I chatted with local author Richie Frieman about his past struggles and his new book releasing soon.
Q: Talk about your childhood, where you grew up, etc.
I was born in Richmond, VA but moved to Owings Mills when I was around 2, where I would stay until graduating high school. Now, I don’t know what constitutes as a “great childhood” but I like to think mine met those standards… despite a few hiccups that come with growing up. My parents divorced when I was very young – in fact I have no recollection of them ever being together as a couple. However, I could not have asked for a better set. I had more love and affection than most kids in “normal” households. Often times, I felt guilty when my friends who had parents that stayed together, weren’t as happy as I was. Sure, it was awkward at times, but my parents loved me madly, and that’s all that mattered.
One area of growing up that was difficult for me was reading, writing and comprehension. I was hardly scholarly. I wasn’t bad, or acted out, I was just stuck and lost. Reading was like pushing a boulder up a hill… except that boulder had two other boulders behind it! In fact, I didn’t read a full book cover to cover until my senior year of college. It took me a long time to realize that people learn differently and the difficulties I had/have are just how I developed. I talk to kids about this all the time. I want them to realize that they’re not alone, and they – like me – can do it.
Q: You tweeted out a photo of you recently where you were speaking to the Boy Scouts about your trouble reading growing up. How did you overcome it?
Those kids were amazing, and so appreciative. Yes, I spoke to them about my troubles with reading, and as I have done with many other groups, I was happy to see that they responded so positively to it. I don’t like to ask kids to tell me who in the room has a problem but the ones that do know I’m on their side. I also think they enjoyed seeing someone, like them, who learned to learn their own way. For me, that was finding the arts. It allowed me to overcome my difficulties. I couldn’t read a paragraph without spacing out, but I could draw and paint for hours on end. I found the arts were a way for me to express what I was thinking, feeling and trying to say, in a way that the words wouldn’t allow. Over time though, I was able to find books that spoke to me, and then I was hooked! That led me to being able to pursue writing.
Q: You were a pro wrestler at one point. How did you get involved in it?
When I was a little kid, there were two things I always said I wanted to be when I grew up: an artist and a pro wrestler. Check and check! But it’s true, ever since I was four or five, I was obsessed with pro wrestling. My dad took me to my first match at the (then) Baltimore Arena when I was seven or so, and I was done. That was it. However, I knew I would never be big enough to make it professionally. So, I went in to amateur wrestling in middle school and high school, but still hung onto the dream. Fast forward, to the winter of my junior year of college, I heard a wrestling school opened in Owings Mills (yes, you have to go to a school). I convinced one of my best friends to go along with me, to see what it was about. We ended up loving it, getting trained and then we made our debut match against one another. I won that match, he won the rematch, and our third match we debuted as a tag team and won the titles. We were a tag team for 8+ years known as Xtreme Pandemonium, and won more hardware along the way.
People may be surprised to hear this, but the training was brutal and “learning the ropes” (no pun intended) was intense. It was like boot camp, except here they were allowed to beat you up! It was rough but once you learn the craft, it all makes sense. There’s a brotherhood and a bond that connects pro wrestlers across the globe, and has for decades. You take an oath when you become a wrestler and that bond requires a sacrifice. We (pro wrestlers) even have a language we share, mannerisms and interestingly enough, a handshake! I can’t even express to you how amazing it was; we were living our dream, driving across the country, and loving every minute of it.
Q: When did you decide to start writing books?
I always knew I wanted to write books but having such a severe learning disability growing up, I thought it was impossible. However, I was always active in the arts, so I started with the illustrations and then started to put words to them. But, it was when my wife and I began to talk about having kids was when I started to really put pen to paper to focus on children’s books. That experience really changed me. I felt like I was onto something. I would wake up in the middle of the night and jot down notes for ideas. I had Post-it notes coming out of every pocket I had with rhymes and lines for the book. Those notes were like a puzzle I had to put together, which became my first book, Terple – The Sky Is Just The Start. After the success of that book, I realized I had more stories to tell, and it wasn’t just in picture books.
Q: Which book (of yours) is your favorite and why?
Oh, gosh! I can’t pick. Each means something special to me. I honestly can’t pick!
Q: Who has been your favorite person/band to interview at Pens Eye View?
I’d have to say there were a few. One was one of my favorite bands, OAR who ironically, for years, I went to sleepover camp with the lead singer, and later the drummer joined him. So here we are fifteen-ish years later and he’s on top of the world, and I’m chatting with him on the phone. I was proud of him, and happy that he followed his dream and it worked. Secondly, one of the most amazing singer songwriters I ever heard is a guy named, Trevor Hall. When I first discovered him, he had one song on the Shrek soundtrack and after that he went worldwide! To watch him evolve is amazing. I’m still a fan! However, there have been 1,500 additional artists that I’m a fan of as well.
Q: What is your new book “Maddy and Cole” about?
In the premier edition of the Maddy & Cole series, the Food Truck Grand Prix takes you on an adventurous ride filled with heart warming twists and gut wrenching turns through the delicious world of an elite food truck competition. Led by Maddy and Cole, two siblings set on taking home the trophy and fortune that comes with it, along side their grandfather, Pop Pop Fantastico and his Fantastical Food Truck, for the big event. However, the sparkling gold trophy is not so easy to win, as they encounter everything from over-the-top chefs with exotic recipes from around the world, bullies fighting to take the top spot with scheming plans, and their biggest doubters — themselves. Yet, through Pop Pop’s mysterious past, as well as a family secret, Maddy and Cole learn there is more to running a food truck than simply working the grill; you need passion, creativity and – as Pop Pop shows them – magic! Learn why any dream worth chasing will never be easy to achieve, and whyevery underdog has a tale.
Q: Are you excited about the release on 3/13?
Excited is an understatement! It’s been a year in the making. I have big plans for Maddy and Cole and I can’t wait for the world to see it. So much work has gone into it, and not just me. I’m fortunate to have a good team behind me. I only hope everyone enjoys my story and will get behind underdogs all over. After all, every underdog has a tale.
“Maddy & Cole: The Food Truck Grand Prix” will be released March 13th!
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