New Podcast Episode: Catholic Children’s Publishing in Review 2021

In today’s episode, we’re looking back at the huge changes which have taken place this year in the Catholic children’s book market! No transcript today so you’ll have to listen in, but I have some helpful links and bullet points here to guide you through:

  • Celebrating the Catholic Kidlit Podcast’s 1st year
  • Giveaway for my Catholic board book Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019) – ENTER HERE
Enter the giveaway to win a chance to have Liturgical Colors on your family’s bookshelf!
  • Still time to enter the giveaway for My Grandma Is a Lady by Jalissa Pollard
  • My year: 4 book contracts! Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (Books 1 and 2) and Seven Gifts of Baptism
  • Publishing backlogs and supply chain constraints
  • New and exciting market disruptions (good ones!): TAN Academy, OSV Kids Magazine, Ascension Kids
  • More Indie-publishing in the Catholic market: Kickstarters, Indie-published PBs and even BBs
  • Changes happening in the Catholic Writers Guild
  • Catholic Kidlit Writers Club is launching on January 1st, the first space for Catholic children’s book writers to get together. We’re starting out with some exclusive interviews including: Self-Publishing with Kristina Lahr, Creating the Catholic Magazine with Our Sunday Visitor, and Publishing Insight from editor Lindsey Schlegel. Our goal is to support YOU to create excellent Catholic children’s books. You can sign up to join the 2022 cohort at catholickidlit.com. Enrollment ends February 28, 2022.
  • Question Answered: How do I negotiate an author contract if I’m not also a lawyer?
Catholic Children’s Publishing 2021: Year in Review

**Affiliate disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links where I earn a little money from your purchase at no cost to you. Thanks for helping an author out! 🙂

What Catholic kidlit developments are you excited about? And what did I miss?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!

Sharing the Faith through Family Stories with Author Jalissa Pollard

In today’s episode, I speak with author Jalissa Pollard. You’ll hear about:

  • An exciting SERIES announcement for Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
  • How Jalissa’s Grandmother inspires her faith, life, and writing
  • Finding community in a Catholic lay movement
  • Representation in Catholic kidlit
  • How family stories can be as important to share as saint stories
  • Inspiring takeaways from the author: You are not alone!
  • A giveaway of her book, My Grandma Is a Lady
  • And more!

**Affiliate disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links where I earn a little money from your purchase at no cost to you. Thanks for helping an author out! 🙂

Congratulations to Our Winners!

Huge congratulations to our 2 winners of Ascension’s giveaway for My First Interactive Mass Book. Stick around today for another book giveaway from our guest, author Jalissa Pollard.

My Catholic Kidlit Christmas Gift Round-Up

I have finished my kids gift shopping and am super excited about my finds:

The book buying is so much fun, but even better when the kids enjoy the gift you picked out. I’d love to hear what books YOU have bought for your beloved little ones this year!

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server ANNOUNCEMENT!

As for Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server, I have laid eyes on the cover!! It is very cute, and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you soon.

And even more so, because it is now OFFICIAL that Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server is going to be a SERIES!

The first book, simply called, Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server, is coming out in early summer 2022. It’s a book about serving God, finding your way to serve God when maybe you don’t feel that you’re up to the task.

The SECOND book in the series is all about the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and should come out in 2023. That one is tentatively titled Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server Rings the Bells. So to say I am excited about this boy’s adventures in faith is an understatement. His stories have been in the works a long time, and now they’ll be able to be shared with kids, which is the whole. entire. point.

I am so grateful to be where I am in this writing and publishing journey, and am looking forward to helping my fellow writers in our Catholic Kidlit Writers Club this coming year in 2022. If you haven’t signed up yet, this is a great time to do so, so that you’ll have the benefit of our behind-the-scenes talks and community for the duration of 2022.

All the fun starts January 1, so sign up now. Our group is small and mighty, which I’m anticipating to mean that we will have a fierce level of connection with and support for each other. You can unlock exclusive webinars, interviews, community, and information in the writers club at Catholic Kidlit.com.

New Book from Author Jalissa Pollard

Our guest today has a family story to share, and has also shared with me that since our interview, her second book The Faithfulness of Daniel, in the Black Bible Series for Children, has also been released. 

The Faithfulness of Daniel is a story about the excellent spirit of Daniel, whose love and trust in God surpassed all, even in the face of lions. Daniel teaches us that getting in the presence of God sets one apart for the best.

The Faithfulness of Daniel by Jalissa Pollard

So my huge congratulations to Jalissa on her second book! Again, Jalissa Pollard is offering YOU a chance to WIN a copy of My Grandma is a Lady through our giveaway. So without further ado, here’s our interview!

Interview: Sharing the Faith through Family Stories

Theresa Kiser: Welcome Jalissa to the Catholic Kidlit podcast. Thank you for joining us today. 

Jalissa Pollard: Good afternoon! Absolutely. I’m so excited to be part of this podcast. It is so refreshing to be a part of a mission that is set on nourishing children’s souls. So I’m just so glad to be in that number. How are you, how are you today, Theresa?

Theresa Kiser: Great. I’m excited. This book is really cool. So tell us a little bit about the book and then we want to hear about you also. 

Jalissa Pollard: Absolutely. Well, My Grandma Is a Lady was published in 2019, so we were we just had our second birthday. And this was an ode to my grandmother who raised me as a child, and my sister and my brother and just a testament to her Catholic faith and what I witnessed and what I’ve observed through the eyes of a child.

She was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Klaver, and so I wanted to share that story that I figured would be familiar to others as well. 

Theresa Kiser: I love grandma appreciation. My grandma was crucial to me in teaching me the faith and she’s somebody that I just have a strong relationship with.

And now that she’s passed, you know, it’s so special to carry on her memory. So tell us about your grandma. Like tell us about what, what mattered to you, what impacted you about her. 

Her Inspiration…Her Grandmother!

Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So absolutely. My grandmother, Mildred Charles, actually just celebrated her 91st birthday. And when I say she is still like kicking, like last weekend, we went to an event and she was dancing, like she got on the dance floor.

So my grandmother is just the most perfect lady to me. And I always looked up to her and always appreciated. At a very young age, I was able to discern that our life wasn’t quite like everyone else. Her daughter–her first daughter, my mother–had passed and my sister and I were three and four years old.

So I knew that I was being raised differently. So it was very strict, it was very you know… we had to dot our I’s and cross our T’s. And so with that, we definitely attended to church every Sunday. We were very integral to our faith community, St. Anne’s and Diocese of Lafayette.

And I just loved it. It was the life that I knew. And so I wanted to share that testament and appreciation as I grew older and moved away. When I would look back and reflect on my life, I was like, “Oh my goodness, my grandma just did all of these wonderful things that has molded me to the person who I am today.”

And I wanted to thank her. 

Theresa Kiser: Has she read the book?

Jalissa Pollard: She’s read the book. When I told her that… she’s read the book, people have come up to her and like at the local post office and told her about the book and at church. And she’s like a local celebrity at home now. I absolutely love that she’s basking in the glow of her story, her history.

Now funny story: when I showed her the cover of the book, the first thing she said was, “You know, I don’t really wear red lipstick.” I was like, “okay, grandma, I’m sorry.” She’s that type of lady where she’s like I said, she’s still kicking, attends Mass every Sunday. You know, just a wonderful person. 

Jalissa Pollard with My Grandma Is a Lady

Grandma’s Life Lessons

Theresa Kiser: So what kind of lessons from her life do you hope that the children reading your book pick up on? 

Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So absolutely. So the lessons that I would like for them to pick up on are that family is very crucial and very important.

It may not look like everyone else’s family, but it’s still valid. It’s still genuine and authentic. And no matter who is in the house with you, those who celebrate God and praise God and serve God are the people who are going to lead you in the right direction. Also lessons in that it’s okay to be with your family.

It’s okay to embrace that. T his is something that is forever. And so celebrating it, praising it, cultivating it…That’s something that we should continue to do, in today’s age, especially.

Theresa Kiser: That’s one thing that I really like about this book from a Catholic standpoint. We are so used to telling the stories of the saints who have done great things and served God and in great ways. But there are a lot of people who serve God, who haven’t been canonized and maybe never will be because they’re just one of the many people serving God.

So I’ve really liked this connection to your family history, that you’re recognizing the people in your family and passing on the family stories so that they can feed others. 

Community in a Lay Movement

One of the things that stands out to me about your book is this lay movement that your grandmother was a part of. A lot of Catholics aren’t aware of the lay movements and, and this one in particular, tell us a little bit about maybe what drew her to it and what it’s meant for her life.

Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So Ooh, interesting question. So she’s a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver. And she hasn’t said this openly, but I don’t know if at one point, if they could have joined, you know, Knights of Columbus. So I’m thinking it was something like that. Like we had our own lay organization, fraternal organization for African-American Catholics.

My Grandma Is a Lady by Jalissa Pollard

So that’s probably, it may have been her only pathway at that point. But it was, but I love it because this was her professional organization. My grandmother, she was a custodian at USL for 30 years. She was the manager of the entire building, but she stopped going to school –91 years old–at sixth grade and she had to stay at home and work.

Even though she didn’t have the formal education, I saw her as probably one of the most polite, well-mannered sophisticated women that I knew. And so I wanted to like embody that and you didn’t have to…you know, maybe your brother and sisters were able to go to school, but you turned out to be a lady just like them, you know, without that at all. 

Theresa Kiser: So she found in this lay movement, that community, and that place for her to thrive in her faith and be herself. 

Jalissa Pollard: Absolutely. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s great. Yeah. There, there are a number of lay communities maybe listeners don’t know… there’s the two that you mentioned.

But there are plenty of others with devotions to particular saints or that kind of follow in the steps of different charisms of the church that are all Catholic. So that’s really great that she found that and that was at her local parish. Is that right? Okay. That’s awesome. So when you kind of went through to tell the story, what was that process?

This was telling this is a biography of someone who is living and close to you. So how did you do the research for that? Or was it more kind of thinking through your background? Tell us a little bit about that process. 

Telling Her Grandmother’s Story

Jalissa Pollard: I really was interested in I would see the garb that she would wear: the all white and they would have the merchandise, if you will.

And so I would see her necklace here, this here…

 So I was researching that and which led me to a rabbit hole. I didn’t even realize… I’m 33, but I didn’t realize that there were so many black Catholics! We were in Youngsville and there was like, you know, maybe 12.

And then I go online to research for my book and it’s nationwide. And so that’s the message that I wanted to leave to black Catholic children that, “Hey, it’s not just your church and your grandmother. It’s like California, east coast, west coast across, you know…across the world! Like it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s you know, the Church. Realizing that it’s not just, you know, in, you know, in your, in your town, 

Theresa Kiser: so where you grew up and where your grandmother was, it was a minority in the parish, and you found that there’s this whole…

Jalissa Pollard: You know, I didn’t even realize that it existed. So, so affirming. So: yes, this is who I’m meant to be. Absolutely. So, and then now on this journey: researching, speaking, I’m seeking pastoral wisdom… I felt like I was back in grad school, like, “Oh, you know, this is wonderful!”

But that yes, you do belong. Like, yes, actually you’ve been here. Like where have you been like, sorry that we didn’t get the message out. Let’s get the message out.

Representation in Catholic Children’s Books

Theresa Kiser: So that’s another thing that kind of has been, is beautiful about this book. In the Catholic market of books, there’s not a lot of representation. It’s really nice to see that branching out. I think that’s something that is happening, that a lot of publishers are starting to see the need for it. There was just a bunch of board books that came out that were showing saints from different cultures and backgrounds. And so is that something that you thought about when you were putting this book together? Did you see the need or would you have put this out kind of regardless?

Jalissa Pollard: I definitely saw the need because as a lover of reading and writing, I loved reading books about myself. And so I wanted to share a story about my faith as well. Faith is like integral to my everyday life.

And so I want to create the story to demonstrate how woven through our daily life from when we wake up in the morning, when we say the rosary, whenever we bless ourselves before we eat… and just how it’s so ingrained into our lives and just showing all the different ways that God shows his face.

Musical Inspiration

Theresa Kiser: In the beginning of your book, you have the quote, “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.” Why did you choose that quote? What does it mean to you and to this book? 

Jalissa Pollard: Okay, so after sitting many years in the pew at St. Anne’s Catholic church… Whenever we go to receive communion, that is the song that they would play, like all the time.

It’s actually a lyric of a song. I will go, Lord, if you leave me, I will hold your people in my heart. And so that always… the music lately has just been cracking me like an egg. Like every time, I think about Pope Francis and when he says “the gift of tears.” For the past 10 years, every time I go to Mass, every time I hear a Christian song, the tears are flowing. And so that’s like my testament, that song, like, “I will hold your people in your heart.” Every single time I even hear a song it’s like, it’s taking over me.

So I’m definitely holding his people in my heart. Definitely holding his people in my heart.

Validation

Theresa Kiser: So, what has been the most rewarding part of this book publishing process for you and telling the story? 

Jalissa Pollard: The most rewarding process of My Grandma’s A Lady is validation. Validation as a Catholic, validation as an educator, validation as a sister… My grandmother herself just that she is such a wonderful woman and I felt that she needed to be celebrated.

The woman who–in hard times–took over her a set of raising her daughter who passed, their children and was still able to instill that faith and our religion. And we wanted to keep continuing to keep that going. 

Theresa Kiser: Wow. I mean, it sounds like you guys have been through so much together and that she’s shared the most important thing with you.

And for you to share that with the world is a real gift. Your enthusiasm for the faith and for writing and books just really comes through. So I’m excited for any children that are able to read this book. What message do you want listeners to come away with today? 

You are Not Alone!

Jalissa Pollard: So absolutely.

Absolutely: share your story. Original stories are often, you know, the vest and because someone else is going to be share your story because there’s going to be someone who needs to know that they aren’t alone. That it’s not just their church building. That there’s a whole world that has the same rules, the same Scriptures as you every Sunday… We’re all one Body. 

Theresa Kiser: I think there’s nothing more important than knowing that you’re not alone. And I love the way that you’re getting that across and have your spirit that’s such a part of what you’re doing. So where can listeners connect with you and find you?

Jalissa Pollard: Oh, awesome. Listeners can definitely follow me on on Instagram at @Jayybouquet. And I’ll drop the links for that, but they can also find my books at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and on our publisher’s website

Giveaway!

Theresa Kiser: Well, Jalissa has been so kind as to offer a free copy of her book, My Grandma Is a Lady, to a winner of our giveaway. So if you are interested in reading this book take a look in the show notes for instructions on how to enter that giveaway and get your copy of this book which is just sharing. Jalissa’s lessons from her grandma and the life that her grandma shared with her…and faith, of course! 

So head on over to the show notes, to see that, and we will continue talking. This has been a big journey of self-publication, writing, editing, revision. I’m sure that you have a lot of lessons learned to share with us. 

Click to enter the giveaway

Jalissa Pollard: Yes. 

Theresa Kiser: So so to hear more about those come and join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.

And we’ll be able to kind of unlock some of the hard won experiences and lessons learned and takeaways from, from this experience so that you can write your story as Jalissa is encouraging you to do, to, to share with others. So join us there for that. And I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jalissa for joining us. This has been a pleasure. And we’ll see you in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club

Jalissa Pollard: Awesome. Thank you so much. So wonderful. 

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

The best way to support the Catholic kidlit creator you heard from today is to buy their books, leave reviews, and spread the word on social media and in person.

If you want to write meaningful children’s books with a Catholic heart, check out the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club at CatholicKidlit.com

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

What family story has inspired YOUR faith? And what Christmas books have you bought this year?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!

Hands-On Faith with OSV Kids Magazine and Editor Lindsey Riesen

In today’s episode, I speak with OSV Kids’ Presentation Editor, Lindsey Riesen. You’ll hear about:

  • A (bookish!) tradition to celebrate the ENTIRE Christmas Season
  • Writing question answered: Do I need an agent?
  • How the OSV Kids Magazine came to be
  • How to help kids get hands-on with their faith
  • How OSV Kids can help busy parents
  • Inspiration for the magazine
  • And more!

**Sorry about the sound quality; my mic glitched during the interview. Doh!**

Book Shopping Time!

I love shopping for books right now. This is my favorite book buying season, coming into Christmas. I love picking out books for people, especially for the children in my life and giving those at Christmas time. Books are my favorite gift to give. So right now I have a massive order of books from Our Sunday Visitor coming up.

They are the publisher of my upcoming book, Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server coming out in spring of 2022, I’m very excited. And for this order, I’ll be ordering a few books I’ve been eyeing for a long time. One of those is Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times, and then the new book God the Father and the Best Day Ever, it looks really good. And The Mass Book for Children.

And so while I am putting this order together, I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Our Sunday Visitor books? I would love to hear your recommendations. Send me, you know, an email or put something in the comments because I would love to hear your favorite books.

New Christmas Season (Book!) Tradition

Last Christmas, we started a new tradition in our house for giving books. Most people who are not Catholic end Christmas on midnight of December 25th. But books are actually a great way to keep celebrating the Christmas season all the way to Epiphany. So what we did is we wrapped one Christmas-themed book or DVD for each day of Christmas, not Advent, where you have the Advent calendar and the Jesse tree. This is for the Christmas season. So we wrapped one Christmas-themed book for each day of the Christmas season in special paper. So it was clear: that is not what we were going to open on Christmas day. Everything in that paper would be saved. And we numbered the wrapping paper.

So one all the way up to the number of days of Christmas. So on the Christmas day we opened #1 and that had the first book that we’re going to read together as a family to celebrate the Christmas season. So some of those were books we already owned, some were library books, and some are new books.

You can always take library books back after you and wrap them and read them. And if you’re worried about due dates and just put the library books on the first few days of Christmas and you’ll unwrap them and then can return them. So this was a really fun way to take time to celebrate Christmas throughout the entire season and to spread the excitement of unwrapping packages for multiple days.

So if you’re looking for some Christmas ideas, keep that in mind. It was really fun for us. It’s also a great time during Advent and Christmas to introduce the idea of the liturgical colors and what they mean to children. This is the official start of the liturgical year during Advent, and the colors are changing fast for the first several weeks.

You know, you have purple, excuse me, violet, technically violet and rose during Advent, then you have white during Christmas. And then you switch to Ordinary Time after Christmas. So it’s a lot of changing of the colors, but what do they actually mean? And how does it relate to your relationship with God?

This is a great time to introduce that. My board book, Liturgical Colors published with Holy Heroes explains the meaning of the liturgical colors in the context of God’s love for the child. It is a cozy read for parents with little ones, perfect for bringing to church or wrapping and placing under the Christmas tree.

And it makes a wonderful gift for a niece, nephew, or a grandchild. You can find A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors at my website, TheresaKiser.com or at the publisher’s website, Holyheroes.net

Today’s Writing Question: Do I need an agent?

Today’s writing question is: do I need an agent? So for Catholic books, for the Catholic market, you generally don’t need an agent.

If you are submitting to specifically Catholic publishers, you don’t need an agent. If you are writing for the broader Christian or general market, then you will most likely need an agent to submit to some of the larger publishing houses. Either way, you definitely need to know what you’re doing. If you submit a query, you need to know how to write a professional query, how much to include in your query, how often you can submit and so on, you will also want to study the publishers to figure out who will be the best fit for your books, so you have better chances of getting a match. 

There are so many resources to help you figure out all these things. I particularly like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It has been a great help to me. And also for a Catholic approach, we have the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club, which is the whole point of starting it so that we can talk specifically about Catholic books, no matter which market they’re for, and how to write them, make them excellent, and get them into children’s hands.

So for more personal guidance on your writing? I do offer book coaching through my website, Theresa Kiser.com. And I will answer a question on writing and publishing every podcast, I’ll include a question going forward. So for now let’s head over to our interview with Our Sunday Visitor, all about their magazine for kids!

Interview with OSV’s Lindsey Riesen

Welcome to the Catholic Kidlit podcast. This is Theresa Kiser here with Lindsey Riesen who is the Presentation Editor of the OSV Kids magazine. Lindsey is here today to talk with me about the OSV Kids magazine, which is new this year.

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. Thanks so much for having me on. 

Theresa Kiser: Oh, absolutely. I’m so excited.

So tell us a little bit about this new magazine who it’s for. Because not everybody knows about it yet. And I hope that everybody can learn about it because it’s such a fun offering for kids. 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, sure. So OSV Kids magazine was launched back in January of this year and we’ve spent a long time researching what people wanted and coming up with the design and the format.

So it’s been a long time in the making but we’re coming up on our first full year of issues and it’s been received really great. People really like it. The magazine is primarily for kids ages two to six, and we’re envisioning it as something that comes in the mail that’s addressed to the kid.

They can get really excited about it and then they could consume it with their family. So we really want it to be a hands-on parents, families reading it together. And we know that some kids on the spectrum of our age group will be able to read it themselves, but we really want that to be consumed as a family.

For Families with Multiple Children

Theresa Kiser: Well, that’s great. I was going to ask that if a family has multiple children, what do you recommend? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. Yeah, we do have some families that have multiple subscriptions but it definitely can be used together. 

The only thing that we do have in there is a craft and you can print extra copies of that online, so that should help with any sibling quarrels that might occur when they get the magazine.

Theresa Kiser: That’s awesome. I didn’t even know that. So I’ve been a subscriber throughout the year. And one of the things I really love is the craft, which like is kind of a heavier paper so that it will hold up after the kids make it. But I didn’t know that you could find an extra printable copy online.

Where would parents go to print? 

Lindsey Riesen: Sure. There’s some right in the magazine, it tells you the website that you can visit. And then there’s just a code that you enter as a subscriber. So it’s actually on our Teaching Catholic Kids website right now. And it’s a Bitly/TCK activity and the password is kidsmore.

Self-Contained Magazine (No prep!)

We wanted the magazine to be self-contained. We didn’t want a lot of extra steps for families. So that’s why we have that insert card with the heavier paper because you can just tear it out and do it right then and there. 

I’m not a huge fan of crafts because I have three little boys and it’s like, things just explode and it’s a huge mess.

So Jenna has worked her crafts work perfectly because all you need is a scissors, some glue, some crayons…stuff you’re already going to have on hand. And then it’s just easy to clean up. Working with Jenna has been fantastic. She has so many ideas and I think they just fit so perfectly in the magazine for this age group for people.

Yeah. So Jenna Heinz you can find her online at Lazy Liturgical and she has so many great crafts for kids. Just simple, simple ideas that for basically, you know, you pick a feast day or a Saint and she’s got an activity for it. So yeah. I encourage you guys to check her out on Instagram, just Lazy Liturgical.

So it’s been great working with her. 

Theresa Kiser: These are great tips and resources in addition to this magazine. So each issue, it comes once a month. 

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. 

Theresa Kiser: Inside, there’s a theme. So this October was the Rosary and this December is the Light of Christ. So besides the craft, what can families expect? It’s addressed to their child, the child gets it in the mail, opens it up… What will they see and what can the family do together with the magazine? 

Activities for Kids

Lindsey Riesen: Sure. So one of the things we’ve worked really hard to try and do is provide some simple “activity” is not really the right word, maybe “game.” 

Things like Can You Find or Spot the Difference–stuff that you would see in maybe like the Highlights magazine 

Yeah, I think people will notice, like, that’s definitely an inspiration for this…a faith-based Highlights.

But we worked hard to provide, you know, two to three of those kinds of activities in each issue. And then we also. I thought it was important to include “In the Bible” section. So typically this is based off of one of the Gospels of the month and something that would be relevant to kids or easy for them to apply to their lives. 

Learning the Saints

Theresa Kiser: I like that Scripture tie-in. And the Scripture, the craft, there’s a Saint section… is there always the Saint section? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah. So every month we’ve got a Saint story and actually for next year, we’re going to mix that up a little bit and we’re going to be working with Megan Bausch, who, if you don’t know wrote a book called Saintly Rhymes for OSV Kids’ book line. And it’s just, they’re just really fun, catchy rhymes about saints that just give you a little taste of the saint’s life, but are fun. A fun prose to read to your kids. 

So we’re working with her next year. So the Saint story won’t be quite as long. It’ll just be these rhymes. And some of the rhymes will be from her first book and some will be from her new book that will be coming out in 2023. So it’s just another wonderful partnership. You know, the book has been so well received. We’re so excited that she’s going to be in the magazine.

And again, it just hits our age group perfectly. Just cute little rhymes. You don’t have to slug through a Saint bio because little kids don’t have the attention span for that, but the rhymes are just perfect. So, that’s what we’ll be doing starting next January. 

“Can You Spot?”

And then another favorite section people love is the Can You Spot, which is a beautiful illustration. That’s usually original artwork that we commission and we have a list of things to find in the artwork and we try to make sure the things that you find are relevant to whatever we’re talking about. So for December it’s a manger scene.

So, you know: find baby Jesus, find Mary find Joseph, find the angels… So it’s just a really nice addition in the magazine. 

Theresa Kiser: I really liked that part as well. And and the book that you mentioned Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times is a book that I’ve heard so much about. And I have it in my cart now.

So I’m really looking forward to reading that. It’s one that has been on my list for a while.

 It’s also great to have rhymes because sometimes that can stick with Some people feel different ways about reading books that rhyme. But I love a well-written rhyme that’s good for your soul and good for your heart because it can just stay with you for so long. 

So, so that’s great. I mean, this magazine is jam-packed. There are also little call-out boxes with various definitions of things and little facts that relate to the month.

Reader Feedback

It’s all really well thought out and I used to love getting the highlights magazine. I think I would’ve been super stoked to get this. So what, what kind of feedback? You said you’re getting positive feedback. What are people saying about the magazine? What did their kids what speaks to their kids most? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, we, we did a big reader survey and we had a lot of response. And people pretty much loved it. A couple of things here and there that we’re gonna tweak for next year, but the games and the Can You Find are obviously really high on the list. 

You know, I think having that beautiful piece of artwork that kids can really sit there and look at for a while. You know, they just gravitate towards that. And then it’s a fun game on top of that, where they have to search and find things. It’s just like a win-win. 

They also love the craft. I mean, the craft is just blown everybody out of the water, so it’s just, it’s great.

Yeah. People love the artwork. 

Oh, we also have the saint card, which I forgot to mention, which tears out and it’s sort of a collectible that you could keep around. And I’m hoping that eventually we’ll be able to offer the collection of the year for sale so you could buy additional cards.

They’d be on a little heavier card stock. So you can keep around and almost like trading cards. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s a great idea. And it’s already on heavy paper. It’s on the same heavier weight paper as the craft. And I can see, if you really wanted to keep it, you could laminate it like other Saint cards are laminated. 

Reasonable Price

That’s exciting. So the price is reasonable for this magazine, which I really appreciate. And next year there are some other changes too. So we’ll be getting more in the magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah. So the magazine is only $19.95 for the year.

So that’s 12 issues. And we’re actually going from 20 pages, which it is currently, to 24 pages. And it’s going to have all the same great content and we’ll have the activity, the craft, the saint card, multiple game activities… 

And then we’re also bringing back, which if you were a subscriber at the very beginning, we had included a calendar of the year as an overview to help parents wrap their mind around what’s going on that month.

And we’re bringing that back in. We’ll have the month laid out for you. And then we’ll also collaborate with Nancy from Catholic Sprouts and she’s going to provide some hands-on ways to celebrate the faith that month. So for January, for instance, you know, talk about your Baptism, bring out the photos, bring out your candle and just have a concrete way to explore the faith with your kids.

What else should parents know?

Theresa Kiser: Is there anything else that you want parents to know about this magazine and about what their kids can gain from OSV Kids magazine? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, I think it’s just important that in today’s world, parents are busy…The whole magazine started because I was thinking about my own kids and how excited they got getting other magazines.

And, you know, there really wasn’t anything else like OSV Kids magazine out there; there’s nothing like truly Catholic that they could get. 

And this is presented in a fun, casual way. You know, it’s not a textbook. It’s not necessarily curriculum. I mean, it’s based off the Catechism and it’s very, very faithful to the church, but it’s, it’s fun and it’s modern art. It has illustration styles that they might see elsewhere here. Now they’re seeing it in a Catholic- based publication. 

So I want parents to know that it’s inexpensive, it’s easy, it’s a beautiful, and your kids will love it. 

Theresa Kiser: Thank you so much, Lindsey.

I’m really glad that OSV Kids is making this magazine and offering it. It is unlike anything else that’s out there and it provides so much variety and connection for the kids with the liturgical year. So thank you so much for sharing about the magazine with us today. 

More in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club

We are going to continue speaking with Lindsey about the magazine over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.

This magazine does not take submissions, as you can probably tell from our conversation. So far, OSV has connections with various authors and illustrators that they reach out to. But we are going to talk about the difference between writing for a magazine versus writing for a book and, and hear the publisher’s inside-look into how they source all this material for the magazine. 

And so if that’s something that is interesting to you, come and join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. And for now, I just want to say a huge thank you to Lindsey for joining us here. And thank you to all of our listeners!

What are your favorite OSV children’s books? Have you read the OSV Kids magazine yet?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!

Teaching Kids Scripture Through Story with author Madeleine Carroll

In today’s episode, I speak with author Madeleine Carroll about Ephraim’s Gladness, an Advent/Christmas story with message from the parable of the lost sheep. You’ll hear about:

  • An update on my new contract for a book for adults (details to come)
  • Illustration progress for upcoming book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server – in color!!
  • Timing updates for Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, 2022)
  • Insight into one-on-one manuscript critiques and personal book coaching
  • Writing question answered: What is back matter?
  • How God inspired Madeleine Carroll during a time of grief
  • How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches Scripture
  • How to WIN a copy of Ephraim’s Gladness
  • Where to find Ephraim’s Gladness
  • And more!

New Book Contract!

I have recently signed a contract for a book for adults on a personal topic I’m not ready to share yet. Unlike fiction, where you generally write the entire book upfront, this is a nonfiction book, which you query with a book proposal. Which means I have a lot of writing to do. I’m excited that this book is going to be out there (I definitely could have used it previously in my life), and but now I’m a little nervous for the writing part because it will mean some kind of raw sessions at the keyboard.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway


So as the manuscript comes together, I plan to share a little more about it. You can always sign up for my email list at theresakiser.com to make sure you don’t miss any announcements when the publisher finalizes the title, picks a publication date, and so on.

Picture Book Illustration Updates!

As far as kidlit goes, a lot of writers (and readers) sometimes wonder about the behind-the-scenes illustration/publishing process, so I’ll share some updates on my upcoming picture books:

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server illustrations are now in color! I gave my feedback to the publisher, and now the next time I will see them will be the proof, so I am just so jittery about what it will look like.

I’ve gotten an update from Holy Heroes, the publisher of my upcoming board book, Seven Gifts of Baptism. They’re expecting Seven Gifts to come out around Lent/Easter of 2022. I haven’t seen ANYTHING on this book yet, and can’t wait to see how it’s done because this manuscript had a lot of illustration notes. The illustrations are half the story for Seven Gifts of Baptism, so I’m kind of just waiting to see how the story will be told and I know they’re going to do an amazing job like they did with A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors.

Help for Writers

If you are a writing a picture book, you will be able to unlock a ton of resources and support in the Catholic Kidlit Writers’ Club, which is currently open for enrollment at a super-discounted rate, which will increase at the end of November.

What some people don’t know is that I also offer one-on-one picture book critiques via email and writing/book coaching via Zoom. I love love love reading the work of my fellow Catholic kidlit writers and helping to strengthen these big-hearted manuscripts for submission. It just makes me so happy inside to read these stories that I would never think of and are so well needed for Catholic kids.

I encourage any of you out there writing picture books to keep going and to listen to your heart. You’re writing a story that someone else may really need to read. So anyway, if you’d like some extra guidance, hop over to theresakiser.com to connect for book coaching or a critique.

Today’s Kidlit Question: What is Back Matter?

Finally, I’d like to answer a picture book question. Today’s question is: What is back matter? Back matter is the informational text/fun activity that is not part of the main text of the picture book, and is included in the back of the book for supplemental information.

You can find an example of back matter in my board book, Liturgical Colors, which includes facts on liturgical feasts and colors on the final spread. An example in a secular board book is in one that I love, Alaska Lullaby, which features facts about Alaska on its final spread. PBs for older children can include back matter as well.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server will have back matter, as does the general market PB Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert, which includes lots of information about the various backyard bird species featured in the book.

If you are writing a picture book, be sure to write and polish your back matter before submission to a publisher, as you should include it with your main text. All that said, many books do NOT include back matter, and that’s wonderful too. It completely depends on your vision for the final book on whether to include back matter or not.

An Interview with Madeline Carroll

Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce today’s interview with Madeleine Carroll, author and owner of Isaiah Books. Be sure to listen to the end for information on how to win a copy of her new Advent/Christmas book, Ephraim’s Gladness.

Theresa Kiser: Hello and welcome to the show. Madeleine we are so excited to have you here today. I’m here talking with Madeleine Carroll. She is the author of the upcoming book, Ephraim’s Gladness as well as several other beautiful children’s books. She lives in the UK, and and is here to talk about this Advent/Christmas adventure that you have for kids. 

So before we get into the book, Madeleine, tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to writing for children. 

Madeleine Carroll: Oh, thank you. Well, thank you very much for inviting me. It’s very exciting to be here. I’m very grateful. So yeah, I always loved writing stories when I was a child, and when I was being homeschooled, I always loved like English, essay, composition writing. 

Author Madeleine Carroll with her book Gifts

And then I wrote something when I was a young adult about the Resurrection and I just left it and then I trained as a Montessori teacher and a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, all around children’s formation. And then I was a nanny as well. And then I got married and I’ve got six children now, quite young. 

And one of my favorite things, being a nanny and also being one of six kids and having younger brothers was reading aloud. I loved reading aloud and my dad used to read aloud to me in the evenings, but also make up these hilarious stories.

So it’s kind of in my blood, storytelling. And, and when I’d been married for a few years and had a few children, I just decided that I’d love to actually do something with the writing and I can’t draw to save my life. So I was sort of searching out friends who were artists, and that’s how it sort of progressed from there. It was baby steps, and quite basic at the beginning, but it was a really fun journey.

Theresa Kiser: The reading aloud… with your experience, working with kids in so many different atmospheres, tell us about the impact that that has on the children. 

Impact of Reading on Children

Madeleine Carroll: I have a very chaotic household…quite loud! But it’s the thing that calms us down. In America, I don’t know if you know this author called Shirley Hughes.

She’s just a spectacular author and illustrator of children’s stories. And I grew up with her stories. It’s day-to-day normal living, fun times with the family. Ordinary events, but she just such a beautiful way of writing it. And then also her images are amazing.

So I always found when I read those stories, especially when I was a nanny…it just really calmed us all down. We’d just snuggle on the sofa and, and it was just a really beautiful experience. 

And even now I have these six children, but my fifth one has a few struggles. She has a very severe speech delay and we’re getting her assessed, but. Books! She’s just discovered that actually she can sit still for books. She loves books about whales. And it’s kind of really opened up an avenue, which I thought developmentally delayed as she, as she couldn’t find, but it’s quite worked a miracle as well.

It’s so beautiful to see how it touches hearts of everybody. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s beautiful. That’s a great gift to be able to have that. 

How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Teaches Scripture

You were inspired, then, to create these books. What led you to this particular story of Ephraim’s Gladness? 

Madeleine Carroll: Yes. So I’m a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a really beautiful formation for children.

And one of its main themes is developing this relationship with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And we are his sheep.

I trained for a while and then I taught in a little atrium near our house where my children go. But at the moment I’m not teaching. It’s busy at home, but a lot of my children go and my little girl, the three-year-old has got these struggles.

She went to the toddler atrium and for a while, and it really helped. It was just peaceful. And she loves the Bible. She holds it up. 

So the big thing in atrium is actually that you direct the children’s straight to the Scripture, straight to the authenticity of God’s word. So storybooks are not used so much in like the level one, two, and three atrium. 

But this whole idea of the Good Shepherd, wanting our children to see Jesus as loving. And there are so many beautiful images of the sheep over Jesus’s shoulders. 

Message of the Lost Sheep at Christmas

When earlier in the year just gone, I lost a friend unfortunately. She died, and I was working out in my head. I was just working through the whole process in my head and Ephraim’s Gladness is sort of this whole take on the Good Shepherd. Sorry, the shepherds that would go to the Nativity and find Jesus, but also the story of the lost sheep. 

So the shepherd who lost his sheep, he had a hundred, he lost one. He went off to find it. Then he wanted to go and celebrate with his friends.

Okay. So he takes a sheep back home. He puts it in the pen. He’s calling them all by name, you know. So it’s all this take on Scripture, but in my own words. And then he finds it, puts it in his pen, and he’s like, “I’m going to have a party now with my friends.” And he can’t find his friends.

He sees shepherds a way ahead of him, heading off to Bethlehem because of what’s going on.

So he follows them and then he finds the baby Jesus and all his friends are all there. Baby Jesus is in a cradle, a manger. 

But at the very beginning of the book, the shepherd Ephraim. He struggles sometimes with his prayer life. Like sometimes he’s just dry like I was, sort of in this struggle time, and he’s just dry, and it said he persevered in his prayer come rain or shine.

And so one of the images in the book shows the struggle on his face. So I was in my head thinking, “I’m just going to keep persevering through this stage, which is a bit dark.” And then you keep on praying, keep on persevering, no matter what you feel. And then at the end you have this amazing joy finding this Baby who is the King of the Universe.

And Ephraim was glad. So that’s how it kind of came to be in my head. 

Virtue of Perseverence

Theresa Kiser: That’s a beautiful virtue to teach: the perseverance. I’ve been told that: you make your plan for desolation while you’re in consolation, so that when you’re in desolation, you continue on doing what you planned to do while you were consoled.

And just that “keeping on, keeping on” is so important. And instilling that in children’s hearts! I’m glad that you’re doing that. And combining the lost sheep imagery with Christmas. I haven’t seen that done, but it makes a lot of sense. So that’s exciting. 

And I was saying it wrong. It’s Ephraim’s Gladness. How did you say it?

Madeleine Carroll: I called him “Ephraim.” I didn’t even know how you would say in Hebrew, really. But I just call him Ephraim and I don’t know, might be right. You might be right. 

Theresa Kiser: Who knows? The parent reading it to the child is pronouncing it correctly however they do it. Well, that’s beautiful.

And I loved hearing what you said about the Scripture, how in the atrium, you’re going directly to Scripture and at home, this book, it’s pointing them to Scripture too, just through more of an adaptation sort of way.

What age is this book for? 

Madeleine Carroll: I always wonder about that.

At the back of the book, we have the Scripture for the Nativity story and the lost sheep Scripture as well at the back, so that parents can then after the story, they can direct it and read the Word of God straight to the children. 

So the pictures are very suitable for a young age: three, four…because they’re quite endearing, gorgeous sheep. And you’ve got these pens and this really beautiful imagery of the stars and stuff. 

So even if you paraphrase the story, you can read it to the younger ones, but I often aim it around three to eight years. 

Like that whole sort of section. That’s what I do with most of my stories. I sort of say in that age bracket, but then you’ve obviously got the Scripture in the back so it’s kind of good for that older age group too, because then they can read what it actually says in the Bible. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s really useful to include it right there. You don’t even have to go look it up. I love that. So what message do you want our listeners to take away from our conversation today? 

What’s Your Message for Listeners? Joy!

Madeleine Carroll: So I suppose: just the joy of books and the joy of storytelling! Also just the joy of making up your own stories. And this is just a credit to my dad. He passed away a few years ago, but I was one of these six kids and I was in the younger age bracket and my mom and my older siblings would go off some evenings to these. meetings in the parish. 

And I was never old enough to go, sulking at home. But my dad and I would just lie in the bed and he would make up these absolutely amazing stories that had me in fits of laughter. And I suppose that’s what got me through, you know, that grumpy stage. So I don’t know. If you have a storytelling bone in your body, go with it, I’d say.

And also read lots and lots of picture books to children! I just love picture books, but seriously. I just think they’re great.

Theresa Kiser: I completely agree. And you are helping parents do that because Ephraim’s Gladness is not your first book. You have several other books on your website. And what is that website? How can listeners find those other books, which are beautiful by the way? 

Where to Find the Book

The covers… there’s a lot of nature that I can see on the covers of your books. I love the aesthetic that you have. And I think that, I honestly think this is just a personal opinion, but I just I think that the art is just as important in the story. 

And that’s what makes picture books so powerful is they team up the beautiful texts and the beautiful art together.

It can just have such a strong impact on a heart and can just stay with you. So I really liked the, the aesthetic that your books have and the heart that you write with. So where can listeners find more of that?

Madeleine Carroll: So my website is www.IsaiahBooks.co.uk. And I am a storyteller; I’m not very tech savvy at all. The website currently is that some of my books have been published by other publishers. And then I set up my publishing company, myself and I have been printing them myself as well. So what the website does at the moment, I’m sort of branching out as well. At the moment, it directs you to the distributors for the particular books. So they’re all the books are there. And then you get directed to where you can buy them. 

But yes, the art is brilliant. And I find when I find an art that…I love just going through artists work actually on Instagram and stuff. And when you find art that fits your words, it’s like so much joy!

Theresa Kiser: It’s like in Ratatouille when the two flavors come together!

So check out Madeleine’s books over on her website and she has been so generous as to offer a copy of her book to a listener. So check out the show notes for some information on how to join that giveaway and get an early copy of Ephraim’s Gladness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

And if you have been struck by the heart with which Madeleine’s writing. She has a lot more to share with us about her publishing. She has experienced traditional publishing, self-publishing, has created her own publishing house, and has written a number of books for children. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club, where we will be diving a little deeper into her experience, where she has some tips that she can share with you from working with children, writing for them, and publishing in a variety of different ways. 

So there’s a lot of knowledge that she has, and we’ll be able to learn a bit from her there. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club and check out the giveaway to get your hands on a copy of her book.

Thank you so much for joining us. Madeleine, this has been a blessing. 

Madeleine Carroll: Thank you so much. It’s been great fun. 

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

What strikes you most about Madeleine’s story? How has the message of the lost sheep touched your life?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!

Engaging Kids with the Holy Mass with author Jennifer Sharpe

In today’s episode, I speak with author Jennifer Sharpe about My Interactive Mass Book, published with Ascension Kids. You’ll hear about:

  • Last episode’s giveaway winner, and this week’s giveaway
  • Illustration progress for upcoming book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
  • Jennifer’s inspiration from a neighbor in church to publish her work
  • Her unique publication path
  • Why interactive features of a Mass book matter
  • Where to find My First Interactive Mass Book!

Engaging Kids with the Mass with Jennifer Sharpe, author of My First Interactive Mass Book

First, Thank You!

First off, I want to express a HUGE thank you to all of you who have joined me in this new podcast and website journey.

This is a passion project, and the podcasting is new to me. So I’ve been incredibly touched by those of you who have expressed your enthusiasm on social media, on my website, and with me in person.

Thank you to those who have listened to the trailer or episode 1 with Kristina Lahr last time, and special thanks to those who have taken the time to rate or review the podcast as it gets going. That means a lot, and I really appreciate it.

Fellow Writers

To me, the most exciting part about all this is meeting my fellow Catholic children’s book writers. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again that this space is for those who write for the Catholic market, but also for Catholic writers whose books are for the general market as well. 

We are just getting started here on the podcast but it has been a real blessing meeting other Catholic writers, and I’m talking about both the guests on my show as well as listeners and those who have enrolled for 2022 in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. It’s a small market, and there hasn’t always been a chance to meet, connect with, and support each other, but now there is, and I’m really enjoying it. So thank you to everyone who has been a part of that so far.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server Update!

Every once in a while, I might share something about my own projects as well, and I’m super excited right now about my upcoming picture book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server which is coming out in 2022 with Our Sunday Visitor. My editor just recently gave me sneak-peek at some of the illustrations, and I can’t even tell you how exciting it is to see my picture book text brought to life by the illustrator. 

I don’t have final say on the illustrations, so it’s a bit nerve-wracking, but I’ve been very pleased with how the publisher has taken my thoughts seriously and with how the illustrator is bring Arthur to the page. 

So I am looking forward to the day early next year, when your kids might to able to meet this clumsy and lovable little boy who just wants to serve God on the altar, but whose clumsiness continues to block his path. This is a book for all of us who want to serve God but have that *one thing* that seems to keep us from doing that well. So Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server comes face-to-face with that challenge in this book and we’ll see how it turns out, if he gets what he wants so badly, or if this flaw which is part of himself separates him from God.

So that book is underway with OSV Kids coming out Spring 2022!

Giveaway Tips and Tricks

And speaking of books going forth into the world, congratulations to our last giveaway winner who has won a signed copy of Kristina Lahr’s Candle Great Feast. We have another giveaway at the end of this episode so tuned for that, and in general, if you like free children’s books, just keep tabs on this podcast because I expect giveaways to be a regular thing, and this being a new podcast, there’s not a ton of competition yet. So keep up with the episodes and do your friends a favor and tell them about this opportunity, because I don’t know about you, but free and discounted books are my kryptonite. I love them, and I want your families to be able to experience the stories of the guests we have on this show.

Interview with Jennifer Sharpe

So this episode is about a book I’ve been watching for a while. It’s been on my wishlist, and now this last year, Ascension Kids picked it up, and it’s awesome. So I’m going to welcome Jennifer Sharpe onto the show, and learn about this unique and helpful Mass book for kids.

Theresa Kiser: Hello, Jennifer. And welcome to the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. I’m so excited to talk about My First Interactive Mass Book with you today. This is such a cool book that you’ve made and I would love to hear about it. But first, before we dive into the book, What about you and what led you to this book?

What led you to put it all together? Because you envisioned the activities, the wheel, the lift the flap. So how did this all come to be? 

Jennifer Sharpe: That’s a great question. Well, first thank you for having me on your podcast and super excited to talk with you about the book today. Um, Yeah, so a little bit about myself.

Conversion to Mass Book

 I think my background is kind of relevant to my whole story with this book. I am a convert. I actually grew up a devout Protestant and we, my family, we didn’t convert until 2017. So relatively recent convert. And it was just shortly after we converted that I started thinking about writing some books for kids. Basically the reason for that is because I wanted to share with my own kids that profound love and understanding that I had figured out from my conversion, with the Eucharist. You know, realizing that Jesus really is present in the Eucharist. 

And so I decided, well, what if I could write some books that would help my own kids to understand these things? And from there, it just kind of blossomed into writing books that are for all children, all Catholic children.

So, yeah, that’s kind of what led me to write the book. And then as far as the flaps and the wheels and stuff, that’s just the kind of style of book that I tend to like to buy for my kids. I feel like it’s very interactive and it’s engaging. 

Request from a Neighbor

I knew for one of my daughters in particular that it would really help her in the Mass. She was the one of my kids that was struggling a little bit to pay attention and understand what was going on. So I made her a file folder with the little– I laminated some stuff and the priest vestments and stuff and all of that, and put it on there and I gave it to her at Mass and a lady behind me was like, “What if you made that into a book that all of us moms could use?” 

And I was like, I don’t know how I could do that. That seems hard. But I told her I’d give it a try. And so that’s kind of how things got started. 

Theresa Kiser: Wow. That is amazing. So really, so I’m surprised how recently this was that you had that conversion and then you just kind of jumped into seeing what your children needed to understand what was happening and to participate. And you made it with such creativity.

That’s really striking, and I’m really moved by that. So once your neighbor at Mass suggested to make it available to more children, how did you think about making that happen?

Jennifer Sharpe: Basically, I made it for my daughter. So I literally took a Manila file folder and I cut it up. I printed out the basic parts of the Mass, and got some clip art and threw it on there with some glue. And that’s what my friend had seen that had sat behind me in Mass. And then at that time, I had already started publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing, which at the time was called Createspace.

Limits of Self-Publishing

So she knew that I had some familiarity with publishing, but this particular book, My First Interactive Mass Book, because it does have the flaps and the wheel and all of that stuff, it didn’t seem possible for me to make even as a self-published book, just because it had so many movable parts. And with self-publishing, there’s a limitation of your creativity and what you can do.

So I had to think about it, not in terms of what this book could be. Cause I mean, I had big dreams and that’s what I have now is what I knew it could be. But I had to think about how can I make this available to people because I could see that people wanted it, but within the limitations of Kindle Direct Publishing.

So that’s just kind of what I did is I played around with it on my computer and then I would get copies sent me and try it out with my kids and see like what worked and what didn’t work…just trial and error. 

Theresa Kiser: I love your dedication to making the tool with excellence in, in spite of the limitations that you had as far as what was available through KDP or Createspace.

So once you created the book, what does it actually contain? What is in it for parents who don’t know? What is My First Interactive Mass Book all about? 

My First Interactive Mass Book

Jennifer Sharpe: Okay. So that’s a great question. So it’s basically a book that is meant to help your child to encounter Jesus at the Mass. Oftentimes we bring our kids to Mass, especially little ones, you know, the toddler/preschool years can struggle to understand what’s happening there.

They may start to memorize the prayers. They know when to sit, stand and kneel, but they’re not understanding that we actually are meeting Jesus, you know, the God of the universe in the Mass. And so that’s something I wanted to bring out in the book. And so basically it has two ways that it’s interactive.

1. In the physical sense, it’s interactive. It has flaps that they can lift to see the symbolism in the Mass. It has a wheel they can turn to change the priest’s vestments to the correct liturgical color. It has tracks they can trace and it has “can you spot?” So in that sense, it draws the child in. Some want to use the book. It gets them excited about going to Mass. So that’s the first way. 

2. But the most important way I feel is that it’s also helping them to understand that symbolism and the encounter that they’re actually having with Jesus in the Eucharist. During the liturgy of the Eucharist, the book–I’m hoping–really brings out and down to the child’s level the idea that bread and wine is being changed into God. I mean, I think it’s mind blowing. And when I converted, I had these kinds of profound moments where I was in the Mass because as a Protestant, I had no experience with that kind of liturgy or with any kind of idea about it being anything more than a memorial. And bread and grape juice was what we had.

But when I saw what Catholics believed, and I saw it in action, seeing everyone process up and receive Jesus, I thought “This is mindblowing. This is insane. People need to know about this, that God comes from Heaven to visit us.” It’s just insane [read: wonderful] to me. And that’s what I wanted for my kids is to be able to understand that.

And so the second way I feel like the book is interactive is that through the flaps, through the words that are being said, with what’s written and the prayers and all the things together come together to help the child really have an encounter with Jesus. So that what the book is about.

Who should read this book?

It’s geared toward– I say ages three and up, mainly because I know littler kids sometimes might rip the flaps and I don’t want parents to be disappointed. It is very sturdy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very sturdy book, but little kids, sometimes they’re just, they’re going to rip it. But if you have a kiddo who’s mature, I think you can definitely use it with younger.

And I’ve seen on the reviews. People have said they use it with younger kids too. 

Theresa Kiser: I think that my favorite flap in the book has to be the flap that you open at the Transubstantiation, where it shows, you know, the bread and wine and you lift the flap and it’s Christ on the cross. That just makes it so clear what’s happening.

And you know, I haven’t seen anything like that before, but it makes so much sense to do to present it that way. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah, I think it’s incredibly powerful for kids. And there is research done about how actually lifting flaps and movable parts like that actually help the children to absorb the information.

Also available in Spanish!

So I just think I’m so blessed to have been able to work with Ascension, to make my product into what I dreamed that it could be from that first little paperback, which was only just a fraction of what I knew the book could be, but at least it was out there, you know, and getting started.

Changing Lives

It’s just such a blessing to be able to have made it into what it is. And that I know I get a feedback, a lot that parents are saying that it’s really changing the lives of their kids. 

Theresa Kiser: So yeah, it’s hard for kids, especially who are just more wiggly who need some kind of physical motion outlet… and in the middle of a pew, it can be difficult to get that.

But with the interactive features of this book, I can see how that little bit is like, okay, “I’m doing something physical, I’m moving this wheel, I’m lifting the flap” and it gets out that energy and allows the mind to participate. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah, absolutely. 

A Remarkable Story

Theresa Kiser: How did it get picked up by Ascension? 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah. I don’t know if this happens for other people. 

I know it doesn’t happen in general in the publishing world. I don’t know if it’s more common among the Catholic community, because the Catholic market is relatively small. There’s a limited amount of publishers and within the children’s market, it’s even smaller.

So maybe it does happen more often. So I can tell you what happened to me, but I don’t know if it’s repeatable. 

First I made it on Kindle Direct Publishing. I made a paperback copy and it had removable pieces for the different interactive elements.

So there were definitely flaws with that copy. It was popular, but there were things that were not the best about it, just because of the limitations of using self- publishing. They only allow certain books sizes. At that time, you could only do paperback. And if you wanted to spend a lot of money and have a lot of inventory, then you could maybe do something in a board book.

But for me, in what my budget was limited. So I made the first version and I asked 30 of my friends if they would start to promote it on social media. And I would just send out little blurbs and ask them to share, and I would share in different groups on Facebook and things like that.

And I did a couple of speaking engagements, basically just trying to market the book on my own. I didn’t really know what I was doing. So that’s why I’m saying, like, I don’t know if I have a lot of good advice about it. But basically after doing that, the book had around 50 reviews on Amazon.

And from there, once you get to about 50 reviews, Amazon’s algorithm likes your book more. And so it’ll start raising it up on the searches. And then the more copies you sell the higher it goes on the searches. So as it got onto those first couple of pages on Amazon, Ascension took notice.

They decided they were going to start a kid’s line. Cause if you remember, a couple of years ago, essentially they didn’t even sell children’s books. They decided they were going to start a children’s line and they wanted to do a second edition of the book and they wanted that to be part of their launching of their children’s line.

Too Good to Be True?

But when I got the email, I have to say, I was kind of like, is this a fake email? I actually went to the website and looked up the person who had emailed me to see if he was actually an employee there. Cause I was so surprised by it, but yeah, so they ended up just asking me if I would do a second edition.

Theresa Kiser: It had to feel like amazing. Once you realized it wasn’t a scam. 

Jennifer Sharpe: It was very odd. And I guess my story is a little unique because like I said, I wrote the book because someone asked me to. And that’s kind of how my journey as a writer has been. It hasn’t really been about because I want to.write so many books or that I want to get my name out there, build my brand, and all of that. It’s like I wrote it because somebody asked me to do it. And then so many more people were saying how much they liked it, but I thought I should get this out to more people. And so it was exciting. Like I came upstairs and I said to my teens–I have two teens. They were probably like 13 and 14 at the time– And I said, I just got an email from Ascension. And they’re like, what? 

For me, it was also hard in some ways, because I knew that by going with traditional publishing, I would be letting go of a lot of control and I was afraid like, would the content be what I wanted to be in the end?

Because I had no idea really what it would be like to work with a publisher. So, but it was, it was definitely exciting. Yeah. 

Mass-Bag Durable

Theresa Kiser: And how do you feel now that it’s out the way that they did it? It’s beautiful. It’s the colors are great. It’s sturdy, like you said. The wheel… This is Mass-bag durable.

And so how does it feel now being able to see that people can take this to Mass with them? Children can use it and it’s gonna hold up and it doesn’t require prep work. How do you feel now?

Jennifer Sharpe: Oh, I’m completely happy with the choice that I made working with Ascension. And they wonderful listening to me and my ideas, and making sure that it was exactly what I had envisioned.

So yeah, it was good.

Giveaway

Theresa Kiser: That is awesome. Well, we’re going to hear more from Jennifer about writing and publishing in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. So if you want to hear more from her about that and her very unique path to publication with a traditional publisher, then head over to the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.

And Ascension Kids is giving away two copies of My First Interactive Mass Book to some listeners. So go ahead and check out the giveaway information in the show notes. So you can join us and try to get your copy for a child in your life. 

And so I want to say thank you so much, Jennifer, for talking with us today and sharing about this really cool book that you’ve created and it has now come out with Ascension.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me Theresa.

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

The best way to support the Catholic kidlit creator you heard from today is to buy their books, leave reviews, and spread the word on social media and in person.

If you want to write meaningful children’s books with a Catholic heart, check out the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club at CatholicKidlit.com

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

How do you keep your kids engaged in the Holy Mass? Have you tried Jennifer Sharpe’s book?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!