Today’s special guest is children’s author Dr Rachel Kowert. We’re chatting about her new children’s picture book, Tales from Cloud Canyon.
During her virtual book tour, Rachel will be awarding a $75 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card, OR 1 copy each of the 3 Cloud Canyon books (available in November). To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!
Dr. Rachel Kowert is a research psychologist, award-winning author, and mom of three (and #CavillInfluencer). In 2019, she launched her first Kickstarter project from the Cloud Canyon universe – a collection of female-centered stories entitled Pragmatic Princess: 26 stories of self-sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and won an INDIES award for educational children’s picture book. Dr. Kowert has been featured in various media outlets, including NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and Wired.
Welcome, Rachel. Please tell us about your current release.
Tales from Cloud Canyon is a series of character-driven, topical short stories celebrating the everyday child, doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities designed for children aged 3+. Developed by a research psychologist and mom of 3, these stories were developed to be entertaining, educational, and celebrate the power of the everyday within our beautiful, diverse world.
What inspired you to write this book?
The initial ideas behind Tales from Cloud Canyon came to me in 2019 when my daughter was 4 years old. I was lucky enough to pick up about a hundred different paperback books at a garage sale of a former teacher and had started reading her a new book every night before bed. After a few weeks of this, I started to notice a theme: there were very few books with female protagonists and when there were, they were pigeonholed into a damsel in distress or only successfully navigated their challenges with the use of superpowers. While there is nothing wrong with a female superhero or a knight in shining armor, I wanted something different.
After a bit of digging, I realized there was a dramatic lack of representation in children’s literature. The Nielson 2018 book scan report found that of the top 100 best-selling children’s books, 1 in 5 did not feature a single female character, only 2 out of the top 100 featured a black, Asian, or minority ethnic character in a central role ( with 70% of the black, Asian, or ethnic characters were in non-speaking roles) and only 1 out of the top 100 featured a disabled child but they did not speak or have a key role.
Fueled with discontent, I called my friend who runs a small micro press and told her she needed to write or commission some books with strong female characters at the heart of them. She told me I should write them. At the time, this made me audibly laugh! However, after sitting with her words and fueled by her encouragement, I decided to open up my notes section in my phone and give it a try. In less than two weeks I had written what ended up becoming the first collection in the Tales from Cloud Canyon Universe: the 26 stories of Pragmatic Princess. In 2019, I successfully kickstarted these stories as the collection Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and earned an INDIES award for educational children’s picture books. So I guess I can write children’s books.
Over the last few years, I have continued to write and expand the Cloud Canyon universe and am excited to announce that I am launching a second Kickstarter June 4 for a BRAND NEW collection of three topical short stories: Here, There, & Everywhere, Invisible Friends, and The Secret to Success. These stories were the ones that I felt were still missing from my children’s library.
Excerpt from Tales from Cloud Canyon:
“The Secret to Success” tells the story of Quinn and Yanni. Quinn is a quick study but learns on a school ski trip that everything may not come as easily. This story highlights the importance of persisting through frustration and failure and the power of friendly encouragement.
For the rest of the day, Quinn kept trying,
And found each attempt more gratifying.
Through determination and her sheer will,
Quinn finally mastered the bunny hill.
Yanni’s feet still weren’t fully complying,
Staying upright, but they kept on trying.
And with each try, they did in fact progress,
And by the end, they started falling less
Quinn never made it up the big hill with her friends,
But realized that it didn’t matter in the end.
Instead, she focused on doing her best that day,
Letting her preset expectations fade away.
While her classmates all talked about the big ski lift,
Quinn focused on Yanni’s words and her new mind shift:
The true secret to success is power of will,
Which is often much stronger than actual skill.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am continuing to write male-centered stories to add to the Cloud Canyon universe. I hope to publish a collection of 26 male-centered stories as a companion volume to Pragmatic Princess sometime soon!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have always loved writing. I remember being quite young when I created my first collection of poetry.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a research psychologist and the research director for a mental-health non-profit. I do a lot of writing during my workday, but Tales from Cloud Canyon provides me with the creative outlet that I have always longed for. It is hard to find time to do just about anything besides work and take care of my family (I have three small children!) but I find that taking the time to write when inspiration strikes has been quite effective! I always have a notepad (or the notepad app on my phone) nearby.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write when inspiration strikes. Sometimes that means writing just a verse or two for a new story and other times I can write two complete stories in a single day.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember and I would say I met that goal, though perhaps in a less traditional way than originally intended.
Anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
Yes, a little bit about the illustrator of this book. Randall Hampton is an author, illustrator, husband, and father of 3. He is the Creator of “The Little Game Master” series of books and considers himself a storyteller above all else. When he is not spending time with family and friends, Randall enjoys reading, video games, music, and tabletop games of all sorts.