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St. Louis-inspired film ‘A New Holiday’ takes storytelling magic from film to page

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Miya Norfleet
St. Louis Public Radio
Sophia Stephens and Brian Owens, co-authors of “A New Holiday”

Homegrown talents Brian Owens and Sophia Stephens have taken their Christmas story from the silver screen to a children’s storybook — just in time for the holiday season.

In 2020, Owens and Stephens, both St. Louis natives, debuted “A New Holiday,” a film that follows a young girl named Thelma as she navigates her first Christmas without her beloved grandmother, Dorothy. Now, two years later, the creative duo have released the story as a book and expanded the tale with festive storytelling and representation.

“Most of the [holiday] books I see that feature characters who are Black are Kwanzaa books, and that’s cool,” Owens said on St. Louis on the Air. “For my family … I’ve always celebrated Christmas. For the meaning of it, being a person of faith … that was important to me.”

“A New Holiday” is inspired by family members of David Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technologies, and has a few settings that St. Louisans may recognize. For Owens and Stephens, finding inspiration was simple, but collaborating on two projects during the pandemic proved challenging. The pair were able to make it work.

“They’re not a sponsor of ours, but thank God for Zoom,” Stephens joked. “I know in Los Angeles I wasn’t able to fly about. … We just found that we worked very well in that way.”

To learn more about how Brian Owens and Sophia Stephens incorporated musicality in their book “A New Holiday,” listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

St. Louis-inspired film ‘A New Holiday’ takes storytelling magic from film to page

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

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