Annie Streit is a local Indianapolis author and advocate for people with disabilities. Enjoy the interview with Annie below.
Tell me about yourself.
It took me a second to figure out how I would start this answer because it feels like I have had so many new beginnings! So, what started the ball rolling to what got me to where I am now started when my life changed after I had my diving accident in May of 2005 at my college graduation party. I suffered a C5 incomplete spinal cord injury from the way my neck snapped back funny when I hit the water. I have been navigating through life in a wheelchair since that day. After my accident, I decided to go back to Ball State University, and in 2012 I graduated with a degree in Social Studies Education. I also began speaking to various groups about my experiences, my accident, overcoming obstacles, and just facing and fighting adversity. I began writing children’s books because I wanted to find a way to get into classrooms and speak to younger students, but I really wanted to find a way to relate and connect with them. That is how my first children’s book, Scooter and His Scoot Scoot, came about. I tell everyone it is a story about me… If I was a feisty little black dog with big ears and an even bigger bark.
Have you always wanted to be a children’s book author?
Writing books never even became a thought in my head until after I had my accident. I knew after I started having all these experiences from living life in a wheelchair, ranging from “Don’t tell Mom!” to “Did that really just happen?” to “I know you think I can’t do that because I am in a wheelchair, but we can talk about that after you watch me get it done…” that I had to find a way to share them with others.
What inspired you to write these books?
My inspiration came from the desire to find a way to interact with kids and share my experiences with them. I just truly want them to know that just because you have a setback in life, it may mean some things have to come to an end, but it also means that there are all sorts of new beginnings and new opportunities. You just have to keep your eyes wide open and believe in yourself.
How many books do you have published?
I have three published children’s books available now:
Scooter and His Scoot Scoot
A Dog Named Bird
Rough and Tough T-Bone
I have my fourth that is in the beginning phases of the publishing process:
Frankie Finds Her Courage
What is your favorite book that you have written?
My favorite book so far is my third book, Rough and Tough T-Bone. There are a couple reasons why it is my favorite. The first reason is because it is about bullying, and I have been able to go to visit schools to read the story to the students and talk about bullying. It is such an important topic that can be very hard for kids to talk about, and my greatest hope is that Rough and Tough T-Bone can help get that conversation started. The second reason is that I brought my nephew, Robbie, into the story. Robbie has Down syndrome, and I thought it would be a great way to not only raise Down syndrome awareness, but it was my way of expressing how much Robbie has impacted my life. His love and kindness is at a level that cannot be truly represented by words, but I count my lucky stars that I have him in my life.
Do you do the illustrations and the writing?
I have done all of the writing for my books. Each book is written in a way that it rhymes, which makes it really fun to create and even more fun to read. My publisher, Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., provided an illustrator for me. Michael Andrulonis is my illustrator and he has an amazing way of taking what I have envisioned in my head, and he brings it to life. What makes the process even more amazing is that Michael and I have never spoke in person. All of my correspondence with Michael is done through email. All I do is write down what I have imagined up for each illustration, and he makes it happen. I am beyond grateful for having him as my illustrator for all of my books.
What is the most rewarding part about this job?
I was just going to leave it with that simple answer, because that is what lights me up inside. Whether it is spending time with a room full of 1st graders, or getting an email from parents telling me how much one of my books has helped their child with reading, or opening up to them about something, or to just receive a picture of an adorable little one holding my book with a huge smile on his or her face… That means the world to me and that is what keeps me going and what makes this journey so much fun. Those little kids are doing more for me than they will ever know. They are helping give purpose to everything I have experienced.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced with writing these books?
I think the biggest challenge with being an author of any type is getting your name out there, because there are so many talented writers. It is a very competitive field. I write my children’s books because I truly love doing it, and I love interacting with the kids. I once had a student at one of my readings ask if I was “Harry Potter” famous. I smiled because it was an adorable question and I told him, “Not yet, but maybe one of these days!”
Anything exciting that you have coming up?
I am really excited about my fourth book, Frankie Finds Her Courage. It is always so much fun win the publication process begins, and I get to see my book come together.
Anything else that you would like to share with the community?
I would just like to thank everyone for their support in any form that it may be, whether it is purchasing a book, inviting me in to speak, leaving a review, or simply taking the time to drop by my page or share anything involved with my author journey. Every book that I sell or speaking event that I get to be a part of allows me to continue writing and doing something that I love. The words of encouragement and the smiles on the faces of the kids that I get to share my stories with are the best motivation ever. I have an author Facebook page, Instagram page, and a website where you can find everything you need to know about me, and all of my children’s books. I would love for you to drop in with any questions or just if you would like to say hi. You can also contact me if you are interested in any of my children’s books, or setting up any reading or speaking events. I would love to hear from you!
Social Media Intern
Emma is a graduate student at Purdue University. She has been involved in the special needs community for many years as a coach with Special Olympics Minnesota, and as a personal care assistant/respite sitter. She has worked in media, marketing, and journalism with various organizations. When Emma has some free time, she enjoys riding horses (she grew up doing barrel racing), baking doughnuts and cake pops (yum!), pursuing her new art interest (wood burning, painting, or drawing), or going for a long run in sunny weather (her favorite!).