Angie Spady's life took a turn, which seemed to be for the worse, when a devastating car accident left her partially immobile and unable to work.
Spady, a Hindman native, taught high school art and social studies, and published curriculum units for the Kentucky Council on Economic Education, which featured her teaching techniques that promote creativity in students.
Spady wrote children's novels on the side, but mainly for her daughters to enjoy. She said she never planned to publish any of her work.
"I never dreamed I'd be an author," she said.
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But after the accident two years ago, her husband and two daughters encouraged her to pursue her dreams, so she turned in her first series, Channing O'Banning, to Harper Collins, which published it.
The books feature Channing O'Banning, a fourth-grader who loves art and keeps a pencil in her ponytail, as she solves mysteries, gets herself involved in wild escapades and teaches her readers about science and social studies.
Spady initially began writing to provide a relatable children's novel for her artistic daughter, Channing Everidge. Now 19, Everidge is providing the illustrations for her mother's new tween series, The (Desperate) Diva Diaries, which combines an emphasis on creativity with Christian themes and morals.
Spady advised Everidge to embrace her creativity as an outlet throughout her life through journaling, sketching and engaging in art programs at school.
"Art has been a central part of my life," Everidge said. "It's always been a part of my identity."
The second novel in the series, Catie Conrad: How to Become the Most (un)Popular Girl in Middle School (B&H Publishing, $12.99) was released in May.
Spady received inspiration for the series from middle school children in her Sunday school class at her church, she said. The church offered her a position teaching tweens after her publisher told her it wanted a story about that age group.
"I never thought I'd be teaching tweens," she said. "God provided me writing material."
Spady derived the "desperate" aspect of the main character's persona through talking with her Sunday school class and learning of their intense desire to be divas, or rather, popular and cool. She thought young readers would identify with a character with this trait. A lot of tween novels do not provide good role models or relatable characters for their young readers, Spady said.
"The heroines are brats or wizards," she said. "Girls need characters they can relate to — not a fantasy land."
Everidge, who attends the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., said the religious elements of the series provide a relatable character for Christian tweens as well. As a Christian, she faced stereotypes associated with her religion throughout her childhood, she said, such as "uncool or boring." She hopes the book eliminates the stereotypes and gives Christian tweens a character they can look up to, she said.
"I hope they read the book and share empathy with the character," Everidge said. "I hope they see they aren't alone in their experiences and they can find fellowship."
The book provides Christian resources that aid kids, unlike most other tween novels, Everidge said.
Spady said that for the novel she drew on her experiences as the victim of mean kids in middle school. In her books she shows kids how to "rise above" the perpetrators, as difficult as it is.
"I was bullied in school," Spady said. "I can easily write about that — I lived it."
The arts and creativity also play a central role in the books. Spady is sad to see that some school systems have eliminated arts classes as budgets have tightened. Children involved in art perform better in all subject areas, she said. Spady advocates for keeping art in the schools; the removal of these programs is "just heartbreaking" for the futures of children, she said.
The second novel in The (Desperate) Diva Diaries series encourages children to maintain their creativity and touches on other current topics such as international adoption.
"Tweens need to be aware of what's around them," Spady said. "It's a big world, and they need to realize they are a part of that."