20 Questions for Children’s Author Cristee Cook

  • If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

I wish I had written She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. His characterization and use of memories in his storytelling are so expertly crafted. I feel like I am Dolores, maybe I could BE Dolores, like I could live Dolores’ experiences. It’s a funny thing to feel because her process in that book is brutal. She’s a character in tremendous personal pain, but her redemption is so powerful. This book was life changing for me. It taught me that no matter how dark things get, no matter how many mistakes we make, there is always a way back to personal happiness, healing, and power.

  • What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I never imagined I would write a children’s book. I thought my first book would be a poetry chapbook or a book of personal essays. The idea for my children’s book came so strong, I had no choice but to create it. For me that is special because it’s proof that ideas can show up in magical ways. If you take the idea and manifest the idea, you can create things that are beyond what you thought you were capable of.

  • What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I’m an old school, long-hand writer. I love the feel of the perfect pen in my hand and the raw, messy page of handwritten notes and ideas. My favorite notebooks are the inexpensive spiral bound college-ruled school notebooks. I have many beautiful journals, but sometimes the pages are too small to really get my thoughts flowing. I find if I have a larger notebook, my ideas are larger, and I am freer in my expressions.

  • When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing small poems when I was in 1st and 2nd grade in school. When I was in 3rd grade, my mom signed me up for an early morning creative writing class, and I still remember the teacher and some of her writing lessons. I feel like I’ve always been a writer, it wasn’t ever something that dawned on me. It’s something I’ve just always done.

  • What inspires you to write?

Real life inspires me to write. I enjoy writing about the lessons I gleam from daily interactions with people and my personal experiences. This requires that I live a life worth writing about, which means I can’t allow myself to get comfortable or lazy in my routines.

  • How often do you write?

I try to write every day, and the most effective way I have found to accomplish this is that I often write stream of consciousness pages just to do a brain dump. Then, I’m able to either mine those pages for story starters, or I have a clear enough mind to work on something specific. My favorite time to write is early in the morning before the world wakes up.

  • What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

What is challenging to me are the negative thoughts I sometimes have that try to convince me that no one will care about what I write, or that I’m not a talented enough writer to even try. If I’m able to overcome those thoughts, put them to the side, and focus on what I’d like to write, the actual writing becomes easier. I also struggle with uninterrupted times to sit and really focus on writing. I must schedule the time and hold myself accountable, or I’ll look up and realize I haven’t written a word in 3 weeks!

  • What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The books that have made the most impact on me are the ones that taught me something about myself. Whether it’s because I relate to a character, the situation, or because the content sparks an emotional response, I often find nuggets of personal truth in books that help me connect to my own life and process. To me, that’s the magic of a books potential and one thing that makes books so important for the world.

  • How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

I’ve had this experience, so I can say that it feels rotten. These situations are prime for igniting the negative voice we all have, and I have to be aware that these thoughts are not the whole truth. In my situation, I did leave the book signing feeling defeated. But I believe in the power of books, and I know my book is important in the world. So, as challenging as it can be at times, I just have to keep trying despite an experience that turns out to be less than ideal.

  • Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Don’t take anything personally! 99% of the things you experience have more to do with the other person than with you. It’s almost never about you. The people who are supposed to be in your life that will a contribution to you, and you to them, will be there. The rest of the people are awesome to meet and can probably teach you something, but don’t waste your energy on relationships or situations that aren’t right for you.

  • Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

I’m one of those readers who has a few books I’m actively reading at one time. The current list includes Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and Feel Free by Zadie Smith. I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert because I enjoy her outlook and this book is a meditation on the creative process. I find books about process helpful in my own writing and artistic work. I have fun learning new ways to approach the work. The novel by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a rich and exotic story of suppressed women opening to their own sexuality. What’s not to love?! Feel Free is the first book of Zadie Smith’s that I’ve read, but I love reading essays. I am really enjoying it and I hope I can reach her level of writing and truth in my own work.

  • Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

My readers are accustomed to me producing books and resources for children, so I’m excited to share that I’m working on a short collection of poems and personal essays aimed at adult readers.

  • Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My parents.

  • Can you tell us about your current projects?

I’m getting very close to completing the second book in my children’s book series. For any readers who are not aware, I am writing a children’s book series about how we can use our five senses to share our gifts with the world. My first book, Your Hands Can Change the World! is about how we can use our hands and sense of touch to create positive change in the world, in small ways. My second book focuses on how we can use our words, our smile, and our consciousness with both to share with others.

I am also working on a small book of poetry and personal essays aimed at adult readers.

  • When can the readers expect your next book in print?

I anticipate the second book of my children’s series to be published and available for purchase around late October 2018.

  • How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

Music is such a powerful medium, and I really rely on it to help me get in the zone for any creative work. I have special mixes on iTunes and Spotify that I created for my artistic and writing sessions. I don’t often have the attention span to write with music in the background but listening to my favorite mixes when I know I’m going to be working helps me gear up for artistic expression.

  • Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?

It depends. I’m a teacher, and I have a husband and two small children, so something creating a bubble isn’t possible. I like to write early in the morning before everyone wakes up, but some days that quiet time is 30 minutes or less. My spouse is extremely supportive of my writing, so if I ask for time to finish up a project, he always helps me accomplish that. I create a bubble in several ways: sometimes it’s with the door shut and headphones in my ears, and sometimes I leave the house and go to a park or coffee shop. I’d love to experience a writing retreat this year – a mini-vacation away from home with the sole intention of creating a new book – that would be a dream come true!

  • What advice would you like to pass on to young writers of today that is unconventional but true?

If you have an idea to write something, please don’t let anything stop you. I believe that if you have the idea, it’s because that idea needs to be in the world. If the idea came to you, then you’re the person to create it! Don’t worry about whether your idea fits neatly into an existing genre. Don’t try to write to please a certain audience. Just write what’s in your heart and shine your special light in the world. The editing process, publishing process, marketing process – all of that will come later and at the right time. Get started with your purest ideas at first and don’t limit yourself.

  • What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

I thought ‘Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban’ was a creative and artistic adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s book. This opinion is controversial to many Potter purists, but I thought the film was a sophisticated adaptation of the themes in the novel: adolescence, transition, and the ways we change after experiences in our life. The movie wasn’t slavish to the novel. It offered a fresh perspective on the deeper themes, as I said, and I thought the way they handled the time travel was successful and fun to watch unfold. A film will never be the same as a book, so lighten up a little and try to enjoy a different perspective and genre of the stories you like!

  • If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?

Absolutely! I believe teaching is one of the highest ways we can learn. I hope I always have the opportunity to teach and to learn.

 

 

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