Please tell me a bit about yourself—your background in writing for children and in other areas.
Following a 30+ year career in business management, I took some time to return to school full-time to complete my undergraduate degree, a goal I completed in May 2021. During the summer of 2020, in one class, a Wellness Science class, my focus of study and research topic was childhood anxiety. The data was staggering. Having raised a daughter with anxiety and ADHD, I struggled to get support from the medical community back then, as anxiety wasn’t a point of focus as it has become today.
Back then, I had to explore all options through naturopathic medicine, homeopathic resources, and eventually neurofeedback therapy to help my child. I learned much through those resources back then. Now, through the class, I found science has finally realized the impact that anxiety can have on one’s life and future. The science research was proving the long-term impact anxiety has as a “go-to” response once someone has had an enduring episode of trauma, including the impact of the pandemic. Many children have experienced a sharp and drastic removal from social situations for a long period, without understanding the necessity. Others have been forced from exposure to social situations, and now experience social anxiety while re-entering activities. It is due to the duration of the crisis that children truly need to recognize anxiety symptoms as they start, then learn coping mechanisms to reset those emotions to successfully move forward with confidence.
Tell me about your most recent work......what inspired the premise? What about your story is topical right now?
I published my first children’s book in January 2021. Niko Discovers the 5 Senses Game came to life because of the impact of my research impacted me. Within two weeks of completing the class, I began the manuscript. I had dreamt of one day writing a children’s book for the past 25 years, but never knew where to begin, and thought it was just a pipe dream. However, my passion to help children and families in some way became the driving force behind my writing. After completing a 2500 word draft, I sent it to a licensed social worker and a career primary school educator. Both encouraged me to make this book a reality.
Ultimately, my goal was to create a story for families to establish an easy game to support their children and themselves. It’s a way that they can help each other through gameplay together, or independently. Building communication strategies for making emotional health a priority for every family is a critical first step in empowering children to manage their own emotions.
My next story is about separation anxiety. It is another area that I believe every family experiences, and this one is a sweet story in rhyme, and I can’t wait to begin illustrations.
What do you hope young readers, and perhaps even parents take away from your story?
The age group for my story is 5 to 8-years-olds. Some of those children are reading on their own. However, my dream is for parents to enjoy the first read of the story with their children, because they will learn the simplicity of the game, yet experience the important impact it can have on their child and even themselves.
The protagonist is experiencing anxiety, and his mother explains those “feelings” and how they can create tummy aches, headaches, and worry. Mom shares a “game” she uses to help stop those feelings and suggests they sit on the back porch to play. The game teaches him how to use each of the five senses, methodically, to explore his environment. Learning to spend time describing the objects a child selects, steers their focus toward the object, its characteristics, and how those qualities complete that object will impact the child’s emotions reflecting the object because they tend to select their favorite thing, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
I want children to recognize they can learn the same game, and find relief from those BIG emotions whenever they need. The story is just the beginning. I have created several other products to support children bringing the game from the story into their daily life.
First, an Activity & Coloring Fun book which includes Niko and several coloring sheets, word games, puzzles all centered around the five senses. There are about five pages that help children with memory recollection from the story. These features help in building a foundation for using the 5 Senses Game in their everyday life.
Then, realizing kids could actively play with little support, I designed a two-sided wipe-off placemat with Niko providing directions for each sense, and the other side listing descriptor words, to build vocabulary plus helping children stay within each sense a bit longer challenging them to find new ways to describe what they discover. Plus, I added in a coloring area and an illustration where they learn how to play the game using a photograph or illustration.
Anxiety can be an all-consuming emotion, and often, when kids begin to succumb to it, they unintentionally lash out at those around them. Helping them to independently choose to take a few minutes to play the game is critical. Showing them they have a superpower to retake control of their emotions is my goal. I developed a couple of simple visual cues to trigger a reminder of the game. The first is a simple Niko wristband in similar colors to the story. Then a set of magnets, that if on the kitchen refrigerator or a whiteboard in the child’s room, may help empower them to play the game to take back their control.
In the tradition of Tamara Turtle's Life So Far, comes my next rescue-related picture book, Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot.
“The staff at the Parrot Sanctuary knew Chloe was a beautiful soul. They wondered how long it was going to take to find her perfect fit.”
Chloe had been at the Parrot Sanctuary for a while now. In her previous home, she had been so stressed, she’d plucked out most of her feathers. The staff thought it could be a long time before this sweet little parrot finds her forever home.
And then one day…
Based on a true story, and a true parrot.
Like Tamara Turtle's Life So Far, where 50% of proceeds go to reptile rescue Little RES-Q, based in Pefferlaw, Ontario (and sometimes other Reptile Rescues, like the Special Species Dept. of the Toronto Humane Society), 50% of proceeds from Chloe the Unfeathered Parrot will go to The Parrot Sanctuary, which is based in Toronto.
Look for Chloe's book launch, which I sincerely hope will take place in person (with a virtual component for the reading of the book), this June!
In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures of Chloe...
Sloth the Lazy Dragon has received a glowing 5-star review from Indies Today Book Review!
“A motivating picture book designed to inspire healthy choices.”Sloth is more than your average dragon. So much more, in fact, that he can no longer fly. Even standing upright is a challenge for this severely overweight dragon. Content with his lazy life, Sloth is surprised when a courageous dwarf enters his mountain hideout. The dwarf, Radish, tactfully inquires about the massive dragon’s health and offers his assistance. Intrigued by Radish’s boldness, Sloth agrees to accept the man’s help. In exchange, the fearsome dragon concedes that he will not eat Radish’s brothers and sisters.
Regaining health is no easy project when you’ve spent so much time lazing on your horde of gold. Sloth has even taken to subsisting on a diet of mountain goats that happen to wander too close, rather than venturing outside for food. It takes months of effort and a huge change in diet before Sloth notices a difference in his physique. Good choices and consistent effort eventually enable the dragon to regain his mobility and his freedom. Grateful for the dwarf’s tireless help and encouragement, Sloth leaves Radish with a generous gift and flies off into a beautiful sunset.
Sloth the Lazy Dragon is a motivating picture book designed to inspire healthy choices in children, and with childhood obesity rates continually on the rise, it is certainly an important and timely subject. Pairing the benefits of a healthier lifestyle with the whimsy of a fire-breathing dragon is clever, making nutrition and fitness something kids will want to talk about. Humorous details are just waiting to be discovered within the illustrations, like Sloth’s colorful sweatbands and exercise equipment scattered around the giant pile of treasure. Challenging vocabulary words are peppered throughout the text, adding an additional benefit to inquisitive children who are keen to learn new things. A great way to broach the topic of a nutritious diet, Sloth the Lazy Dragon is just the right combination of entertainment and illumination.