At Dayton.Mom-Spot.com we had the pleasure of recently reviewing and hosting a giveaway for 3 of Jennifer’s books: Hailey’s Dream, A Box Full of Letters, and Were You Born In That Chair . With such fantastic books, we just had to interview Jennifer to find out about her passion and talent.
What one word best describes your current state of mind? Why?
Yesterday at an arts & crafts festival someone came up to me and said, “I know you! You’re famous!” Although I was excited for the recognition, my first mental response was, “who are you and what world do you live in?” It seems that in the small world of Regional Centers where I live, I am in fact well known. This kind of recognition gives me hope that through hard work, networking, exposure, and plain old “persistence” that someday I’ll be well known for writing children’s books that make a difference. And I have to say I am Persistent….I’ve been told, to the point of annoyance.
What current projects have you excited?
I am terribly excited about the new book I am working on entitled Paisley or Plaid being your very best you… This book is a collection of about seven stories and five poems. I have moved away from the topic of disabilities and the characters in my first three books (or so I thought until recently). This new book addresses topics such as responsibility, bullying, respect, confidence, and an array of others.
I am also putting together a muslin pocket doll package to be assembled by mom/child team to go along with Hailey’ s Dream. It converts between being a girl and being a mermaid.
When did you realize you wanted to write children’s books?
I’ve wanted to write almost forever. When I was in grade school I used to write stories and make little mini books. The first book I wrote, Were You Born In That Chair? started out as a two page short story that turned into a play that was eventually turned into the book. My biggest issue with children’s books in general, when I was a kid, was that when I was growing up there were not, well, very few books with disabled characters. Kids like to identify with the characters in the books they read. I had none.
What inspired you to write your first book? Do you have a personal identification with the character in the book?
The first book I wrote, Were You Born In That Chair?, was actually a question asked of me when I entered my first day as a mainstreamed student in kindergarten. From that day on, I have always kind of had a “bee in my bonnet” in regards to the attitude toward and treatment of people with disabilities. Upon completion of an extensive research project, I came to the understanding that a negative attitude is not a state of being, but a learned behavior mostly due to fear and ignorance. My intent and purpose for writing this book was and is to change the outlook and opinion of society towards people with disabilities, since in reality, every human being has some sort of disability or challenge to overcome. My hope is to promote an all-inclusive nature of acceptance of imperfections of and by humanity. I mean really, who in this world is perfect? As far as having a personal identification with the character…I was/am Hailey.
What inspired you to keep writing children’s books?
First off, I love to write, specifically for children. In the second book, my idea was to move the group of children in the first book to a place where disabilities take a back seat to and become part of everyday life. While searching my mind for a storyline for the book, I looked up on my bookshelf and saw the Redwing shoebox full of letters that my grandfather had written to his parents when he had joined the army…in 1942. I had always wanted to read them, but never took the time. That is where I found the storyline, the topic, for the second book.
Are Hailey’s Dream and A Box Full of Letters Connected?
Well…yes…in as much as I consider them, all three, to be, not a series, but companion books. Like I said, I wrote “Chair” first and then “Box”. While out doing Meet the Author gigs, I was asked, usually by kindergarten and first grade teachers, to write something younger. It took me a year to come up with a vehicle, a story to accommodate the request. So, if I were to suggest an order to read the group of books, I would start with Hailey’s Dream, then move on to Were You Born In That Chair?, followed by A Box Full Of Letters. FYI-Were You Born In That Chair? will soon be out as an e-book in Spanish. Hailey’s Dream is already available as an e-book (English).
Have you won any awards or national exposure with your books?
Were You Born In That Chair? and A Box Full Of Letters have both been awarded the Awarded the Mom’s Choice Silver Seal of Approval, one in 2012 and the other in 2013. The Mom’s Choice Awards is a “worldwide program that recognizes and sets the bar for excellence in family-friendly media, products and services.” Most recently, Were You Born In That Chair? has received the 2013 KART Kids Book List Award-The Kids Are Readers Too Foundation.
You do classroom visits, why?
I do classroom visits because once someone asked me too. I was invited to one classroom, highlight the word “one”, to talk about my book, the writing process because they were in the middle of writing essays for a contest, and about being disabled. By the time I left the school, I had been to four separate classrooms and gone from third grade up to sixth grade. Talk about revising presentations on they fly…. Besides that, I enjoy talking to my target audience. I like the fact that they can see me in a wheelchair and see that I write books.
What is your professional background?
My professional background….hummm….I’m disabled so I know the material-the stereotyping, the obstacles, opinions, feelings, reactions from people, difficulties and enjoyment of life. I guess you’d call it “on the job training” for thirty-three years. I also have a Masters Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an English concentration.
How do you spend your freetime?
Free time…well, I have two wonderful nieces that I absolutely have to shop for as well as visit as often a I can. They are a prime audience for manuscript testing. I love to write, so I consider that to be a free time activity. I am working with a new person who is going to be illustration the new book, Paisley or Plaid, being your very best you…, so lots of input there. Okay, I can’t hide it, I can’t lie, I have to admit, I am a “Days” addict. ( I can watch it at 1, 5, or 8 p.m.)
How do you keep balanced – i.e. work, home, family?
Since I am in a more unique situation than most. I have had to learn how to share my time, juggle what my homecare provider (a.k.a good old Mom) and I need or want to given any day, jointly or separately. I don’t want to keep using the word “unique”, but our relationship is kind of that…Don’t laugh now, but each morning before I even get out of bed, we discuss what it is each of us has on our mental agenda for the day and proceed to get as much done for each of us as possible. Then there is always the coffee stop to factor in…where I do most of my writing, BTW.
What is something that few people know about you?
Although I’ve posted several of my paintings on my website, few people know that I paint. I do what is called “abstract expressionism” not to be confused with finger painting ;).
How can our readers connect with you? (blog urls, facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc)?
I’d love to hear from anyone about almost anything, be it about my books, writing, whatever. You can find me at http://www.jenniferkuhns.net and http://facebook.com/jenniferkuhnsauthorspage. I’m also on linkedin and Shalako Press has a website where I can be found. My books can be found at any bookstore, on amazon (hard copy or e-book), or on my website listed above.