BE GRATEFUL LITTLE BEAR BY KARA EVELYN-MCNEIL
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about
A little bear who wants dearly to be a bird and to fly learns the value of gratitude and appreciation for what he has and who he is: A bear who has got a lot!
2) What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write this first book as a poem about gratitude for myself! It was not originally intended for publication as a children’s book, but rather just a gentle reminder in my poetry diary that I must learn to keep things in perspective, stop the wishing and the hoping, and start appreciating what I have and what I’ve accomplished in my life thus far. A friend of mine suggested that I turn it into a children’s book after I put the poem up on my facebook! They praised the beauty of the sentiment and the lyrical way I had put it all together, and I found an illustrator who brought it all to life for me.
3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
People always called me KaraBeara, or Bear for short, growing up. I came to think of it as a nickname for anyone under the age of 12! My niece, Ella, is EllaBear, my cousins Aiden and Austin are AidenBear and AustinBear… Just kinda clicked, really. When I’m writing books for little kids, I’m really writing for all the little bears out there!
4) Why did you pick this genre?
Poetry naturally lends itself to music and literature for children. Most of my writing and music heroes wrote in rhyme: Shel Silverstien, Doctor Seuss, etc. I also write music in my spare time, and pride myself on my ability to write great lyrics that tell a story! It was only natural for me to turn my poems into books for children.
5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The illustrations created by Max Scratchmann gave my little bear a little more character! When we were collaborating on the concepts for the illustrations, Max suggested we make the Little Bear in the first book a little bit mischievous! It worked marvellously to have an illustration make Little Bear out to be more relatable to a kid in the real world.
6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I think the work that has most inspired my writing comes from the late Shel Silverstein, an American poet. I loved reading stories that rhymed. I liked the simplicity of the illustrations that let you fill in the blanks. I loved that I could easily memorize his songs that were also poems and I appreciated the cleverness of his writing! It inspired me to play with words the way other kids my age would play with toys! I was a kid without a lot of friends, and so I used my imagination a lot, and poetry fuelled much of my inner dialogue. I’m still playing with words now as an adult., still escaping into my head to craft great rhymes.
7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
When I get positive feedback from a parent and pictures of kids reading my book it makes my heart feel warm. Knowing that I contributed to a good conversation between mama, papa and child or that I helped to get someone sleepy in time for lights out… it’s just the good feeling that keeps me writing and publishing.
8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope that children will learn about happiness and gratitude as a skill and a mindset. If one is focused their whole life on getting a pair of wings with which to fly, when they could be focusing on the paws they have to walk the good earth with instead… they are depriving themselves of happiness and forgetting to live in the moment. Good stuff is all around us, and hopes and dreams are great. But the best things in life are here right now. Look around and just appreciate.
9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
This changes by the week, I am not sure that I can answer this question! It really depends on what I pick up from the library or buy, or download. I’ve never been very decisive, and choosing a favourite would quite literally give me a headache.
10) What are you working on now?
I am currently plotting out my next book, which will be for young adults! After completing the second in the Books For Little Bears series, Fail Thee Well Little Bear (also available on Amazon) I will be taking a break from little bears for a little while. I’m excited to be writing for a slightly older audience. It is a whole new world of writing that I have to get acquainted with. Writing for children is not easier than writing for tweens and teens, as one might assume. Both levels of reading pose their own separate challenges in character development and story. I can’t wait to see what kind of response I get from the Books For Little Bear series, and I look forward to writing a third book sooner than later, for my own kids if for no one else’s.