle. Visit Lea's website to learn more about her and her work.

1. What three things bring you joy?

I love seeing the world through my children's eyes; I admire their ability to be fully immersed in the moment.

I love healthy, nutritious food and a cup of coffee, especially as I work on a story.

I love seeing my students have aha-moments in class and seeing that all of the hard work of being a teacher has paid off.

2. What kind of student were you?

I was the conscientious type of student. I loved to study; getting good grades was important to me.

3. What do you feel you’ve gained from being a part of the children’s writing community?

I have gained so much support! I have learned a ton and have realized that this path is a long, often challenging one. Getting to know more about the kidlit industry, the do's and the don'ts, having found critique groups, and reading about all the 12x12 success stories is just so wonderful to be a part of.

4. Where did you get the idea for Stripes? What was your inspiration?

A few years ago, I was introduced to the Enneagram of Personalities. That has fascinated me so much that I wanted to write a story for children that included all nine personalities in some way without the reader having to have any knowledge about the Enneagram. At the same time, I reflected on what values I'd like to instill in our children. One value that was important to me was being accepting of diverse points of views and perspectives while still knowing what is true for oneself. Simultaneously, I also remembered how we use the phrase, "black and white thinking" and also say, "The answer to this problem is not black or white; there is also a grey area." So I started playing with "or" vs. "and" which ultimately gave the inspiration for choosing the zebra as the main character and the ending of my book STRIPES.

5. What’s a particularly striking or memorable reaction someone has had to this book?

I have loved how different people of all ages have interpreted STRIPES. The most striking reaction was probably when one mother shared how her daughter made a connection between the book and her bicultural background, asking, "Am I Mexican OR am I American, mom?" After reading STRIPES, she smiled and said, "I am Mexican AND American."

6. Who should read this book?

Everyone: children, teens, parents, teachers, adults. Young children will enjoy the cartoonish illustrations while older kids will pick up on the different types of personalities. Teens and adults can make the transfer to meta-level topics. Many times, families have shared how Stripes initiated a lively discussion at the family dinner table among both kids and adults. Teachers can use Stripes in class; there is a free activity guide on my website with STEAM, SEL, and ELA, related activities.

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