1. What inspired you to write this book?
The main inspiration for the book was years of seeing children who
experience tragedy, trauma, not learning how to socially or emotionally
regulate themselves. Many of us adults forget that being reactive to
situations rather than responsive can be detrimental. Children, of all ages,
including teens-especially teens, are impulsive and sometimes respond to
situations without thinking. The series attempts to help people of all
ages use non-violent communication to express themselves and wellness strategies.
Another inspiration was to help send girls to college. The proceeds from
sales send girls who are inducted into the Kenna Foundation to post secondary
institutions--not just the contributing author of the books, like Ellie and
Brigid and Clarke the Cricket.
2. What exactly is it about and who is
it written for?
the Elephant and her Incredibly Normal Friends Children’s
Book Series by Brooklin Gervais Illustrated by Skylar Easson is
a refreshing series for children, teens, and adults! Ellie is a junior high
school elephant but there is something quite different about Ellie. She meets a
bunch of new kids from all parts of the inner jungle and the “wild side” like
ostriches who try to fly, bumble bees who don’t sting, and a wise hip hop bat
who hugs everybody! Some live up to their animalistic reputations, others not
so much…like Ellie. Elephants are never supposed to forget, yet she can’t
remember anything. She also listens to human music as if not having a great
memory wasn’t enough of a problem. She and her
friends struggle with pressure from peers, teachers, parents and society. And
yes, they worry about grades and friendships too! In the series, Ellie and her
friends learn to accept that although it is normal to be different, it can come
at a price. Each book highlights a story from one of Ellie’s friends as they
show it’s tough in the jungle, wherever your jungle may be!
3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your
It is my hope that readers see themselves in the characters.
Whether you are young or old, there is a lesson about being authentic and the
truest version of yourself. Each book in the series highlights the
"awakening" of self through the use of wellness strategies when faced
with tough choices--some which hit close to home for the character. One of
the most powerful messages I hope readers will understand is the acceptance
of self and being happy with the inner and outer you.
4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design?
I started with identifying the purpose and the why for writing
the book, which was to "Elevate Mindset" and encourage
people--particularly kids. Sometimes children skip over problem solving
acquisition because they cannot see beyond themselves or even know their
differences make them normal. They only see what society has told them to see
about themselves, and fashion the idea that they don't fit in. I
thought about my own physical limitations and challenges over the years, and
society's perception of those "unique aspects." and realized we
are all one big circle of friends. And normal too.
I explained the vision and concept to my illustrator Skylar Easson,
and she ran with it. Skylar is a gifted artist who has a way of taking a
concept without details and translating it into a visual image. The images that
she illustrates emerge from her understanding of art, psychology, and how the
brain processes printed messages is nothing short of amazing. It's like she can
see into my mind. She truly is my right hand with an intuitive knack for
bringing the Ellie characters to life. She calls it the
5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow
writers – other than run!?
The advice I have for other writers is write what you know. Write
what you are passionate about and never give up. Dr. Suess is my hero
because he never gave up. He was turned down almost 100 times before any
cat was in any hat, so my advice is to write! The world needs
6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you
think the book publishing industry is heading?
I see a lot of writers self-publishing and that the book
publishing industry will continue expanding the perfect hybrid of digital
storytelling and marketing promotion of literary works. And within the growth
and expansion self-publications will be intricately woven as writers continue
to create and form partnerships within the industry.
7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career
that came in handy when writing this book?
Many of the characters in the series are based on my own personal
experiences, family members, friends,and students I've worked with in the
past. At a pre-book launch of Orpheus the Ostrich: Anything is Possible, many
of the listeners commented that they could relate to many of the characters
like "Orphie" even in their adult lives. So experience with pressure
and peaceful conflict resolution training really helps! :)
8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or
books is your writing similar to?
I've been told my writing style is wildly imaginative and
inspiring. Stylistically, I think I am more metaphorical and elliptical. I
think my writing has an edge, complete with relaxed language that is
conversational that seeks to impact the heart--evoke emotion-- while at same
time address some very real issues in our world that kids and adults face. I'd
say my writing is similar to Jon Scieszka.
9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book?
The challenges that were overcome in writing this book was
coordinating time with my contributing kid author. Working around her school
schedule, illustrator's schedule as well as explaining the creative writing
process can be different than lecturing on the book writing process itself.
Another challenge was continuing to ensure the integrity of individual
characters' uniqueness and their voice, while keeping in mind the story's intended
message and "how" it is understood by the reader. Needless to
say, I learned a lot..
10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why
should it be yours?
The reason why people should buy this Ellie and Brigid's FIrst Day
of School this month is two fold: One... it's back to school time and
every back-to schooler--young or old deserves a little inspiration for the
first day. And because this book can serve as a social story, it can help
to reduce the anxiety of first day jitters by letting the reader know it is
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About Brian Feinblum
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