Meet the Brilliant Star Crew

Brilliant Star's writers, designers, illustrators, and editors are passionate about creating fun, imaginative stories and activities to share with kids around the world. Zeke and Rhombus from the Planet Zilizag interviewed the crew to find out more about what they do.

 

AMETHEL PAREL-SEWELL  •  Editor/Creative Director

Zeke: What do you like best about working on Brilliant Star?
Amethel: I love that Brilliant Star shows kids how important and awesome they are. If you’re studying peace on Earth, you know that kids are the future of peace. I love empowering kids with tools and encouragement to bring peace and justice to our planet. I also appreciate the people I work with—they’re creative, dedicated, and giving. We work hard, and we also have fun together. It's the best feeling to love your work and the people you work with.


Zeke: What’s an Editor/Creative Director? That’s a long name.
Amethel: You navigate your own spaceship, right? Imagine that Brilliant Star is a spaceship on a mission to help kids. My role is to guide the ship so it succeeds on its mission. Like any ship, we report to a command center, which is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the U.S.—they give us our mission, and we go far and wide to fulfill it.

Zeke: Do you have any hobbies? Mine is space travel.
Amethel: Travel adventures are my favorite, too. I love exploring cultures, understanding different ways of life, and learning new things about the world. I like going to a new place and getting lost in it. It's fun to make cool discoveries as you find your way. I’m also passionate about photography, art, graphic design, and reading.

Zeke: Rhombus and I will be traveling all over Earth. Where should we go?
Amethel: Everywhere! Earth is full of amazing places. Wherever you go, there are wonderful people to meet, fantastic sites to see, and incredible things to experience. Be sure to visit the Philippines, the island nation where I was born. They have wonderful beaches, incredible food, and the best tropical fruits, especially mangos!


 

C. AARON KREADER  •  Designer/Illustrator

Zeke: Aaron, I love the pictures you draw. How did you learn to draw so well?
Aaron: Thanks, Zeke! I’m happy you like them. When I was little, I fell into a hole in the ground that was full of paper and pens. For years, I drew pictures to pass the time. When I grew up and was tall enough to climb out, I started working as an artist.

Zeke: What can I do to become a better artist?
Aaron: Well, I was watching you draw earlier, and I would suggest first that you stop drawing with your feet. Using your hands makes it MUCH easier. And draw something that excites you. For inspiration, you can look at your favorite artist, your feelings, a funny moment, images from life, or great photos. Then you practice and practice and practice.

Zeke: Is Brilliant Star a fun place to work?
Aaron: Well, I haven’t been to Zilizag, so I don’t know how Brilliant Star compares to your home planet. Maybe you have robotic chairs that are like carnival rides, and people swim in really long pools and jump off of diving boards to get to their offices. But by Earth standards, it’s a fantastic place to work. And the exploration of truth and the spiritual life is the most joyful part.

Zeke: Rhombus wants to know what you most like to draw. How about robot dogs?
Aaron: I’ll answer in Robot Dog: Woof-Woof, bzzzzz-wooof, WOOF, bzzz-wooo-wooof!*

*Translation: I love to draw people, animals, and other creatures—especially active and full of life.


 

AMY RENSHAW  •  Senior Editor

Zeke: Amy, you’re called a “Senior Editor.” Are you an ancient being?
Amy: I’m not really ancient, Zeke—especially compared to Zilizag, where I’ve heard people live to be 200! My job is to work with the other editors to make our stories and activities as fun as they can be. I also get to consult with our website friends about new ideas for the website.

Zeke: Where does the name Brilliant Star come from? Is it a planet in this galaxy?
Amy: Our name comes from a Bahá’í prayer where kids ask God to “make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.” We chose it because our readers light up the world.

Zeke: What’s your favorite part of your job?
Amy: I love so much about my job—especially writing about the Bahá’í teachings, talking with my talented coworkers, and learning new things about Earth.

Zeke: What do you guys do for peace on Earth?
Amy: We encourage kids to put peaceful ideas into action. If they bring peace to their families, schools, and communities, we will have a peaceful planet someday.


 

SUSAN ENGLE  •  Associate Editor

Zeke: Susan, is an “Associate Editor” someone who likes to associate with people peacefully?
Susan: I do like to be peaceful. But my work as an associate editor includes writing, interviewing people, and reading new stories that writers send in. I search high and low for the best photo to run in Brilliant Star, and I also answer lots of letters.

Zeke: What was your favorite Earth book when you were my age? I’m 12.
Susan: It’s hard to pick one. I liked books about magic, like Half Magic by Edgar Eager. But I guess my very favorite book was about orphans. It’s called Nancy and Plum, by Betty MacDonald.

Zeke: What are your favorite things about working on Brilliant Star?
Susan: One of my favorite things is to interview people about their childhoods and the jobs that they love for our “Stargazer” feature. These amazing Bahá’ís always have exciting or funny stories to tell. And sometimes, they have such wonderful, joyful, and tender things to say that I cry. But that’s all good! I also love to write poetry and stories about Josie the Detective. When I was growing up, Dr. Seuss was big at our house, and thinking up rhymed poetry is a joy.

Zeke: What are your hobbies on Earth?
Susan:  I love to sing and collect miniatures. I also love to be with my grown up children and their children, especially since some of them live far away and we aren’t together often. And I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles and counted cross-stitch, which is a kind of a puzzle, too.

Zeke: How do you know if Earth kids like Brilliant Star?
Susan: I wish we could find out what all of our readers like best in Brilliant Star. Some kids around the world are part of a group called the Trailblazers. We ask them to answer questions about the magazine and send us their thoughts. We also love to get letters from readers that tell us what they like best about Brilliant Star. That helps us do a better job.


 

ANNIE RENEAU  •  Assistant Editor

Zeke: Annie, all these editors! What does an Assistant Editor do?
Annie: I do a little of everything. Most of my time is spent writing, but I also brainstorm ideas, help proofread, and anything else that needs to be done.

Zeke: When did you know that you like to write?
Annie: Hmm . . . probably when I was in the 5th grade. I wrote a poem about being eaten by a dinosaur at the zoo, and I was very proud of it. I still have that poem.

Zeke: Why do you like working on Brilliant Star?
Annie: Besides enjoying writing, I really like helping kids figure out how to use their spiritual qualities to deal with challenges. Many adults don’t have that figured out yet. Kids have the power to change the world for the better—I love being a part of something so positive and exciting.

Zeke: Do you have any other hobbies?
Annie: Yes, I’ve recently taken up photography. I especially enjoy taking pictures of my children and nature.

Zeke: Rhombus says he’s hungry. Do you have any chocolate?
Annie: Always! I never go anywhere without chocolate.


 

FOAD GHORBANI  •  Production Assistant

Zeke: What do you do at Brilliant Star?
Foad: I do graphic design. I look at how the pictures are laid out on the pages in the magazine, how the images relate to each other, and how they affect kids. I also do illustration, brainstorming, and proofreading—looking at pages to correct mistakes.

Zeke: What are your favorite tools for making art?
Foad: My favorite tool is still a simple pencil. When I draw with a pencil, then I put it in the computer and start changing it.

Zeke: And do you practice a lot?
Foad: Definitely practice. That’s the most important thing. If you’re not getting something, you have to practice and practice. When I was a kid, I was drawing, and I thought that was enough. Then I had an instructor who gave me another vision—to look differently at art and nature, at what was around me. So he told me, go draw your hands over and over. After practicing a lot, I saw things differently.

Zeke: I was born on planet Zilizag, in the United Republic of Zalizom. Where on Earth were you born?
Foad: I was born in a fantasy world. But I was really born in Baghdád, Iraq, the land of the story The Thousand and One Nights. Then I moved to Tihrán, Iran, where I grew up. In my childhood, there was a war between Iran and Iraq that separated our family. After that, my goal was to make peace and bring that to everyone’s family, everywhere in the world. In this fantasy world in my head, I can do that with drawing.

Zeke: What are your favorite things to do on Earth?
Foad: Creating art to help people. Of course, I like to be a dad at home with my two daughters. I like exploring new things, too—and traveling!

Zeke: Wow, talking to Brilliant Star’s crew sure makes me hungry. Want to grab some Earth food with me and Rhombus?
Foad: Sure! Have you had chelo kebab? It’s a traditional Iranian dish of meat grilled on skewers and served with rice. I just made my first chelo kebab recently. If you come to my home to visit, I’ll make you some.


 

LISA BLECKER  •  Writer & Artist

Zeke: Lisa, you’re a freelancer! May I see your lance? Do you battle knights?
Lisa: Huh? Oh, ha, ha. No lance or battles needed at Brilliant Star, thankfully. As a freelancer, I’m invited to work with friends on a variety of projects. Some things I do are brainstorm ideas, write articles, create crafts, take photos, and work on illustrations.

Zeke: How did you become such a good artist?
Lisa: I’m so glad you like my artwork, Zeke. I practiced a lot at home and school. It’s fun to experiment, and I strive to learn from (and not be afraid of) making mistakes.

Zeke: What’s your favorite thing about working on Brilliant Star?
Lisa: Writing, illustrating, and doing arts and crafts with Nur the Firefly. I also love creating activities that promote virtues, such as kindness and unity.

Zeke: What else do you have fun doing on Earth? 
Lisa: There are many things I love to do, such as dancing, roller-skating, painting, creating animation, reading, watching movies, being in nature, doing service projects with our junior youth group and children’s class, and spending time with my family and friends.

Zeke: You remind me of my big sister, who is a very peaceful person. Do you like peace, too?
Lisa: I’m trying my best to be peaceful, like you and your Zilizagian friends and family!


 

DONNA PRICE  •  Writer

Zeke: Donna, now I know that a freelancer doesn’t talk to knights, but what do you do for Brilliant Star?
Donna: I do research, writing, and lots and lots of rewriting.

Zeke: What’s your favorite part about writing stories?
Donna: I like to find what’s special about the characters and then see what happens to them. The endings always surprise me.

Zeke: Why do you have a star map on your desktop?
Donna: I have a degree in astronomy, so I’ve studied brilliant stars in space. Did you know that Earth astronomers are discovering thousands of planets in our galaxy, and they think there might be billions?

Zeke: We pass hundreds of stars and planets on the way to Zilizag. If you like science, why do you work on a magazine about religion?
Donna: The Bahá’í Faith says that science and religion should be in harmony.  Spiritual teachings help us use science in peaceful ways. Maybe someday we’ll recycle weapons and turn them into something cool—like spaceships!

Zeke: What are some things you like about Brilliant Star?
Donna: It’s happy and colorful, and readers can learn positive things in fun ways. I learn a lot while I’m working for Brilliant Star.

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