FAQ

The Story Behind the Story

What inspired you to create the world in which the MI9 Team lives in?

While characters in the MI9 Team come from different places throughout the world, they spend most of their time in the land of Concordia, where there is a lot of gender inequality. Most of my childhood was spent overseas in countries throughout Asia and Africa, where I saw a lot of gender discrimination and inequality. So this had a big influence on placing the characters in such a setting to raise awareness for gender equality and girls’ education. Also, I attended international schools, where the students were from countries all over the world, and so the MI9 Team is inspired from this as well.

How did you come up with the idea?

MI9 stands for the 9 multiple intelligences, or different ways of thinking, solving problems and learning, which includes: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic and existential. As a former educator, I taught at several Title I schools, and frequently implemented the Theory of Multiple Intelligences in the classroom.

I was inspired to create the MI9 Team series as an engaging way to get youth involved in caring about social causes. My 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focuses on inspiring the youth to make a positive change by applying their special skills, unique talents and passions to make a difference in their community.

In addition to representing the nine multiple intelligences, the MI9 Team superheroes are each also passionate about social causes. Each superhero has their own specific set of skills and talents, as categorized within the multiple intelligences, which provides a great framework with possibilities for the youth to identify and recognize their strengths, and different ways to translate that into helping others and the community.

Which characters do you relate to?

I love all of the characters, and can relate to aspects of all of them. Each of the MI9 Team member represents one of the multiple intelligences, a specific character trait, and a social cause — and we’re all a combination of these, not just one. (Take the quiz to find out who you are most like.)

However, I can relate to some more than others. I consider two of my strongest areas within the multiple intelligences to be verbal-linguistic and visual-spatial, which are represented by Sphinx and Pierre.

Sphinx's social cause is Gender Equality and Girls' Education, which is also a very important cause to me as Founder and President of eGirl Power, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to bring awareness to Gender Equality and Girls' Education.

Another character I can relate to is Hoku, having roots in Hawaii like her. I admire her character a lot as she has overcome so many obstacles in her life. But with her positive attitude and tenacity, she always sees the brighter side of things and succeeds through that.

And that’s another thing about each superhero, they have all worked hard to succeed despite many struggles, and I think most youth can probably relate to many of the hardships these characters have struggled with.

If you could have one super power in the world what would it be?

Time travel, which is also something we’ll be seeing in future stories of the MI9 Team series.

How long did it take you to create and develop the concept for it?

It took me two and a half years. I started working on the MI9 Team series in 2013.

Was there a book or a story that inspired you at a young age to empower young girls? If not a story, was there an instance?

My late father dedicated his life to alleviating extreme poverty and helping those less fortunate in developing countries. He really inspired me to devote my time to creating positive change as well. Due to his career as a diplomat, I grew up mostly overseas in Asia and Africa, and seeing the gender inequality that unfortunately exists in many places motivated me to empower young girls.

 

Supporting a Good Cause

It says that proceeds to go support eGirl Power. Can you tell me how it works?

It's like Girl Scout cookies; their proceeds go to support the Girl Scout troop. When MI9 Team books and graphic novels sell, proceeds go to support the eGirl Power program for Gender Equality and Girls' Education.

Can you please explain the eGirl Power program?

eGirl Power is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a goal to empower girls to improve their confidence, self-esteem and achieve their full potential. The key objective is to empower teenage girls to identify and build upon their personal skills and talents, and prepare for college and career readiness through educational workshops, field trips, mentorship and more.

eGirl Power is created and led by a team of educators with collectively over 60 years of classroom experience. Through our program we use an approach I like to call the 3 M's:

  • Multiple Intelligences - as a framework to help the youth recognize and identify their strengths.
  • Multimedia - eGirl Power members collaborate to create PSAs in a fun and engaging way to raise awareness.
  • Mentorship - Mentors give advice and guidance to the girls. Our mentors include female role models from a variety of career fields.
How does the MI9 Team and eGirl Power program all tie in together?

It all ties together in several ways. The MI9 team is a group of superheroes led by a female character. eGirl Power is a program to help girls develop strong leadership skills. So the MI9 Team provides role models for girls.

It also ties in together because proceeds from the MI9 Team go to support the eGirl Power, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to bring awareness to Gender Equality and support Girls' Education.

How is the eGirl Power team a lot like the MI9 Team?

The eGirl Power Club members each have and recognize their unique skills and special talents, and have a good awareness of this as understood by the framework of the multiple intelligences and character traits, just like the MI9 Team who each symbolize one of the multiple intelligences, a character trait and a social cause. And on Make a Difference Day, the eGirl Power Club will also be supporting social causes through several community service projects to help others.

How will MI9 Team socialize young girls differently than today’s superhero movies or princess fairytale stories that are often missing powerful female narratives?

As shared in a 2015 report by the Women’s Media Center, “gender inequality is evident in print, on television, and online across nearly all media outlets and in nearly all news topics.” MI9 Team provides girls with strong leading female characters, of which there is all too frequently a lack of. They are female superheroes with their own identity, not a derivative of a male superhero. And they are not waiting for a man to come rescue them. They are doing the rescuing.

What are the lessons you hope young girls take away from the villains?

To not give into your fears. To never doubt yourself. To always believe in yourself, and use your strengths for the greater good.

Confidence is said to be one of the reasons women lack business development in the workplace. What is one of your favorite moments in MI9 Team where one of the girls shows extreme strength and confidence?

Sphinx was teased and bullied by the boys in school for years, but she rose to the top of her class and upon graduation she beat them all out to earn the Lion’s Crown. People had been trying to do this for centuries, and no one thought it would be a girl.

 

Everything Else

Who does The Gardener represent in society?

The Gardener guides each member of the MI9 Team to grow, flourish, and reach their full potential. And so this represents the educators and mentors who dedicate themselves to teaching and helping the youth.

What is the difference between The Gardener and Dr. Howard Gardner?

So, The Gardener in the MI9 Team series is a fictional character. He is a wise old man who hails from the Far East and united the members of the MI9 Team, and guides each member to reach their full potential. He is a mysterious character, not a lot is known about his past. He likes to spend time in his home, The Terrace, tending to his garden and shaping bonsai trees.

Dr. Howard Gardner is a real person. He's a professor at Harvard University and he developed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which identifies nine different ways of thinking, solving problems and learning: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic and existential.

In your experience, how has the understanding of Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of the Multiple Intelligences empowered young girls?

Hearing from the girls, in their own words, how this has helped them says it better than I possibly could. Here are some of their written responses:

student writing about multiple intelligences

student writing about multiple intelligences

student writing about multiple intelligences

student writing about multiple intelligences

student writing about multiple intelligences

 

What's Next

When and where will MI9 Team be available?
Can you tell us about any future stories and what we can expect?

A Tale of Two Sisters is a story about Sphinx and Alexandria. It follows their lives as they grow up as two sisters when they’re young in their childhood. A twist of fate causes them to be separated as children and very different paths that their lives take as a result of this.

They live in the land of Concordia, where there is extreme gender inequality. It's a fictional land, but unfortunately very representative of many places around world.

One sister gets an education, while the other is denied opportunities. One grows up to be leader of superheroes, while the other joins a gang of supervillains. They later cross paths as adults, and the two sisters, once friends, come face to face as enemies.

Through these fictional characters, A Tale of Two Sisters raises awareness for youth to learn more about social issues related to gender equality, and shows how much of an impact the power of education can have on one life.

Are there any movies or toys in the works?

Yes, there is going to be an animated film, which is going to be absolutely great. And also toys are coming soon. The educational toys will help youth explore their own unique combination of multiple intelligences, social causes and character traits.

 

MI9 Team book
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The MI9 Team is a group of nine superheroes who joined forces to achieve social change and protect others as they battle against a gang of six supervillains, who are dead set on destroying anything in their paths.

All proceeds of MI9 Team go to support Gender Equality and Girls' Education.