Photo by Sandy Fry

I had the good fortune of meeting the ultra-talented Robyn Hood Black (what would you give to have that name as a writer?) at the Highlights Foundation Poetry workshop I attended. We found we were kindred spirits not just with respect to writing but as mutual lovers of wolves. When Robyn mentioned that she recently opened up an Etsy shop, artsyletters, focusing on art with a literary bent, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The work is beautiful, affordable, and perfect for the book-lovers on your holiday list.

But there’s more: Robyn has generously offered a discount to my blog readers. If you place an order in her shop, type in the code JULIE2012 when prompted, and you’ll get 10% off any purchase.

But there’s still more: To support the cause of wolf preservation and education, I’ll be making a donation to the International Wolf Center (Robyn’s chosen organization), and you can help! Leave a comment on this post between now and noon Mountain time on November 15. For each comment received during that time, I will donate $1 to the Center.

Now, let’s get going on the interview.

Robyn, in addition to having one of the world’s coolest names, you are also a published author, illustrator and poet. What inspired you to start artsyletters as a side business?

Julie, thanks so much for having me on your terrific blog!I’ve always loved both writing and art. I needed to supplement my writing income this year and was just too stubborn after years of self-employment to go work for someone else. In my life B. C. (Before Children – 20 years ago!), I had a small art business. I decided to try that again, but this time with a literary bent. It’s been a blast!

How do you find the time to balance creating the products for artsyletters with writing and illustrating?

Oh, that’s a work-in-progress!:0! I’m hoping to settle into a more balanced schedule after a frenzied fall of launching the art business and trying to keep up with writing, submitting, and the occasional speaking. I’ve burned a lot of midnight oil in the last couple of months. (Jeff, my husband, has reminded me: You’re not in college anymore…!)He and my kids (Morgan, 20, and Seth, 17) have been supportive – and understanding about not being able to see the top of the dining room table for days (okay, weeks) at a time. My daughter has helped at art shows and with Facebook. Every new business needs a connection to a social media-savvy college student. When Morgan is home for Thanksgiving, we’ll tackle Twitter. And I’ll get serious about Pinterest.

Do you find that creating products for artsyletters inspires your writing and/or vice versa?

I think it does – both ways. Some of that has to do with simply the practice of needing to be creative on a daily basis to get everything done. No time to worry if my Muse will show up – there’s work to do! And I’m spending as much time with other artists now as I always have with writers. I love the inspiration and support creative folks get from each other.  I was fortunate to join an illustrators critique group made up of SCBWI friends that formed this past spring – the same time artsyletters was forming in my mind. Their encouragement and spot-on feedback has been invaluable.

From Robyn's Etsy shop

Right now you have lovely note cards, bookmarks, mixed-media collages and illuminated letters in the shop. Any other items you plan to introduce?

Thank you, Julie. I’ve only just begun! I have ideas brimming and lots of fun vintage finds and new art supplies just waiting for expression. I’m adding new items to my Etsy shop each week. I’ll be offering more calligraphy, more altered page collages, and art made with vintage printing supplies soon. All continuing to celebrate reading and writing!

What advice would you give other artist/writers considering starting their own Etsy or other online business featuring their work?

Great question. There are two components, I think. 1) Prepare as much as you can – decide on the look, theme, and product line for your business. Talk to folks who are selling online. (I’ve leaned on my author friend Kim Siegelson, who has co-owned a terrific Etsy vintage shop, perfectpatina, for a year.) Read – the Etsy online forums and blogs are helpful, and I read a couple of books on starting an Etsy business. (I’m such a nerd.) But that brings us to 2) Jump in! At some point, you have to take the plunge and know that you’ll learn something new each day as you go. You’ll make mistakes, fix them, tweak and improve along the way. I decided to launch artsyletters in the fall, in time for fall festivals/art shows and in time for holiday shopping.On my artsyletters blogI feature “Art Break Wednesday” – I love sharing things as I learn them and also learning from the comments of others. I hope it will continue to grow into a place where artists share ideas. So, come on by!

As a fellow lover of wolves, can you say a bit about the work you do with these magnificent animals and how they inspire your writing and art?

While researching WOLVES, I had the privilege of meeting and then working with wolf pups at a local zoo not far from where I

Reading with wolves

live – the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia. As a volunteer, I helped socialize them as they grew into mature animals. Schedules this year – mine and theirs – have meant I haven’t been regularly working with them, and I do miss it. But I treasure the experience I had there as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which only reinforced my immense respect for and love of these animals. I still enjoy incorporating “wolf education” into school visits when discussing nonfiction. The series that the book was a part of is now sadly out of print, but I provide a copy to media centers where I do author visits.

Robyn, you should see if you can get the rights back and turn it into an ebook! 🙂

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for each comment left, I will donate $1 to the wolf preservation organization of your choice. Which one did you choose and why?

What a thoughtful thing to do! There are some great organizations out there. One of my favorites is the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. Founded by renowned wolf expert L. David Mech, the center has been “teaching the world about wolves” since opening its doors two decades ago. There are so many scientifically based resources on the website, and they do a great deal of educational outreach. There are even web cams offering a real-time glimpse into the daily antics of their pack of ambassador wolves. In fact, Nov. 15 is “Give to the Max” day, where donations are matched!

What great timing! I’ll accept comments through noon on Nov. 15th so the donation will be matched.

Thank you for your generosity, and for inviting me over today!

You are very welcome Robyn. I hope my readers will take advantage of your generous offer to get 10% off any of your gorgeous products. Just in time for the holidays too!

Robyn Hood Black is a children’s author and poet living in Northeast Georgia. Her books include Sir Mike (Scholastic Library, 2005) and Wolves (Intervisual Books, 2008). Her poetry appears in The Poetry Friday Anthology (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2012), in Georgia Heard’s anthology of found poems, The Arrow Finds Its Mark (Roaring Brook, 2012), and in leading haiku journals. Her fiction has appeared in Highlights and her poetry has been featured in Ladybug and Hopscotch. She enjoys encouraging young readers, writers, and artists through school visits and speaks to audiences of all ages.


Categories: Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Friendship, Giveaway, Guest Blogging, Holidays, Poetry, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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44 Comments

  1. Wow! Interesting name, interesting job, volunteer socializing wolves and this is such an interesting post. Love that you are tributing to the center Julie, so couldn’t wait to get here.

  2. There’s always room for just one more thing, right? Interesting post, for sure with a prize (donation) too.
    Thanks Robyn and Julie.

  3. What a lovely interview! Robyn is so multi-talented and I was very excited to hear about the launch of artsyletters. Thanks for featuring her, Julie, and for your generous offer to donate to the International Wolf Center!

  4. Love! I love this interview, love Robyn’s art, and love wolves! Thank you! I’ll be stopping by the shop later to….well, shop!

  5. Great post! The photo of you reading to the wolves is really cool! 😉 I’ll tell my mom about the discount! 🙂

  6. SUCH an honor to be here today. Thanks to all you wonderful early commenters! And Julie, thank you again for the generous donation offer to a fabulous organization.

  7. You have some very interesting passions, Robyn! I love your calligraphy on your note cards. I used to do that long ago. Julie, you’re very generous!

  8. Love the photo of you reading with the wolves, Robyn! And I’m fascinated with your products on Etsy. For the first time, I signed up with Etsy, and made you a favorite. Thanks for the discount offer…I will look forward to perusing your site!

  9. Your Etsy stuff is beautiful, Robyn. I love the advice about just jumping in. That’s the case with manuscripts, too. It’s tempting to revise and revise and never stop. But eventually, you have to jump in and do something with it, or what’s the point?

  10. Love the name. Congratulations on your new business. I love the book bookmark. Very creative. wishing you the best in all you do.

  11. Such lovely comments, thank you! (I usually respond individually to blog comments, but that would really run up Julie’s donation “bill.” ;0) How about, Julie, if I pop in every once in a while, I’ll send you reimbursement for that amount of the donation! Awwrrooooo….)

  12. Enjoyed this unique post. And, I loved the photo of Robyn with the wolves — very cool! I love reading about really creative people. Your Etsy creations are beautiful. Congratulations on your new business.

  13. Hey Robyn! What a wonderful surprise to see you here! I LOVE Robyn’s poetry–and unabashed plug here–I purchased one of her collages as a Christmas gift for my son, the poet. It featured one of her found poems (in a manuscript) and all kinds of vintage finds as well. I know he’ll love it…that is, if I can actually give it up! 😉

  14. Thank you Robyn and Julie – for the beautiful work you both do, for the discount at your shop, Robyn, and the gift to the wolves, Julie! That gorgeous photo is a gift in itself of how good life can be! You both offer us all much appreciated encouragement to jump in and do the work we are passionate about! Janis

  15. I love wolves – which is one of the reasons I have trouble visiting zoos – can’t bear to see them in cages! My comment is not only for the wolves though. I enjoyed learning about Robyn and am grateful for the advice on starting an etsy biz! Keep up the good work ladies!

  16. Robyn, it was nice to learn more about you and get a glimpse into your shop — you have some great stuff in there. And what a great idea to bring attention to wolves and their true nature. Writers have spent a long time vilifying wolves, so maybe it is up to us to reverse that history. 🙂

  17. Reading with wolves sounds like a good break from dancing with them.
    This is a great post about following your passion(s). Thanks, Robyn!

  18. I love wolves and adore seeing them in their natural habitat. There was a big wolf park in the mountains just north of Nice, which I enjoyed visiting. We have had huge problems, though, with their reintroduction in the Southern Alps. Thank you for sharing this and your Etsy project!

  19. Thank you for all these encouraging comments. Joanna, very interesting about reintroduction efforts on the other side of the globe from us in the states. A challenge for wildlife biologists there I’m sure.

  20. I had to have discipline to not click on her links before I commented. Thanks for making a donation Julie! Now, I’m off to check out Robyn’s shop. Have a wonderful day!

  21. The shop is beautiful Robyn! Loved the photo of you reading with wolves. Thanks for the donation, Julie.

  22. What a name! What a shop! This is a lovely, lovely.

  23. Love those Jabberwocky bookmarks! Robyn was sweet enough to send me some along with some gorgeous notecards. All her stuff is so beautiful. Her artsyletters blog is really fascinating for getting behind-the-scenes looks at how she creates her art, too. Wonderful to see her here, Julie, and to learn more about the art/wolf side, since I know her more as a poet. She is multi-faceted and multi-talented indeed! 🙂

  24. You all know how to make a girl smile! Thank you so much for the kind words. And again to Julie for the kindness of a donation to IWC – it will be put to good use there, I know.

  25. Very cool woman and interview, Julie! I stopped by her shop real quick on my way here and loved what I saw. Mixed media is one of my favorite art forms. The picture of Robyn with the wolves gives me chills. How cool would that be to read to wolves? Love it!

  26. Always delighted to meet another wolf lover! David Mech and the International Wolf Center were inspirational and great sources of information when I was researching my play “The Wolf and Its Shadows.” Thank you for your donation, Julie! And now to visit Robyn’s Etsy store!

  27. Robyn, I love the picture of you reading with the wolf. If that’s a pup, he’s huge! My sister had a half wolf, half malamute put that grew so big, but he was just like a pussycat. 🙂

    Julie, wonderful of you to make the donation. Thank you!

  28. Robyn, I may have to connect with you in the future about having an online shop… I didn’t even know there were books out there about Etsy! When I was in middle school, I got to see live wolves at my dad’s college one night for a lecture. What fun! I love wolves, too. I think they’re right up there with whales. And why not? The both start with “W”!

  29. Great interview, and I love the picture of Robyn reading to the wolves! Thank you Julie for making a donation to such a worthy cause! 🙂

  30. Hi, all! Thank you for these great comments. Glad there are so many wolf fans! Sandy, great to see you here – I will have to find your play.

    I’m thrilled about Julie’s donation, and it will even go farther when she turns it in because of the IWC matching campaign.

  31. Hi, Robyn. Super that Julie’s donation will be matched at IWC! As for my play, it’s easy enough to find: “The Wolf and Its Shadows” at http://www.dramaticpublishing.com. Framed by Aeson’s fable of the wolf and the dog, the play deals with the way human beings have “created” the wolf through stories — positive and negative. There are two versions; the shorter version leaves out a werewolf story written by Eugene Field, best known for his children’s poetry. Thanks for your interest!

  32. I always enjoy hearing about how other writers balance their busy schedules. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone when it comes to a dining room table that sometimes can’t actually be used for eating 🙂 I also admire that you’ve become an advocate for wolves, and that you were able to personally interact with some!

  33. Hi again, Sandy! The play sounds fantastic. I’ll add the info to my wolf resource list for teachers. I often use an Aesop’s fable, The Wolf and the Goat, for a few minutes of storytelling in school visits.

    Marcy, so glad my dining room table isn’t the only one! And I actually have a nice-sized office/studio, but this fall, everything runneth over… ;0)

  34. Beautiful Etsy stuff!! 🙂

  35. Awesome interview! Wolves are interesting and beautiful creatures. Your Etsy shoppe is wonderful. Such a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Well folks, I rounded up and made a $50 donation to Wolf.org which, when matched, is $100. Thanks to all who commented and to Robyn for making me aware of this wonderful organization!

  37. If I ever have a down day, I’m coming right back here to read all these lovely comments! Thanks to everyone for your generous thoughts.

    HUGE thanks to Julie for having me as a guest, and for coming up with and implementing this amazing idea to make a donation to help wolves. Julie, I’m just thrilled that it turned out to be such a substantial gift! Thank you, and thank you all. xx

  38. What a great interview. I hope you figure out that balance thing soon so you can teach me. My teeter-totter is wobbly!

  39. Well, I am commenting late…but loved the post. Thanks for the ideas about creativity, and your enlightening post.

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