PORTLAND — “During high school, I lived in Mt. Blue art room,” said artist and writer Angela Ferrari of Portland. “Instead of study hall, I signed up for every art class I could. Teachers Debbie Farley and Roger Bisaillion were a big influence in my career as an artist.”Ferrari, a 2004 graduate of Mt. Blue High School, said she has continued contact with her mentors.
Ferrari graduated from University of Maine at Orono in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. She moved to Portland and settled into the life of a landscape artist, using her surroundings as inspiration.
“I started out painting scenes on shells and selling them to tourists. I literally sold seashells on the seashore,” Ferrari joked.
From there, she moved into larger format paintings.
“I was fortunate to forge a relationship with Hot Suppa, a bustling Congress Street restaurant,” she said. “I painted murals in their lobby and bathroom. I was able to hang paintings for sale in their dining room. My work complemented their brand and style, and they asked to show my paintings exclusively.”
Her work continues to be on display at the restaurant but Ferrari’s career has been ever-evolving.
“I found I wanted to bring characters to life. I feel like stories are a great way to convey messages in a very simple form,” she explained.
“I realized what an ideal setting western Maine is for cultivating a wild imagination,” she added. “As a child, I could always find unique ways to play and create. I remember reading books with my feet dangling over the dock at my Nana’s cottage on Porter Lake. We also winter camped up at Moosehead Lake in a hand-built snow fort.”
Using such inspiration, Ferrari began writing and illustrating children’s books. To date, she has published five books, including “Lawrence the Lighthouse” and “Digger’s Daily Routine”.
To complement and promote her books, she developed a children’s story podcast. Story Spectacular first aired in October 2017. New episodes are released twice a week. Longer format episodes air on Mondays. Shorter “Sleepy Time Tales” episodes are released on Fridays.
“I begin the podcast process by asking kids what their interests are. These are called story starters,” she explained. “I look over the ideas, pick one and develop it into a story. I also go through works in the public domain. I update the old stories and give them new life.”
Once settled on a podcast topic, she writes a 1,000 to 2,000-word story. After recording the story, she adds in music and effects. The recording is then edited, uploaded, and promoted on social media. Editing the recording takes about 40 percent of the time required to produce a podcast, she said.
Story Spectacular includes several recurring characters that listeners have become familiar with. “Digger is one of the most loved characters,” she said. “He comes by during recording and tells jokes.”
Tilde the Tortoise is another regular character. “She has a segment called Fun Facts. She’s really good at telling facts because she’s an old animal. Tilde has been around the world and has a lot of knowledge,” Ferrari said.
“I try to write stories that can be listened to and enjoyed by anyone around the world. But, when I can, I do try to tie in my home state,” she said.
A recent podcast is a nod to her childhood and the history of her hometown. On Monday, Nov. 26, the podcast focused on the story of Farmington’s famous inventor, Chester Greenwood.
The podcast began with Ferrari telling the plight of the earmuff inventor. “Chester is having a hard time keeping his ears warm in the cold weather. His hat makes his ears itch and it keeps falling off while he is playing in the snow,” she said.
Tilde shared several fun facts about Greenwood during the podcast. He was 15 when he invented the earmuffs in 1873, she said. Greenwood is also credited with inventing the wide-bottomed tea kettle and decoy mousetrap. Tilde said the people of Farmington still celebrate Greenwood’s earmuffs on the first Saturday in December.
“I remember putting on my earmuffs for the Chester Greenwood parade,” Ferrari recalled.
Ferrari said she was surprised at how storytelling can be done through podcasting.
“This is not something I could have ever imagined. I loved listening to music as a kid but I did not listen to audio stories,” she said. “I was blown away that this could be a way to tell stories to a far-reaching audience.”
One of her first emails after becoming a podcaster came from Charlie, an Australian boy. After hearing Story Spectacular, Charlie asked Ferrari to write a story about a dinosaur who practiced yoga.
“Charlie had such a great idea that I decided he needed to write that story,” she said. “I did end up developing a story about a dinosaur, “Dinosaur in a Toy Store”. The character is named after Charlie because of his inspiration.”
Story Spectacular can be found on KidsListen, a free mobile app. KidsListen is a non-profit organization which promotes quality podcasting for kids, Ferrari said.
For more information about Ferrari’s books, art, and podcasts, visit www.storyspectacular.com.