‘I Love Me’

After getting inspiration from her own son, local author LaRonda Gardner Middlemiss wrote a picture book titled, “I Love Me.”
Middlemiss explained that she was first introduced to picture books as a new mom several years ago.
“My son really loved story time and I saw how engaged he was and how he’d request for me, or my husband, to read books again and again,” she said. “I loved finding new books to share with him, and that really opened my eyes to the vast landscape of picture books.”
At the time, Middlemiss wasn’t pursuing writing picture books. She said it actually came to her out of the blue in 2015.
“I was busy cleaning the house and thinking about my son and his bi-racial identity, and out of nowhere, the words of a book popped into my head. It was such an exciting moment. And that was the beginning for me, the first spark,” she shared, noting that she isn’t stopping with one book but has several in the works and many more ideas.
Middlemiss got the inspiration for her first book when she was trying to teach her son to say and sign, using ASL (American Sign Language), “I love you.”
“Instead, he would say, ‘I love me.’ Those words stayed with me. And, I began to think about how important it is to teach kids to love themselves, as they are, before society and outside influences start telling them they aren’t good enough,” she explained. “It began as a little sing-song rhyme I’d do as I was teaching him his body parts. I kept adding more lines and at some point, I wrote it down and started thinking it had picture book potential, maybe.”
Middlemiss said she enjoyed writing her book and venturing into unknown territory.
Middlemiss, a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering graduate from NC A&T State University, spent six years at home with her son, Ryan, before re-entering the workforce as an operations program manager for a large tech company.
“I had the challenge of moving away from the rhythm of how I said the words with my son. I did enjoy exploring and learning how to write it for a book. Sharing it with my critique group, hearing their thoughts and incorporating suggestions made the process fun,” she said.
While she enjoyed venturing into the unknown and the process of writing the book, Middlemiss said it wasn’t easy, as there was the challenge of suspending the sing-song way she read the story with her son.
“I had been saying it with him for quite some time, so I became a little attached to it, but this was crucial in order to sort out the meter to make it more book-friendly,” she said. “Saying or singing something doesn’t always translate well into written text nor does it provide the best meter, especially because when spoken, you can bend words, add cadence, and emphasize what doesn’t show up on the page.”
While she doesn’t personally know the illustrator, Middlemiss said she was very pleased with how she brought the words of “I Love Me” to life.
“Beth Hughes (illustrator) was chosen by my publisher and she did a phenomenal job, bringing the words to life,” she said. “I always wanted the book to be bold in its inclusivity. To represent children that don’t typically see themselves represented in books, with their diverse features, attributes and abilities. Fortunately, the editor believed in that vision and Beth embraced the idea and brought it to life in a fun, vibrant and fantastic way.”
She continued.
“I hope that the book connects, empowers and inspires all the little ones it reaches to love themselves for who they are.”
Middlemiss’ book can be purchased online through Barnes & Noble, Amazon or directly from BeamingBooks.com. For more information about Middlemiss and her book, visit www.iscribeisketch.com.

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