Thank you, Kathleen, for joining me!
Thank you for inviting me to participate in your children’s author interview series!
To begin with, please tell me a bit about yourself.
Although I have always enjoyed reading and writing, it wasn’t until my early sixties that I published my first children’s book, HIGH IN THE SKY, about a young, energetic child who hops onto a tire swing and flies off on many wild, imaginary adventures. I always dreamed of one day publishing a children’s book that would be available in Toronto Public Library. Well, that was in 2015 and since then, I have self-published three more picture books - FOR NO REASON about positive bullying solutions, THE WISH CARVERS, a whimsical folktale about being grateful, and BATHTIME FUN!, an imaginative, rhyming, tugboat adventure. My first three books have been acquired by libraries across Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and I hope Bathtub Fun! will be available in libraries soon too.
Following high school and college, I worked as a contributing Associate Editor for a Toronto community magazine with a circulation of 35,000. This magazine was available in schools, libraries, hospitals, churches, businesses, and many other local spots. I wrote poetry, feature articles about talented people in my Toronto neighbourhood, and was in charge of the Focus on the Arts pages. During this time, I also wrote a bi-weekly arts column for the Etobicoke Guardian newspaper. I loved knocking on the doors of people I hadn’t met yet and writing articles about their talents, hobbies, interest groups, and events.
At that time, there were no photocopiers, emails, or computers. I typed my stories on an electric typewriter using carbon paper for copies, and drove my articles to the magazine and newspaper offices. Magazine text was printed on large galley sheets and we literally cut and pasted articles, ads, and photos into place on each page before it was sent back to the printer for mass production.
After that, I worked 29 years for the Toronto District School Board, first as a school secretary and finally as a special education teacher’s assistant. I retired in 2017 and since then have had more time to read, travel the world, write and pursue lots of other interests.
One of the activities I currently enjoy is volunteering with IBBY Canada’s Readers and Refugees Program. I read books to children who have just arrived in Canada from other countries who may not speak or read much English yet.
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What inspired the premise of your latest book? How did this story come to be?
Bathtime Fun! began as a short poem I wrote in the early 1980’s when my children were young and loved to splash in the tub. Some 35 years later, I found it tucked away in a cupboard and decided to expand it into a fun-to-read-aloud picture book.
How did you come up with your characters?
I wanted to include children of diverse backgrounds and cultures because bath time is such a universal, simple and multi-sensory pleasure when children can listen to the water splash, watch as soap bubbles burst, and smell the soap. And, like the characters in my story, they can travel off to imaginary places “that only children know.”
What makes this book important right now?
Reading Bathtime Fun! is a great way for families to connect and also shows kids that bathtime can be imaginative and fun. There has been so much uncertainty in the news lately and this upbeat, rhyming bathtime adventure is one way for kids to escape from the real world for a while.
What do you hope children and parents take away from this story?
I hope that children reading Bathtub Fun! will be able to identify with the many diverse characters in the story and that they will use their imaginations to travel on their own bathtub adventures. For the parents reading this bouncy, beautifully illustrated story, I hope that happy childhood memories of squeal-filled tubs will flood back.
What scene from the book is your favourite, and why?
My favourite scene is… hmmm…hard to decide…I have many but I am especially fond of the colourful and lively illustration depicting a school of rainbow fish, where one of the kids is holding onto a whale’s tail and going for a wild ride in the ocean.
What was the most challenging part of creating this new story?
The most challenging part of writing this story was getting the rhyming just right, without the words sounding forced, and also creating an authentic child’s voice.
Where do your ideas for stories generally come from?
My ideas come from everywhere. The inspiration for my first book HIGH IN THE SKY came from listening to my grandsons on a swing as they imagined themselves flying high like birds and planes in the sky. Also, my mother used to read a poem to me called The Swing by Robert Lewis Stevenson from the 1929 book, A Child’s Garden of Verses. The idea for my second book, FOR NO REASON, came to me one summer while reading in my backyard. Two brothers in the yard behind me were talking to their mother and suddenly the youngest brother whined to his mom, “Christian pushed me into the pool for no reason. At that moment I thought, that sounds like a great title for a children’s book about bullying. The way I came up with the idea for my third book, THE WISH CARVERS, was my mom used to read fairy tales to me at bedtime and I decided to write a fairy tale with magic and make-believe characters - only mine would be a tale that no one had ever heard before.
For the other children’s writers out there in my audience, could you share a little advice on either writing or marketing children’s picture books?
Never give up on your dreams. Everyone’s idea of success is different. Decide what it is that you want to do and just go ahead and do it. Learn from others but don’t compare yourself with them. Be happy with what you have accomplished so far and continue to enjoy your writing journey.
How has the current pandemic changed or shaped how you write, how you publish, and how you market your books?
The pandemic and resulting lockdowns inspired me to write a children’s picture book that would be a vacation for the mind, something simple, positive, imaginative, and fun. With libraries closed and book fairs and other events cancelled, there were fewer in-person places to sell my books and connect with readers face-to-face. Fortunately, libraries were still acquiring my books and I was able to sell my books online through my Skipping Stone Press website and other online venues.
Please tell me more about your other books.
One story I like to tell others about my books is that I met up with my childhood bully at a writers’ fair a few years back and she bought copies of all my books, even FOR NO REASON about bullying. She also apologized and explained that she had anger issues back then. Life comes around full circle sometimes!
Marketing my books takes up a lot of time but I plan to continue writing every day and see where that leads.
Tell me an interesting fact about you.
I live with my husband in Toronto. We met in high school and have been married since 1974. Our daughter and son have families of their own and we have two teenage grandsons, four grandcats and two granddogs. When not reading or writing, I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, yoga, hiking, golf, knitting, world travel, and singing in a community choir.
Signed copies of Kathleen Gauer's books are available through her website https://www.skippingstonepress.net, Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, and many other locations worldwide.