How does Sweet Senior Pups instill a love for older dogs?
Monday, October 29, 2018
Interview With Animal-Loving Author & Emmy-Nominated Sesame Street Writer Kama Einhorn
TRUE TALES OF RESCUE is a middle-grade narrative nonfiction series on animal sanctuaries around the world, each narrated by a rescued animal at a sanctuary. This chapter-book series is six full-color love letters to threatened, vulnerable animals and the humane humans who offer them hope and haven. It launches in November with several titles, created by Kama Einhorn, a former teacher, author, and Emmy-nominated writer for TV’s Sesame Street. Here is an interview with Kama (www.kamaeinhorn.com):
1. What inspired you to write series?
After almost 20 years in children’s media (at Scholastic and currently at Sesame Street) and more than 40 published books, I was eager to combine my twin passions: animal welfare and writing for children. I believe that words can save lives, and I has a passion for compassion.
Animals are my people!
And I’ve always had a curious love for wombats. So I took two trips-of-a-lifetime to Australia, where I spent a total of one month at Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary, learning the ways of these cheeky, charming marsupials.
I turned this enchanting experience into a photographic nonfiction book—an exploration of the concept of animal sanctuaries and the humane humans that rescue, rehabilitate, and release wildlife. And as I was writing the first draft, I realized I could replicate the idea for any sanctuary and visit animal sanctuaries all over the world.
I needed to tell their stories because they don’t have voices. They can’t make a case for themselves. I knew I could use the best parts of being human to do the job for them.
2. What is so unique about Welcome, Wombat?
It’s creative nonfiction, told from a sanctuary wombat’s perspective (he’s addressing a newcomer—an orphaned joey [baby wombat]. Wombats are weird! They’re quirky, dusty, and stubborn—big teddy bears of the bush. They burrowed their way into my heart and I wanted to introduce them to kids, since most people in the U.S. don’t know about them. So with the help of heartwarming, full-color, original photographs by two local nature photographers, the wombats can be seen in all their playful, sleepy, muddy, natural glory, in poignant moments of sanctuary life. I wanted to make kids fall head over paws with these clumsy bundles.
How does Sweet Senior Pups instill a love for older dogs?
Like each of the books in the series, it's done by giving the old pups unique voices and highlighting each of their stories, so that kids start to see each animal as an individual. Lots of kids have old dogs themselves, so these stories are likely to be familiar to them—how to help a blind dog find her food, for instance. And when readers see how ready the dogs are to love and be loved, they realize love never grows old! Like the classic Velveteen Rabbit, it doesn't matter how old and worn out you are...being loved is the most important thing in the world.
3. What do new generations need to know about various animals and their preservation?
We’re not the only ones living on Planet Earth, not the only creatures who need safe places to live. As human population grows, animals lose their habitats, and we need to find ways to co-exist…even if that just means slowing down on roads that wildlife cross.
4. How can we encourage more people to be involved in animal rescue?
I think the only real way is to introduce people to individual creatures, letting them meet just one character who goes straight to their hearts (think Wilbur and Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web—I don’t kill spiders because “It’s just like Charlotte” automatically runs through my head, even as an adult). And to turn kids on to unusual animals and all their fascinating facts. And helping them to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors. People take care of what they love. Like writing, it’s about showing, not telling.
5. Environmental issues and conservation challenges seem to be in the media daily. Is our planet going to survive?
I wish I could be more optimistic (especially these days) about the future. I wish we were leaving our children a cleaner, healthier, saner world, but they’re going to have a lot of work to do. What I do know is that a little change goes a long way and that all life forms—and the planet itself—can be extremely resilient and heal from a lot of damage, if humans begin to act more responsibly. It sounds cliché but the kids our really our best hope. That’s why I wanted to reach them at this age, when they can really begin understanding the complex issues around habitat loss and environmental destruction.
6. You have been nominated for an Emmy for your work at television’s Sesame Street. How rewarding – and challenging – is your work there?
It’s an honor to write for the Muppets, who live deep in my heart (I was born the year Sesame Street started)! The challenge every day is living up to the brand, which is of course rooted in the genius of the late great Jim Henson. It’s a tough act to follow and though the writing is playful, I’m dead serious about making sure it reaches kids where they live. That means being able to access my younger, more impressionable, more vulnerable self every day.
7. You used to be a school teacher. What was it like trying to mold young minds?
I didn’t view my job as molding them, rather enriching and expanding what their developing brains were already doing—I was meeting them where they were. But hopefully, through my modeling, I helped kids develop empathy, kindness, compassion, and moral reasoning. Those make for a good life as much as knowing one’s multiplication tables does.
Environmental education was taught in the school I worked in, and a big piece of that was conservation, which was great. I also found that whenever an animal was involved (a visiting service dog, an owl used as an education ambassador by a wildlife rescue group, and so on), the kids responded and learned differently. Animals have a way of reaching us (maybe even molding us!) in a profound way, with no words at all.
8. What advice do you have for authors?
Find the thing you are totally crazy about, no matter how weird it is. What can you not talk about without tearing up? What could you go on and on about, even at the risk of boring people or having them thing you’re weird? Work with what makes you weird—that’s what Cheryl Klein, one of Arthur Levine’s editors, says in The Magic Words. Because that’s where your own unique magic is. Friends and family sometimes lovingly teased me about being “crazy wombat lady.”
They were right, and that was just fine, because being a little crazy is how I turned my interest and passion into a book.
I felt as if I had no choice but to write this series—the idea grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me, and wouldn’t let me go until I made it happen. I wouldn’t allow myself to stop until it was in print, and it took me two years to find the perfect champion and home for it (Erica Zappy Wainer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) That’s how passionate you have to be about your project, because it’s a long and often heartbreaking path to publication.
9. Where do you see book publishing is heading?
I wish I had a crystal ball! I look to people like Brian Feinblum for answers to questions like this.
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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.