Philly eighth-grader reaches out to help others, express her creativity in ‘Claws’


Hill-Freedman eighth-grader Maya Anderson has created a world full of crustaceans, supernatural humans and other creatures. 

She’s deft at explaining the scenes and intertwining plots that take place in Philadae — the post-apocalyptic world where her stories unfold. Maya’s recently published book outlines 45 characters that she’s created and illustrated herself. 

To hear the otherwise shy 13-year-old Philadelphian talk about her book, “Claws: The Prequel,” it’s clear she is transporting herself to a world where it’s hard for anyone, even her mom — who triples as parent, publicist and editor — to keep up.

“At school she is pretty much known for being introverted, for keeping to herself and reading books,” said mother Tamara Anderson. “It’s kind of nice to see that spark and just that engagement and seeing how she really wants to continue to do this.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Anderson decided to push Maya to publish her work when Maya said she wanted to find a way to make money to help people in need.

So far, Maya’s book has sold dozens of copies — both e-book and paper versions. Maya is using a portion of the proceeds to buy gift cards for teachers in the Philadelphia schools that have lost arts funding.

She’s given a $25 and a $50 gift certificate from the Blick arts supply store to teachers dealing with funding cuts. 

Maya said she was inspired to use the money to help other students after realizing that many kids who don’t have art class in school often won’t have exposure to the arts elsewhere.

“Art comes in different forms, so I want to support art because I don’t just want to save my talent, but also save others’ talents,” she said. “Art really impacted my life because, if it wasn’t for art, I wouldn’t have ‘Claws.'”

The way her mom tells it, Maya’s evolution to author was natural. After all, she was constantly thinking and talking about her story. It was just a matter of getting those ideas in order.

“You have all these people in your brain, you’re talking about them 24/7,” said Anderson. “There were literally over 100 drawings and to get them down to the 45 in the book was quite a diplomatic decision. I said, ‘Well, I have take off my mommy hat and put on my editor hat.'”

Anderson saw it as more than just a chance for her daughter to publish a book —  she had to learn to meet deadlines and make tough editing decisions. Then, she had to go about promoting the book.

Maya’s already held book talks at local branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia and runs a Facebook page and Twitter account to help sales. That’s been a struggle, according to Anderson, who said Maya shows an unusual “aversion” to social media despite being a teenager. 

For Maya, however, the benefits of working on her first book are simple to explain. She said she gets to draw more and write more, just for fun.

She gets to spend more time creating characters, and working on perfecting her Tangua — the language she invented for her characters.

“Claws, the Prequel” can be ordered online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal