1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Writing children’s books wasn’t something I thought I would end up doing, but I find now that now that many of my previous life experiences really have helped prepare me to do just that. I retired from a 23-year military career a few years ago where I was very busy with operational planning and targeting. I have pursued and obtained multiple degrees, the latest in emergency management and I run a nonprofit, BLOCKS that helps prepare childcare for disaster.
Did you know that children spend an average of 33-35 hours a week in some sort of childcare arrangement? That’s a lot of time away from home. So, the odds of me being lucky enough to be there if something bad happened were pretty low. That thought doesn’t help me sleep at night. So, I started to ask, what could I do to fix that and increase the odds they came home safe?
I started looking around at what resources were available and realized there weren’t many available. There were a lot of books about the science behind natural disasters, but nothing written by authors trained in emergency management or designed to help teach kids what do to in the actual disaster itself.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
One stormy night I had to try and talk with my daughter (4 at the time) about how we might have to go into the basement later that evening because a tornado watch could turn into a warning. Well, needless to say, I did a really bad job ‘preparing’ her, and instead scared her. I knew that if I could introduce the topics before something happened, it would help her feel like she was more in control and maybe make it less scary. At the time we were watching a lot Daniel Tiger episodes at home, so the idea of combining song and story sort of naturally evolved. That was how I came up the idea of publishing children’s books that teaches preschool kids (through early elementary school) what to do if disaster strikes.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope that parents and caregivers see the value in teaching their children what to do rather than pretending it won’t happen. We teach our kids about crossing the street, stranger danger, etc. Our children get training on fire drills in daycare or in school, so why not teach them about other disasters? If they know what to do, they can help themselves and others.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
My daughter is now in Kindergarten and my son is almost three. We read a lot of books at home and they learn a lot from those books as well as what they see and hear. If children learn these lessons now, the lessons become part of their culture. These lessons can become part of their ‘norm’ and can help them throughout their life. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that genre, right?
5) If you could sit down with any author in your genre, who would it be, what would you ask them and why?
My early research into this field found Julia Cook. She wrote The Ant Hill Disaster, which deals with finding the strength to return somewhere after something bad has happened. I would ask her how she got her message out. Her books help children deal with emotions and target specific behaviors. Writing the book is the easy part, but finding and building the audience that cares about your message and wants to help endorse it, is the hard part.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Believe it or not, LinkedIn has been the best readership builder I have had to date. I have been building relationships with childcare providers and emergency managers for years with my nonprofit, and I have found the emergency manager community especially excited to see these books out there.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Write the books and get them out there. It’s true that the book itself has little value unless people know about it, but don’t let fear of getting the word out prevent you from getting the book out. Look for creative ways to engage people and let them know of what you offer. It’s slow, and its going to be for a while, but you have to look at it like it’s a marathon, not a sprint, or you will get discouraged. When I get discouraged, I remind myself that while we often measure success by the number of books sold, in my case at least, if just one child remembers what to do when a tornado or an earthquake happens, and they are safer because of it, then I am a success. If just one child loves your story and learns something, you too will be a success.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
There are so many issues left to cover. Many disasters are geographically limited. For example, earthquakes are more likely in certain areas, as are volcanoes, but we owe our kids a chance to be prepared no matter what. I am leaning towards hurricane preparedness and flash floods for the next couple of books, but I am going to ask my readers for their thoughts and their priorities – so that may change.
Train 4 Safety Press