- GUEST AUTHOR -
Today, I interview a multi-talented author from California.
Welcome, Peggy ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I did not write much until very late in life. If I told you how late, you would know how old I am. I had already had a career as a psychotherapist and when I retired I had I had planned to be lazy. But I started comparing my life to my friend’s. I was reading books, they were writing books. I was walking around looking at the scenery, they were painting the scenery. So I developed a desire to do something artistic in my life, too. Writing and illustrating a book for children seemed like a good idea.
I learned a lot about writing. I found that I needed to cut out a lot of the story for a picture book. I had to learn how to get my paintings onto the computer in a way that kept the colors looking the way I wanted. . That was not easy.
I used Bookemon, an easy self-publishing program meant for kids. The whole process after writing the book took much longer that I thought it would, but now I had a book. When I started, my granddaugher, Lucy was 3. Lucy was now 6, but she loved the book. Friends and family encouraged me to make the book available on Amazon. At the time, unless you were a kid, Bookemon didn’t allow you to put the book on Amazon.
However I now had to learn things that had NOTHING to do with my concept of authoring a book, and were much more complicated than what I had been doing. I needed to learn WORD, figure out Create Space, be able to format a book, learn about DPI, using a flash drive, and create a cover. Many attempts, false starts and months stretched into a year and stretched my own brain. I was finally ready to publish when . . . Create Space disappeared! Now KDP was my next challenge. Every draft I ordered led to more changes and more learning. My own brain got a good workout because I had to learn so many new skills.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
Having spent much of my career as a psychotherapist I have always been interested in overcoming obstacles-whether mental, emotional or physical. My cat Maui lived a real-life, fantastic story about loss and recovery, grit and determination, a story of overcoming obstacles and finding solutions.
In addition, I’ve always loved neuroscience and Maui’s journey to regain his mobility is a story of neuroscience It is a story about how the brain can rewire itself.
I love to draw and paint. I drew all through grade school, mostly horses. I drew and took art classes in high school. Later, I drew cartoon like pictures for my kids, and even for a Sierra Club newsletter. So I knew I’d enjoy illustrating a book. I knew exactly how I wanted the pictures to look: playful, a bit messy, with happy colors.
3 WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
Since my book, “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs” is based on a true story, I knew the story line and the ending before I began. For the writing, I spoke out loud to a recorder, telling the story. I started at an early part of Maui’s life, but the story became too long for a picture book and I changed course. Later, I got the idea to have Maui talk to his legs, so I rewrote the whole story.
4. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Besides all the technical aspects and marketing it was hard to know what and what not to include into Maui’s story.
5. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
Most of my adult life I was a psychotherapist. I had a private practice and later was the director of a partial hospitalization program in a major metropolitan hospital in California. I helped people with severe mental illness manage their symptoms, their moods and their life. I developed courses and taught other therapists on aging and anorexia. I was an early adaptor of telephone therapy.
I like animals. When I was 12 years old, I got a horse named Misty. In the summer I would get up at 5 a.m. to ride, so Misty could avoid the Phoenix desert heat. Then I would come back home to sleep before school. I drew a lot when I was a child, often drawing horses.
I like to play. Even when I was a professional I did therapeutic playful expression and created fun activities that improved mental health. Now that I am retired I go to the beach, hike, fish, bike, travel, and draw. And I visit my granddaughter
6. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I co-author 2 blogs. One blog, Max Your Mind was created to share the neuroscience research and techniques we learned as psychotherapists about how to help clients feel better and do better. Now that we are both retired it’s gratifying to continue to share about how how the brain works – wether it is about controlling anger, anxiety or sadness, or just being able to feel happier and more energetic.
Our second blog, CURIOUS to the MAX is more eclectic and we share everything we are curious about from our own art to interesting things about our world. We are currently featuring a series on how to cope and survive, mentally, emotionally and physically, with the changes in our lives because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
My co-blogger, Judy Westerfield, and I are working on a booklet of quick and easy techniques to trigger “happy” neurochemistry based on scientific research. Our working title is “HACKING HAPPINESS”
Now that I’m a bonafide published author, using what I learned self-publishing my own book, I’m helping Judy self-publish a re-write of the Little Red Riding Hood story that redeems the wolf.
7. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Clearly, this book was inspired by my amazing cat, Maui. I called him my miracle cat. Neuroscience research inspires me a lot to improve my own life and to share with others. I have always been excited by science. In the past 20 years the science of the brain has exploded.
8. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
I enjoyed painting the pictures and reliving my memory of Maui’s perseverance helped inspire me to continue with self-publishing with all the pitfalls and challenges I encountered.
9. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Besides my granddaughter’s “I love it!”, these are two of my favorite responses to “The Pulling, Climbing, Falling Down Tale of Maui and His Back Legs” . I especially liked that they were written by people who worked with children who face difficulty in their lives and need their own perseverence.
"Loved this book. This is a beautifully written and illustrated book for young children about overcoming adversity and how determination can result in success through both practice and failure. This little cat, Maui, is an example to us all."
Susanne Hieke, Early Childhood Educator, Cirriculum Creator, and Music and Movement Specialist Special Needs
"This picture book inspires our imagination and reflection. Who would not be able to identify and feel great empathy for this cute cuddly cat. Maui is struggling for his survival. He suddenly cannot jump, climb for drink water from the sink, but fortunately, with determination and the right exercise, he is able to get his legs working again. It all could have been much worse!
The story encourages us to ask ourselves questions about the problems and good things in life. How would we cope in a similar situation? Are we grateful enough for what we can do right now?
The end of the year with short and dark days is the best time to enjoy this cuddly book. We can reflect and relax."
Margaretha Kloots, PsyD, School Psychologist, retired
10. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love to be outside—gardening, hiking or going to the ocean. I love to read, both fiction and science. I love to draw and paint. I love spending time with my granddaughter. I love spending time with friends. I love being in a book club and discussing books I have read.
11. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
For me, creating a book that told Maui’s story and giving it to my granddaughter was my main goal. I’ve received wonderful comments from health care professionals and teachers who work with children. It’s been gratifying to know that Maui’s story is helping others and that is success.
12. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Readers should feel encouraged to persist in what they are trying to do, and to be try different things in solving problems. They should know that often going after goals takes time and effort and willingness to change your ideas of what will work. My readers are ages 3-98 (my mom).
13. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. It was difficult and time consuming. However from what I have read and heard, getting a publisher for a first book is close to impossible. That would have been even more time consuming and frustrating.
14. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Curious, playful, serious, creative and connected to nature.
15. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
The last book I have read was “I Always Loved You” by Robin Oliveira. It is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. I especially loved the way the author described the thoughts of the artists about art, light, color and creativity.
16. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Besides world peace or a cure and vaccine for Covid 19? On a more mundane level I would love to revisit Italy and Hawaii.
That said, I think “happy” is about your brain and how it functions. I don’t think anyone can be happy 100% of the time because neurochemistry doesn’t work that way. Luckily, I’m a happy person by nature but I also use the scientific information we share on Max Your Mind (peggyarndt.com) to have more happy times and fewer sad or anxious times.
17. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Maui’s book is all about persistence and grit. When you are writing about persistence, about NOT quitting, you don’t quit.
Clancy's comment: Go, Peggy! Well done, and thank you.