Photo of Gerry Renert

We recently asked successful writer, producer Gerry Renert to tell us about his creative process and how he’s made his dreams come true.

Gerry Renert Musings

I’ve been a writer almost my entire adult life and started off writing advertising copy with the challenge always being to convey as much as possible using the fewest words possible. Although I didn’t feel very good about trying to sell products people didn’t necessarily need, copywriting served as a fantastic training ground for me. It became especially evident to me later, when writing children’s books.

My first children’s book, NATHAN SAVES SUMMER, was more an experiment than anything else. I had just co-created the children’s animated series, ToddWorld, which ended up being EMMY-Nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” When one of the TV episodes I was involved in was turned into a children’s book, I said to myself, “This is a lot like good advertising – telling a story in as few words as possible, but this time the message wasn’t about a new type of razor blade, it was about something important which could help shape a person’s life.” So, I figured I’d give it a whirl.

The first draft of NATHAN SAVES SUMMER (Raven Tree Press, 2010) was written over a weekend and published five years later, after I had just about

Gerry Renert reads Nathan Saves Summer

given up the thought of ever being a children’s book writer. Thankfully, the book has been successful, earning a “Moms Choice® Gold Award.” When the publisher approached me about doing a second book, they asked me what topic I would like to bring to the forefront. It didn’t take me very long to think about taking on the topic of bullying. Part of that was because of a story I saw on the news about a child committing suicide because he couldn’t handle being bullied. The other part was because, I, too, was bullied by an older kid who lived several houses away from me when I was growing up in Connecticut. When you’re very young, being bullied is the only thing you think about. It haunts you, and there aren’t many people you can turn to for help or advice. Thankfully, before attempting to write the book, I sought out the advice of a psychologist to try and learn the dynamics that go into the thinking of both the bully and the victim. The resulting book, NATHAN AND THE REALLY BIG BULLY (Raven Tree Press, 2012,) is about a penguin in the lagoon being picked on by a Hyena. The Penguin turns to Nathan for advice and Nathan, amongst other things, reinforces the importance of not striking back, in that two wrongs never make a right. At the same time, an elephant comes into the lagoon and continually sprays Nathan with water from his trunk. Does Nathan take his own advice or does his anger get the better of him? I can’t give away how the story ends, as I’d get a slap on the wrist from my publisher and their PR department.

This summer you’ll also be able to read another book – not in the Nathan series—but the beginning of a new series, entitled BRAVE ROONEY. This book will start out as a digital book, only available on iTunes and then possibly the Android phone/tablet platform. The developer hopes to also release the title in Chinese, for Mainland China.

The process of writing for me is very relaxed and disorganized. Sometimes I write on a yellow pad, lying outside Saturday, on a hammock. Other times I sit at a real desk with a computer, being deadly serious and not wanting to be disturbed. The one thing in common is that I always write, wearing black, Bermuda-styled shorts. I’ve come to think of them as being as important as a pen or computer keyboard (or maybe they’re just for good luck.)

Gerry Renert has been a writer/producer for over twenty years. He began his career writing for prime time TV sitcoms and wrote episodes for two of the highest rated TV series in the history of CBS. Gerry moved onto writing theatrical screenplays and developed original projects for Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. In 2002, in collaboration with Little, Brown and Company book author/illustrator Todd Parr, Gerry created the animated preschool TV series. TODDWORLD. The series aired in most major territories around the world and has won three “Parents Choice” awards, an “iParenting” Award, a “Silver Hugo” at the Chicago Film Festival and two “Humanitas Certificates.” Gerry has been EMMY nominated three times (as co-creator/Executive Producer) for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” In 2006, he managed all rights (publishing, merchandise, etc) and developed the Simon & Schuster Book Series, ALIEN CLONES FROM OUTER SPACE, as an animated TV series, licensed to ABC Australia. His first children’s picture book, NATHAN SAVES SUMMER, was published in 2010 by Raven Tree Press, and was awarded a “Mom’s Choice® Gold Award in the category of “Picture Books: Adventures, Adventurers and Heroes.” The title was chosen as a Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club selection and ranked among the top one hundred selling books on the club site. Book two in the NATHAN series, NATHAN AND THE REALLY BIG BULLY, publishes in 2012 from Raven Tree Press. The first title in his next book series, entitled BRAVE ROONEY, will be released digitally and available in 2011 on iTunes North America/ and China. The title will be the first in the ROONEY series.

1. If you didn’t write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?

I came to writing rather late. I did like inventing stories as a child, acting out television screenplays,(my courtroom dramas were very Perry Mason) and always enjoyed creating musical extravaganzas in my room. I was not one of those kids, however, that said, “I want to be a writer.” Actually, I remember wanting to be an ice skater, a ballerina, or a singer in musicals or opera. Once when I was grade school age, I sang the Sempre Libera, from La Traviata so loudly while in the bath that my parents came running, confusing my coloratura for cries of pain.

2. How do you choose the topics for your books?

Choosing a theme seems to come from another part of my brain. I have to do a lot of ruminating to get the story going that way. As this may be due to a lack of experience, I have started doing small writing exercises to practice working that way.

3. What’s your age range?

I have to date, only done picture books but am working on several projects for other age groups.

4. Where do you get your ideas?

I never seem to be short of ideas but taking those ideas and working them into good stories is, of course, what it is all about. I keep lists. I have a list of first lines, last lines, clever names, and a list of titles that pop out of nowhere. Usually, the things on the lists have no connection to anything, but I am learning not to let any of them escape.

5. Have any of your stories been inspired by real people or events? What inspires you to write?

Sometimes I’ll see something on the news or read about it in the newspaper and think, “Ooh, there is a story in there.” I think I am so clever but when I research a bit, I find that others too thought it was a great idea. At least I am in good company and it still goes on a list because what I might have to say about it at some point is probably very different than what others have said. Children inspire me the most.

6. Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?

Research and imagination seem to work together for me. I am always checking, verifying, rethinking bits and pieces of all stories, but fiction, thus far has been more interesting.

7. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

When I was a student I used to do my homework on the floor, books fanned out in a half circle in front of me. I would work on one subject for a while and when I felt myself disengage, I would move on to the next subject. I would go round and round till I had finished everything. It is definitely not a system for everyone. I spent years hearing complaints about not staying focused and not finishing what I started, blah, blah, blah… But I was focused and I did finish, just in a different way. I do that somewhat with projects, but I have to be careful to recognize the difference between disengaging and running away from a spot in a story. Sometimes, I just need to write through it or around whatever is in the way. When I start thinking dusting might be a good idea, however,or ironing, I know I am in trouble.

8. What are you working on now?

I am working on a concert story with a composer friend and I’ve almost finished the first draft of a collection of stories for my publisher. There is a novel waiting, no nagging to be worked on and an opera libretto sitting on the back burner.

9. Are you signed exclusively with a publisher? Are you self- published and how does that work for you?

I was very fortunate to meet Michael Neugebauer of minedition. Minedition is a small international house that creates beautiful picture books. I have done all of my picture books with him. I have also had the chance through minedition to translate a number of amazing books from German to English and have also adapted several books from wonderful Japanese writers/illustrators as well. I have learned a great deal about writing and publishing this way.

10. Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?

I write something every day. I get up very early so I can keep the outside world at bay and concentrate on the world of my stories. Some days I am more successful than others in what actually gets accomplished, but if I don’t write something at my computer, I am lost in thoughts that never get properly articulated.


Translating and adapting

Translating is a delicate balancing act. Integrity and respect are things that I strive to maintain. There is the linguistic aspect, of course, and the cultural integrity that must be preserved. An Austrian author told me once that my translations of her work were like putting her words in another musical key. I have always remembered that.

As literature for children becomes more global; it shouldn’t be homogenized. What would be the point? It is the very differences that we should be sharing. Translations must seek to capture that essence.

Adapting can be different. To me it is re-telling the story. It has the spirit of the original with a touch of the storyteller.


About Kate Westerlund

Kate was born in Florida, but travelled and moved a great deal with my family.

She has degrees in humanities and education and started studying voice when she was fifteen. She has taught music and English in school, sung in musicals and operas and has helped to run a summer opera program.

She has come to believe that if we let it, fantasy and imagination can enrich our lives and can endow us with an enviable resourcefulness and a wealth of creative thinking. She has learned much from the wisdom of children.

Kate Westerlund has lived in Salzburg, Austria with her husband for over 20 years.



Donna: Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with you. We both just love your website. You offer such a refreshing and inspiring view of the world.


1. Did you write stories when you were growing up? at school? Or at home. As a hobby? As a young child, or as a teenager, or both?

Donna: I did write as a child. I began when I was still in elementary school copying my favorite poems and story passages into a spiral notebook that I took everywhere. And I committed these passages to memory. Even today, 40 years later, these memorized passages spring to mind at unexpected moments. In middle school, I moved from copying and memorizing, to mimicking in my own writing what I liked in the writing of others. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing what all writers do – I was journaling. I began making my own observations about people or places or events that moved me, and I wrote about them, learning to use words to evoke feelings in others. To this day I journal. Sometimes it is random thoughts. Sometimes I journal to respond to a moving homily I hear at church, or to an article I read in the newspaper, a beautiful sunset, or any other topic that moves me.

Rosemarie: I was an ardent fan of Lois Lane and Brenda Starr. I wanted nothing more than to be a newspaper reporter! My

friend and I used to make up stories to write. I was paid for an anecdote published in Readers Digest when I was 12 years old and thought I had made the big time. I submitted two more anecdotes and never heard back, so I stopped submitting. While I was in Nursing School I wrote the majority of our yearbook, putting a short, descriptive poem under each picture and a narrative synopsis of our three years at school. Then as a new mom, I amused myself by writing humorous poems about things I didn’t like to do or if I had a cold–ie. An Ode to Dirty Dishes

and A Code in da Node.

2. When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?

Donna: I can’t say there was a single moment when it occurred to me that I could be a writer. I know that by the time I was in high school I was writing plays and stories and poems, and I hoped to go to college to learn to

write. It was an evolving dream of mine. More a passion. First was the need to write. It was later, after college, that the desire was born to have my writing read by a wider audience than my family and friends – hence the journey into the world of publishing.

3. How do you choose the topics for your books? What’s your age range?

Rosemarie: The topics for our books were chosen because we both had a need to say what we felt. Our first book, Little Acts of Grace, was written for preschool children as a result of our desire to afford children of today the comfort of knowing, believing in and praising God. Donna wanted to share her thoughts about Mary, the mother of Jesus. So we wrote Just Like Mary, also for very young children. Our third book, The Mass Book, was a suggestion from the publisher and targeted second graders.

Donna: When Rosemarie and I began writing together, our grandchildren were in preschool. Our books have grown up with our grandkids. As for how we choose what to write, sometimes I think our topics choose us. Rosemarie and I are co authors, but our third partner is God. We truly feel our topics are inspired by Him.

4. What kinds of things inspire you to write?

Rosemarie: Love inspires me to write. I write about people I love, people who love, and the places and memories I love. I am inspired by the joys and sorrows of everyday life.

5. What gave you the idea for your very first book?

Rosemarie: Donna and I met by accident–or Divine intervention– at a church dinner. We had each been on a Pilgrimage, compared notes and soon found that we had very similar thoughts and a desire to write from the heart. We talked about little things we did as children. In spite of the difference in our ages, our memories, beliefs and feelings were so very similar. So, we wrote about how little actions displaying love for God would please Him just as little acts of love and kindness please people. And–we went on from there to create a series of books for children.

6. Have any of your books earned special recognition?

Donna: Our 4th book, Living the 10 Commandments for Children, won 2nd place in the children’s category for the 2008 North American Catholic Press Association. That was a real thrill for us.

Rosemarie: This same book has also been printed in Lithuanian at the request of a priest who enjoyed it while in America!

7. Have any of your stories been inspired by real people or events? What inspires you to write?

Rosemarie: Most everything I write is inspired by real people or shared life experiences. I notice that in Donna’s work also. Her love and compassion shines through her words. The book she is self publishing at this time emphasizes pre teens respecting and caring about others —social justice. Icky, CeCe and the Mysterious Mr. Thuan is due to be released at the end of November.

8. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Donna: I think this is sometimes one of our strengths, and a potential pitfall. While Rosemarie is a focused writer, I tend to work on more than one topic at a time. As a result, I am slower in brining any one project to fruition. I tend to write in response to an inner calling. Rosemarie is the disciplined one.

Rosemarie: Donna and I get a chuckle out of the fact that our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results are on target. I seek closure on each project before beginning another. Donna is comfortable beginning several projects. I believe we complement each other with these opposite characteristics. I speed her up on each project and she slows me down to make sure our words are what we really want to say.

9. Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?

Rosemarie: It’s a tossup between The Beatitudes for Children and The 10 Commandments for Children. I learned a lot as we wrote about current life in relation to God’s teachings. My favorite adult piece was the story of the unexpected death of my granddaughter on the day my son came home from the Gulf war. That writing was therapeutic and helped me resolve her death. It took 2 years to write.

Donna: For me, my favorite book it is definitely Just Like Mary. Written for preschool aged

children, this book helped me answer a question from when I was a little girl. I was always told that Mary, the mother of God, is to be my role model. I couldn’t understand how to do that. But writing this book helped me answer how we all can be just like Mary.

10. What are you working on now?Donna: We have a couple of projects we are working on. We have two children’s books: one on Purgatory, and one on Priests. I am working on a series of middle grade novels. And we are experimenting with developing one of our books as an animated book for an ipad.

11. Are you signed exclusively with a publisher? Are you self published and how does that work for you?

Donna: We have not signed exclusively with any one publisher, but to date, all of our children’s books have been published by Our Sunday Visitor. That has been a wonderful relationship we hope will continue. I am also currently working on self publishing my middle grade novels. I am working on a series of 4 middle grade novels, each one which addresses a different issue related to social justice: homelessness, the plight of the refugee, etc. These books will appeal to that segment of our population who embraces conservative values. As you know, this is a small, niche market. So I have ventured into the realm of self publishing. I am working with an editor who has some experience in this area and feel confident this is a plausible way to go. With the help of social networking, Amazon and e-bay, marketing the books has become, while not easy, certainly possible.


12. Do you do school visits, if so what question do children ask you most?

Rosemarie: I love doing school visits! Last year I read to a pre-school in Northern Virginia and had a wonderful time with 4 year olds. Last week, I read snippets from Little Acts of Grace 2 to the Kindergarten and 1st grade classes. They were a great audience, wanting to participate as well as listen. I also read A Really Scary Time to 3rd and 4th graders. We sang the World War ll songs from the book. Donna and I have had opportunities to speak to children and their parents at PTO meetings in the public school and at a Military base. We both enjoy talking to adults and to children.

Donna Piscitelli lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband Steve. They have four children and ten grandchildren. Donna has been writing and publishing children’s books for ten years, and is currently working on publishing her first middle grade novel. She has worked in the field of education for 32 years and has been a teacher, a counselor and an adminstrator. Donna and Steve are both active in their church.

Rosemarie Gortler lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband Fred. They have five children and seventeen grandchildren. Rosemarie has been a nurse and a clinical counselor. She and Fred are active in their church.
Your may find Piscitelli and Gortier’s books on Amazon by clicking here.

1. When did you start writing and what inspired you to start?

I wrote a little bit when I was a child but I never really thought of becoming a writer until I was an adult. What inspired me was really strange. One day I was reading my brothers blog. He was just playing around and making up a fantasy story. I thought he was really good and thought “Hey, I could do that!” So I sat down, started writing a fantasy story about something we used to play as kids and I haven’t stopped writing since.

2. How do you choose the topics for your books? What’s your age range?

The age range that I find the most enjoyable to write for is 4-8 yrs. old. They are still so imaginative at that age and in love with learning new things. They also say some of the funniest things! As far as how do I choose topics for my book, it’s all up to how I’m feeling on any given day. If something inspires me, then I write about it.

3. What kinds of things inspire you to write?

All sorts of things inspire me. If I hear a child say something funny, I’m inspired. If a co-worker tells me something hysterical or unusual that their child did, I’m inspired. If I see a movie or TV show where something amazing happens, that inspires me as well. Reading other books also inspires me. The world is full of inspiration; you just have to be open to it!

4. Have any of your stories been inspired by real people or events? What inspires you to write?

Yes, A lot of my stories do contain something about a person I knew or an event that happened in my past. I once wrote a story about two little old ladies who lived next door to us when I was growing up. They were very sweet ladies but a little on the unusual side because they had never been married, lived in a little white house, and had hundreds of salt-n-pepper shakers all over the place. They left a great memory in my mind so I just had to include them in my story writing.

I’ve also written quite a few stories about pets I’ve had or currently have.

5. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Oh yes. I don’t know how smart or good that is, but I’m usually working on at least four or five stories at a time. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming but I find that I am constantly coming up with new ideas and just have to get them on paper. However, when you are working on so many stories at one time, it tends to prevent you from completing any one item, therefore it slows you down from getting things completed and out the door. I need to work on focusing on one story at a time!

6. Are you signed exclusively with a publisher? Are you self -published and how does that work for you?

I am signed with FutureWord Publishing for my book The Pea In Peanut Butter.

7. Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work? Where do you write?

Yes, I write or do something with my writing every single day. There is so much involved with writing that it’s nearly impossible not to be involved in it every day. However, sometimes I spend more time marketing, blogging, and doing administrative things that my total time in a week actually writing is probably only four hours. It just depends on what I have going on and what deadlines I have.

I don’t have set hours to write because I also work a full-time job elsewhere. I have to fit my writing time in around that.

I do some of my writing at work in between busy times, and at home on my laptop in the evenings and weekends. I have a designated room to do that.

8 .Has anyone ever written you a fan letter that you’d like to share?

My book has only been published since June 2011 so the word is still getting out about it. However, I once received an email from someone whose children read my book. She said it’s their favorite book at present and they keep trying to memorize the beginning of the book which reads:

I love the super duper, gummy yummy, sticky lickin’, and belly rubbin’ taste of peanut butter. If Mommy would let me, I’d spread it on hot dogs, fish sticks, chips, and pancakes. I’d eat it on bananas, grapes, apples, and frosted flakes.

And to me, that is what it’s all about for me. Knowing that a child smiled and enjoyed my story!

9. Who was the first character you ever created and why?

I don’t remember the first character I ever created because it was back in grade school. However, I do remember the first PLACE I created. It was a land of nothing but peanut butter. And surprisingly, my first published picture book, is about peanut butter as well! Hmmm, guess it’s a no-brainer that I love peanut butter!

10. Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to share – hobbies,where you were born, special talents other than writing/illustrating?

I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan but was raised in Edgerton, Ohio. When I turned 22 or so, I moved to St. Louis with my husband. From there his job has transferred us to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and back to Louisiana where we currently reside. I have many other hobbies. I read a lot, dabble around with stained glass, do interior decorating, and at work I do a lot of graphic design type things.

Find out more about The Pea In Peanut Butter on! Or visit Allyn at

Todd and Bully

Todd and Bully

In Dream A World’s exclusive “Behind The Scenes” find out how award-winning illustrator and author – Todd Parr has made his dreams come true.

1. Did you write stories when you were growing up? At school or as a hobby?

No, but I loved to draw.  I was always drawing or doing something creative.


2. When you were a child did you ever think you were going to be a writer when you grew up?

Never, but I did dream of being an artist.


3. If you didn’t write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?

I started adding messages to my art in 1989, which eventually lead me to writing children’s books.


4. How do you choose the topics for your books?  What’s your age range?

I always try and pick topics that help kids feel good about themselves while learning about difference in everyone.  I also like to tackle some of the challenges that kids are faced with – like being afraid.  The age range is 3-6, 4-8 and adult. 🙂


5. What kinds of things inspire you to write?

Being able to make a difference in the world, in a bright, silly, fun way.


6. Where do you get your ideas?

A lot come from my childhood.


7. What gave you the idea for your very first book?

A Piece of my original art, “Be Who You Are.”


8. Have any of your books earned special recognition?

Yes, my most recent book “The Earth Book” won the 2011 Green Earth Book Award as well as the Parents Choice Award.  (Click here to see The Earth Book)




9. Have any of your stories been  inspired by real people or events?

Yes, me.


10.  Do you enjoy researching or do you prefer working totally from your imagination?

My imagination only.


11. Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Yes, sometimes I get excited about two or three ideas and start them all at once.


12. Which of your books did you most enjoy writing?

It’s Okay To Be Different and Underwear Do’s And Don’ts.

13. What are you working on now?  When do you expect to start submitting it

to publishers?

I am working on a new book for 2012.  The book is about all things kids have to be thankful for.  My publisher already has this one and has given a first round of comments.


14. Do you write every day and do you have set hours that you work?  Where do you write?

No, I don’t set schedules for myself.  I create when I feel like it (Unless there is an urgent need)  I work in a remodeled garage I converted to my studio.


15. Do you do school visits, if so what question do children ask you most?

Yes, lots — the questions I get asked most are “Where is your dog Bully?” and Why don’t I put noses on the people in my books.”


16. Has anyone ever written you a fan letter that you’d like to share?

Yes, lots – Here is a recent favorite.

“Todd —  I’m sure you hear this a lot, from parents all over the world, but thank you for your wonderful books.  My son is almost five and his father and I have been separated/divorced since he was two.  We have a very amicable relationship and live near each other and my son sees his dad several times a week — yet, recently, all of a sudden, my son is grappling a lot with how his family is *different* from other families and wondering why his mom and dad don’t live together.  We already had The Mommy and The Daddy Books — so I popped out today and got The Family Book.  Just reading it made me cry — it touches on everything I think he is thinking and feeling right now — I think it’s really going to make him feel good.  Thank you so much for your wonderful books.  They mean a lot to so many of us!!



17. Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to share – hobbies, where you were born, special talents other than writing/illustrating.

I like to cook, camp, ski and anything at the beach.  I was born in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  I lived in Chicago and Honolulu before settling in the Bay area.  The one other talent that comes to mind is a make I make the BEST macaroni and cheese.




The Peace Book

The Peace Book

Click here to check out The Peace Book and find other Todd Parr favorites recommended by Dream A World.

Etan Boritzer is the best-selling author of the WHAT IS children’s book series.  Find out about his creative process and how he makes his dreams come true.

Visit Etan Boritzer and Bunny Hull on April 30-May 1st at the L.A. Times Book Festival at UCS, Booth #543.

Etan Boritzer is the best-selling author of the What is? series of children’s books on character education and difficult topics. Currently there are 12 books in the series. His books are available in any bookstore in the US, and they are distributed and sold globally wherever English is spoken (UK, Canada, AU, NZ, South Africa, Singapore, etc). To date, Etan’s books have been translated into 13 languages.  Etan also teaches yoga and meditation in Los Angeles and guest teaches at various studios around the US.


I write books for children, not children’s books. Important difference, right? Children are smart people, only they are smaller than adults and not as experienced on this plane as adults. Some children though are much smarter than adults. Krishnamurti used to say that the highest form of intelligence is compassion. Most children are compassionate, unless some adult has robbed them early on of their innate goodness. Anyway, when we write for children, why not direct intelligent thoughts to them? That way they can start early to develop the critical thinking skills needed to navigate through the dangerous waters of today’s crazy world.

Rev. Michael Beckwith says that Americans are the most over-entertained, under-educated people in the world. The books I write for children are educational but I try to make them entertaining too, particularly with the help of my very creative illustrator Jeff Vernon. I mean, there is nothing wrong with kids being kids, having fun and playing, etc but really, there are a lot of parents living out their missed childhoods through their children, keeping them within a limited intellectual sphere. The average American family buys 5 books a year. Come on, when are we going to really get serious about early childhood education, starting in the home? You parents who are reading this blog are not the average American parents. You buy books or get them from the library, read with the kids before bedtime, you care about your kids’ education. Thanks for being serious.

Hmmm, the journalist’s 5 W’s… I am talking mostly about why. Why I write the books. All of the above, but also that I am working from Purpose (yes, capital P). I mean, the Purpose of a evolving a wholesome and beautiful earth plane that we find ourselves inhabiting this lifetime. I think we can agree that in order to create Beauty, Generosity, Art, Respect, Peace, Health, etc (all in caps too) within ourselves and our children, and with our global neighbors, the key is knowledge, understanding, insight and other names for education. The Buddha advises us “to know things as they are.” KNOWING! That’s the why, why I write the books, to give children the tools needed to know things as they are.

How do I work? Well, I really don’t want the books to be ‘Etan’s opinions’ or to ‘teach.’ I really try to keep the didacticism or moralizing out of my books. Maria Montessori said, “Don’t teach, allow the child to learn.” She also said “Get out of the child’s way!” So, my books are filled with questions. Sometimes a Mom or teacher will say, “I see a lot of questions. Don’t you give any answers?” OK, sometimes I use the word “maybe” to suggest an answer but I am really more interested in the child and adult engaging in the discussion on the difficult topics I cover and letting the child reason out her own conclusions. Maybe the adult disagrees and a meaningful discussion can ensue.

What Is MoneyAnother part of how I work, I am very receptive to other people suggesting titles for the series, so that these books are not necessarily all my books. For instance, What is Money? was suggested by a Mom I was sitting next to on an airplane pointing to her 8 year old daughter and telling me I should write a book about money because her daughter was completely confused about the concepts of money. What is a Friend? was suggested by a teacher explaining to me the difficulties involved in the early socialization process of children. Our new title What is a Family? was suggested by a friend who is Exec Director of a family counseling center, pointing out all the diverse families in our society today. I mean, why should I hold on to a typical author’s conceit that these are my books. Again, back to the why. Why I write the books is not about me.

Once I get started with a title, I do a lot of research. I read through articles and books about let’s say about families; that is, I do anthropological research, historical, contemporary, political, religious research, etc on families. I slop through a few versions of the standard 16 pages of text in each of the books in our series. Then, I have different experts, parents, teachers or child-life professionals in the subject area I am writing review the text, make suggestions as to what I missed with content, edits, even typos. I stopped using a “real” editor a long time ago as this process of editing the books with experts is much more comprehensive. Also, again, these don’t have to be my books. When What is Peace? was released a Mom pointed out a serious conceptual flaw in the text that I had to agree was definitely not right for our kids. In the next printing, I changed the offending wordage. Hey, when you are an independent publisher as I am, you can do that!

I work out the concepts for the illustrations with my illustrator, we go through a few sketches, then a line drawing, then the watercolor painting. I owned an art gallery in a previous lifetime, so I know quite a bit abut art. The paintings sometimes have fun and subtle elements that the kids pick up. The books always have surreptitious messages both visually and conceptually for the adults too.

Oh yeah, another reason why I write the books is that I get to read them to many little kids in schools, libraries and hospitals—all of which is a lot of fun! I get to meet my little readers at book fairs and festivals and to have serious, impromptu discussions with them there also. Writing the books allows me to go to conferences and meet with teachers and principals and to understand kid issues. My only regret in meeting all the nice Moms at the various venues I go to with the books is that their husbands are mostly missing from the educational activities of the children. That should be corrected, Moms!

Sometimes I write the books on the beach in Marina del Rey, CA in front of my house. Sometimes I write them at home or in a café, or on a plane. I am not one of these sensitive writers with a routine who needs a consistent place to sit and write. Actually, it’s better on a writer’s back to stand with your computer say, on a kitchen counter, and not put so much pressure on the lower spine discs sitting for hours on a chair. Anyway, enough about me. Let me just conclude by saying that writing books for kids is a great day job!

To learn more about Etan’s books or make a purchase click here to visit Amazon or

We recently asked well-known children’s author Patrice Karst about her creative process and how she’s made her dreams come true.

Writing started early for me. English was always my favorite subject and reading always a lifelong pleasure. I remember the thrill of lying in bed as a girl for hours under the blankets with books that took me all over the world and beyond. When I was twelve years old, I wrote my first short story, by sixteen I wrote song lyrics and moody deep poetry expressing my teenage angst. And by age thirty, my journal-keeping obsession had already resulted in boxes full of filled journals chronicling my strange particular little journey on the strange wild plane we call home. I wrote in the beginning to try to make sense out of the seeming chaos that I was witnessing in my world. Then I kept writing for my life. Writing was just always my “artistic cocktail” of choice. That said, I never planned on writing a book let alone many of them!

Creativity for me is that sublime moment when muse meets my fingers on the keyboard or pen on paper. It is that moment when whatever it is that wants to be written – demands it to be so and takes over my hands. It helps at those moments to go along willingly rather than kicking and screaming.

I find that stories, books come and tell me that they want to be written and then simply tell me to start writing!

The natural merging of my spiritual path and my books has always been what keeps my message pure and seems to upon reflection always have the same theme. Love, oneness, unity, peace.

The Invisible String

The Invisible String came through as I comforted my son when he was so sad at my leaving him at pre-school. I simply told him what was obvious to me that we were always connected by an Invisible String made out of love. This simple concept gave Eli a tangible understand of our connection and that we still had that connection despite time or distance. This sweet story brought him (and then all his friends who begged to hear it also) immense comfort and a realization that they would never ever ever have to feel alone. That the whole world was connected by Invisible Strings.

Each book has it’s own rhyme and reason and method of birth. I wish I was one of those disciplined professionals that sit at their desk and pound out page after page 3 hours a day 5 days a week. It just doesn’t work like that for me.

I can skip two years before another book and then be in a writing frenzy for months.

When all is said and done, I cannot not write what comes to me if it speaks to my heart strongly enough. I can write at those times till all hours of the night with no pain involved at all. Yet when I sit down and try to write on demand, it does not feel as organic at all, that is not to say that I can’t write well if I push myself enough. It’s just that- who wants to push- right?

So lazy little writer that I am, I continue to wait for projects to “knock me upside the head” before I sit down and do the deal- ah! but when I do, the rewards are so sweet.

The Smile That Went Around The World by Patrice KarstThe Smile that Went Around the World came again one morning many years ago when Eli and I came upon a group of homeless folk with a sign saying that they were hungry. Something happened that day and another book was given life.

The Single Mother’s Survival Guide was my gift to all my sister single moms to let them know that I had their back and I really knew what they were going through.

God Made Easy was born one November 11,1995 morning out of a dream where I awoke with the title (saw the words hovering in the air!). I wrote that book in one hour and sold it 3 weeks later and thus a published author, I became. Who knew? Sixteen years later I still ache for that feeling when a project starts bubbling up deep inside and demands to be written!

That really is what it is for me- the writing thing. I write what must be said. I write for love, I write for healing. I write to understand and I write to be understood. I write for my life.

Sometimes I am not sure if I write at all or if I am being written. Either way, I am blessed to do what I do. Whether my children’s books or my “grown up” stuff, my voice, my plea seems to always be the same and I can sum it up simply just like this.

Just Love!

Patrice Karst

Patrice Karst is the author of the internationally best selling books God Made EasyThe Single Mother’s Survival Guide and her children’s books, The Invisible String and The Smile that Went Around the World She has written for and been featured in various magazines including, Time, Woman’s Day, and Science of Mind among many others.

To find out more about or purchase books by Patrice Karst on, please click here.

Grammy Award winning songwriter Bunny Hull reflects on how she was guided into a career as a songwriter and singer and talks about what keeps her going.

From the moment I wrote my first song at age fifteen I was hooked.  I had been learning to dance since age three, playing the piano since age seven and singing since I was old enough to talk.  All this was entirely due to my mom, who showed me what it meant to  experience arts, arts, arts.  So I’d been singing and playing for a while and nobody told me the next thing I should do was write a song, but going through my teens was somewhat trying.  I guess anyone going through their teens is experiencing a lot of stuff: like getting to know yourself, wondering how you fit it, or in my case being the daughter of parents divorcing and having your first broken heart.  Sheesh, what was I supposed to do with all that information?

I had to write.  It was my therapy.  Thank God, something in me wanted to put my thoughts to paper.  So that’s what I began doing at fifteen -never knowing that all these years later writing would be one of the things for which I live and breathe.  I LOVE to write.  I love writing music, lyrics, articles, curriculum…pretty much anything.  Can you tell?

Mom was a professional singer from the big band era with a gorgeous smoky voice and beautiful face to match.  Her professional name was Jeri Keever. I always thought she looked like a young Betty Grable. I kind of sound like her.  I always had a lot of smoke in my voice.  Little did I know at fifteen that I would be following in her footsteps and become a singer, hired by many for the breathy quality I inherited from mom.  And that I would end up working with people like Quincy Jones, David Foster, Anita Baker, Christopher Cross, Billy Idol, Michael Jackson and a bunch of others.  Yes, singing has always also been my passion.  It’s hard not to love it.  Who’s blessed enough to find two things for which they are ultimately inspired?  I guess me.  I’ve got a lot for which to be grateful.

There’s something about writing, though, that makes my spirit fly.  You know you’ve found your passion when that happens.  It pretty much has always felt effortless to me.  It’s always come easy.  Like most songwriters I would write ideas on napkins and bits of paper, take them back to the studio and make something out of them.  It’s that spark you get when you know you have an idea that means something – a phrase, a title, a little melody that sticks in your head, something that says it a little differently. It’s not good enough, though just to have an idea, you have to work with it, turn it inside out and every which way but loose – make it really mean something. You have to put in whatever time it takes to finish it.  It doesn’t always come out all at once.  When that happens it’s a gift!  It does happen -but not always.  Then once you write a song you have to record it , dance with it and massage it until you know it’s finished.  Someone asked me once “how do  know when a song’s finished?”  My reply was “you just know.”  Something inside you says “that’s it.” And I have to say it’s the best feeling in the world when you’ve finished a song you feel good about.

My career as a songwriter has taken me on some pretty wonderful journeys.  One of the greatest was probably winning a Grammy for co-writing New Attitude,

which Patti LaBelle recorded for Beverly Hills Cop.  Then there was a Dove Award for LeAnn Rimes version of Ready For A Miracle from Evan Almighty. Not every song was a hit song, but there have been lots of incredible writers I’ve collaborated with along the way like Brenda Russell and Diane Warren. I still recall Diane and I writing in her fabulous funky little Hollywood Blvd. office space so many years ago.  My first song I ever had recorded by an artist was sung by…Donny Osmond.  Then after my cult hit with Angel of the Night by Angela Bofill, I broke through with an album by Stacy Lattisaw co-written with Narada Michael Walden.  Let Me Be Your Angel was my first top ten song. Thank you Narada!

Now that I’ve transitioned from mainstream pop music to other genres like children’s music and books, the process stays just as exciting and fresh to me.  It’s just as thrilling to get an idea and work it to fruition.  And I get just as much pleasure writing curriculum for children and finding the ideas that will resonate in their little hearts and minds.

I don’t know if I’ll ever totally be finished writing a good mainstream song with a message, but in the meantime I follow my bliss and it leads me to beautiful places with people I love, admire and respect.  What more could anyone want from life?  I must confess  however, there is still more I have in mind.

My whole life thus far has been me – using the gifts I’ve been given to touch others – to make a difference by writing something or singing a song.  No wonder that my entire life, right now, revolves around being able to give that same experience to children.  To teach them that they have gifts to share – a lot of different gifts that live inside them.  You’re never too young to learn how to use those gifts.

I became a writer because I had to.  Everything inside my heart and mind wanted me to.  If you have a gift  – use it.  Use it with all you’ve got.  There’s no one in the whole world that can give that gift the way you can.  Using your gift, in your circle of influence no matter how large or small will affect the world in ways you’ll never know.

Enjoy the journey – LOVE.  Life is for giving.



When you were a child did you ever have moments when you decided that you were going to be a writer when you grew up?

*I was a happy dreamer as a child. My mother always lovingly told me that she believed that I would someday be a writer. She originally thought that I would write children’s books. Even though my first books were not of that genre, they were still the result of her early influence. She and my father instilled in me the notion that I could be and do anything I put my mind and heart to. In fact, my first published book is a direct result of that enduring faith. For 25 years, my parents kept the letters, journal entries and official documents that I sent home from my first leap out into the big world. Their sincere belief was that I would someday commit what turned out to be that fantastic adventure to print. And so I did, in my book Sailing To The Far Horizon; The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship. Later, I wrote another nonfiction account, this one of a more recent adventure, my solo journey to both live and work in Africa. That book is titled Muzungu. That same experience also gave birth to my children’s book, When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan, the subject of this interview.


If you didn’t write as a child, then when did you start writing and what inspired you to start?

*I began writing for my own children, actually. The fantastic experience that had brought their father and I together and had influenced their lives in far reaching ways that they might never otherwise realize was the impetus for my committing my first book to print. Of the legions of wayfarers who shared in our incredible experience, only a handful were present at the end, and survived to tell the tale. In the quarter century since, no one had. I feared that no one ever would. And so it fell to me.

How do you choose the topics for your books?

The topics of my books seem to choose me. I write when I cannot help it. I write because I have something I feel needs to be said. If my heart wasn’t in it, it would be a much more difficult endeavor for me. In that respect, I guess I am quite lucky. Consequently, I rarely suffer from writers block. Just the opposite, in fact!

What kinds of things inspire you to write?

Life inspires me to write. Life, and happiness, and sadness, and good and bad fortune, and questions that need asking but may never find answers. I write from my heart. Of course, to write for children is then a natural evolution of that process. The homily, Child, You Are Miracle that was published by World Vision, was inspired by a recent natural disaster that left thousands of children abandoned and alone. The writing poured out of me in a matter of minutes. It was meant to be a lifeline cast out to children who felt they had lost everything and had nowhere to turn and no reason to hope. It was a promise of the innate strength and beauty that is inherent in each and every one of them, and the hope that, at the risk of losing all else, if they can hold onto the certainty of their own individual magical special gift, perhaps they could feel safe.

Have any of your books earned special recognition?

When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read, has been nominated and is presently being considered for several awards! Fingers crossed. Any attention brought to the plight of these children is potentially life saving.

Have any of your stories been inspired by real people or events?

*So far, real people and events inspire all of my stories. I have written primarily nonfiction. Real human stories and actual events that need to be exposed, explored, examined, and/or simply enjoyed are my inspiration both for how I live my life, and subsequently how I immortalize those experiences in print. I would like my writing to make a difference. This is particularly and poignantly true in the case of my children’s book that is the subject of this interview.

Do you do school visits, if so what question do children ask you most?

I would love to do school visits for this currently published children’s book! I have worked extensively both personally and professionally with children throughout my lifetime. I have taught, and I have been fortunate enough to be a credentialed instructor in the Junior Great Books program. And my newly published children’s book is, I sincerely believe, very special. It is a true story, told in the voice of one very real little boy, and he speaks for all the children of Kenya. This book is unique in that it is entirely the product of my personal experience, the photographs were taken by me while I worked and lived in Africa, and the illustrations for the book were done by the village youngsters in a tiny school on the grounds of the project where I lived. I would ask them to draw me a picture of “mother”, or of “family” or of “love” or “what frightens them” or “what they hope for in life.” Their responses are a window into a vastly separate reality. With this story, a teacher (or a parent) can share with a classroom (or a child) a wonderful warm, human story, have an educational experience, learn a new language – there are simple Swahili words with their English translations interspersed throughout the story – open their little hearts and eyes and minds, relate to this very lovable protagonist and his family, and make a charitable donation, all in one fell swoop. 100% of my proceeds from the sale of this book are promised to the children who created the illustrations for it. They trust me, and they wait.

Has anyone ever written you a fan letter that you’d like to share?

Yes, I am honored to say that I have received many of which I am very proud. One in particular that I’d like to share was this one: “After I closed your book Pam, I was left with the strong unyielding sense that I needed to be more, see more, feel more, do more with my life.”


About the author:

Pamela Bitterman lives in San Diego, California.  Her first book, Sailing To the Far Horizon, her own story of life, loss, and survival at sea is graphically biographical. It encapsulates the author as product of the first thirty years of her life.

Muzungu, the story of the author’s unlikely escapades throughout Kenya, picks up on that journey a couple decades later.

She has also written a children’s book titled When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan. Finally, the author has penned a homily entitled, Child, You Are Miracle. Links to these, plus trailers to her three published books can be found on her website:

Bitterman’s writing has emerged amidst her travels, adventures, and finally her marriage and children, her persona as wife and mother – the heart of her; the author as her best self.

Her future remains to be seen, and to be told.