I recently returned from my first experience as a keynote speaker, which took place in Berlin, Germany, at the Euro Pride Con 2017. It was an amazing and humbling experience, and I have a lot of people to thank.

Dani Elle Maas and Marc Fleischhauer, along with the awesome behind-the-scenes assistants, ran a warm and friendly, positive and educational, LGBTQ book convention. I met many fantastic new authors, fan-girled over authors I have long admired, and shared special moments with readers.

But there was something else extremely special about the book convention that will stay with me forever, and this happened in the preparation for the event. To preface this, I will admit that I was rather nervous at the prospect of writing and delivering my first keynote speech. I decided that I would speak about something everyone at the event had in common: that we are all on a life journey, and that, in fact, the journey is the destination.

I wrote about my personal journey from teacher to mother to author and then to author/e-activist, encouraging my listeners to view their journeys as their destinations. And I liked my speech, but it needed more—it needed incredible visuals to enhance its meaning. The first thing that popped into my mind to fill this need was the amazing artwork of my friend Timmy Ashton. I knew that his special brand of art would help my speech to come alive.

So I did what I do quite frequently—I contacted Cody Kennedy and asked him for help. I explained my idea about asking for Timmy’s help and he facilitated the process. He actually created a Facebook meeting place where Timmy and I could brainstorm the details and make concrete plans. Here is the cover page of our project:


Timmy, Cody, and I got right to work discussing our visions of posters about the topic of a life journey that would enhance my speech. As it turns out, I selected ten quotations that I felt were meaningful with regard to journeys, and Timmy created amazing art to go with them.

Before he started the actual artwork, Timmy was careful to ask plenty questions to get a clear idea of what I wanted. He was concerned that the posters look perfect and polished, and he also wanted to know the dates by which I needed his work to be completed. Right away, I knew that I was working with a professional.

And Timmy immediately impressed me as he began to show me examples of the art he created. Each image was more amazing than the next, and Timmy explained how he went about creating the piece and asked me if I wanted more detail or less to express my ideas. He was so flexible with my needs, but all I could do was gawk at the unique art created by this incredibly talented teenage boy!

Timmy used a variety of techniques to make his art come alive and best meet my needs. I will describe them to the best of my ability: He painted and sketched with flair and skill, and then used other mediums, like breaking up pieces of a reflective material and gluing it on top of rainbow chalk swatches for a surreal look, creating a origami-style butterflies and attaching them to a work for a 3-D effect. He used black and white for a stark effect and then there was his use of color… Timmy used colors in ways I hadn’t even considered.

As he revealed each piece to me, I secretly shared them with my kids and Mr. Mia. I couldn’t hold back! My family could hardly believe the images that came from Timmy’s mind!

I remember when one of Timmy’s “Mia art projects” broke apart in the drying process. He had created a stained-glass type of image with actual glued-on pieces of clear plastic (described above to the best of my ability), reflecting colors he had applied beneath them. I felt terrible because Timmy felt terrible. He was so incredibly concerned and dependable, refusing to even consider letting me down.

When the ten images were completed, I felt like I had been handed the crown jewels! (Actually, how it happened–less dramatically but just as satisfying– was that Cody emailed me professional-quality images of professional-quality posters.) I took it from there and, through Vista Print, and a little technical help from my daughter, Sisi, applied the journey quotations, the names of the speakers, and TAM (Timmy’s initials) to each image.

What you are about to see are the final products. These are the images that were displayed in huge size on the wall behind me as I delivered my speech. The original intention was to display much smaller posters, but my luggage was delayed by two days, so my daughter Demi remade my Power Point so that each poster image that Timmy made was individually displayed behind me. And they were HUGE!!!!

This is the Power Point slide to which the audience entered the conference room. It is the one I referred to as I introduced my topic, and the hardship of losing all of my luggage—clothes, presentation materials, books, swag, everything—before delivering my first-ever keynote speech.




And now, without further delay, here are all of the gorgeous works of art Timmy made to enhance my life is a journey keynote speech, with the quotations applied:











I know, I know…. These posters are unbelievable. And there’s more—Timmy sent a beautiful message for me to share with the audience.

“When Mia asked me to create art for her Euro Pride Con appearance, I didn’t have words to describe how flattered I was. More importantly, the theme of the art she wanted me to create was that of a life journey. Up until the age of 12-1/2, my life journey had been fraught with physical and emotional pain. Since, my journey has changed, thanks in no small part to people like Mia. I hope you enjoy the art I made.”

I felt like I had Timmy standing right there beside me, offering his support. It really helped.

Finally, I shared Timmy’s bio, and I asked the audience, “Did you have a bio at the age of fourteen? Well, I didn’t either, but Timmy is the accomplished and talented sort of boy who does.”

Needless to say, the audience was incredibly impressed by the professionalism and talent displayed by Timmy–I heard several gasps as I displayed his amazing art. I received many comments after the speech about how meaningful the posters were to my message and how nobody could believe a person so young created the images.



I have made an effort to thank Timmy for his incredible effort on my behalf in several ways, but none seem worthy of what he has done for me. So, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to him, and what I’d appreciate more than anything else is if you could leave comments about his posters here. Do you have a favorite? An overall impression of his work? Any thoughts about how his work impacted you? Please post whatever you have to say in the comments area. This will be a gift to me, and an acknowledgement of Timmy’s dedicated and amazing work.


THANK YOU for checking this out and I hope you enjoyed Timmy’s work as much as the Euro Pride Con keynote audience and I do!