Ashti Meets Birdman Al
Carmen Rubin - Author
Carmen Rubin, a native of San Francisco, is a Rutgers University graduate. She is the author of the children’s book series “Ashti’s Adventures” and President of the Peppermint Candy Publishing Company. She is also the founder of the Community Refuge Education and Recreation Center, a non-profit organization for youth grades K-12 that exposes children to higher learning.
RIF: Carmen, thanks for joining us here at Reading Planet! Can you tell our readers a little bit about what inspired you to write your book, Ashti Meets Birdman Al? How did you come up with the character of Ashti?
Carmen Rubin: Thanks for having me! I have always been amazed by stories. My grandfather was the best storyteller. He was engaging, and you wanted to know what was going to happen next. I had a love for words. The way people used them sounded like a song in my ears. Since I come from a musically talented family, I suppose when I began to write, music would always be the source from which I drew inspiration. Words and music have always had the power to bring happiness into my life.
In terms of Ashti Freeborn, she literally was a dream come true. I dreamed of this little girl for about a year until I realized that she was meant to be an animated character that would bring wonderful stories to children. Her name and personality are a combination of my own two daughters, Ashleigh and Ashanti.
In the story Ashti Meets Birdman Al, she, along with her mother and the Birdman, helps keep a school from losing its music program while also preserving the genre of Jazz. The story is lyrically warm and colorful, and readers connect through Birdman’s educating scats and bee-bop!
RIF: Were you a big reader as a child? What were some of your favorite books or authors growing up?
Carmen Rubin: Yes, if I wasn’t listening to music, I was reading or writing. Each of those things took me to far away places that I enjoyed visiting. I loved when my grandmother would read the Bible; Judy Blume helped me understand myself a little more; and in later years, Patricia Polacco became my all-time favorite. I also loved reading the lyrics that were on record albums (they looked like CDs on steroids), so as I listened to songs, I knew every word the artist was saying. I felt like I was on stage with them!
RIF: In addition to being an author, you’re also a singer. Tell us a little bit about how music has inspired your writing and the role it has played in your life to date.
Carmen Rubin: The need for having music is like the need for food or water. I am not sure how I would live without it. There really is something magical about music. When I am surrounded by it, everything comes so easy.
RIF: Speaking of music: you’re currently collaborating with the famous vocalist, Al Jarreau! We’d love to hear more about the project you’re working on together.
Carmen Rubin: When I turned 12, I became consumed with Al Jarreau. My father had been watching him on TV and I was mesmerized by his vocal talent. On stage, there were instruments I had never seen before and watching him play them wowed me. His ability to make his voice sound like those instruments really blew my mind; I had never heard or seen anything like it! Because Al’s music was such a force in my life, it only made sense to honor him with my first published book. My character Birdman Al is inspired by Mr. Al Jarreau. I never guessed in a million years that eventually he would ask me for my autograph, and would be contributing to my work with special acknowledgements, reading my book to children, all while endorsing my book to his world-wide audience. Wow, I still get giggly thinking of it all and I become that little girl again!
RIF: You currently have your own publishing company, Peppermint Publishing Company. How did you choose the name? What do you think are some of the key things to know before you start your own business?
Carmen Rubin: The idea of the Peppermint Publishing Company came from my grandfather’s Peppermint Candy Club. He started the club for children who he felt needed more love shown to them. He would offer a peppermint candy to a child if they were having a bad day. Handing it to them always put a smile on their face, and they were even more excited to be a part of his club. All they had to do in return was show love to others. I’m simply keeping my grandfather’s legacy by introducing his love message to the world. People always ask me what the peppermints are all about, and it gives me the opportunity to talk about spreading love. What seemed small to him has actually turned out to be huge. I have taken his message around the world and invited kids of all ages, colors, religions, etc. to be a part of the Peppermint Candy Club. Kids especially love to find the hidden peppermints throughout my stories!
As far as the publishing company, what I enjoy most is that I can help others tell their stories, without the pain of being turned down constantly by the huge literary marketplace. What people should know about starting a business is that is starts with a dream, follows up with a plan, requires perseverance, patience, and learning, and most of all ends with a positive attitude!
RIF: You frequently visit schools and speak to groups in order to help promote literacy – what do you think are some of the ways in which educators and families can help foster a love of reading in children?
Carmen Rubin: Kids are more engaged when they have a partner who is engaged in reading with them. Allowing them to choose the story always helps. They seemed to be more interested in what they choose and not what is chosen for them. Release them in the library or bookstore and watch them find their place!
While reading stories to children, make it theatrical. They love it when adults are silly! They also love when characters are given voices. Take them inside the story and make it alive. When you see things in real life that relates to a story that you have read, remind children to make the connection. It’s a pleasant way to build relationships, connect them to life, and develop a love for reading.
For more information, visit carmenrubin.com.