Today on the blog, we get to ask my friend, #kidlit author & clinical social worker, Lauren Kerstein questions about her new book HOME FOR A WHILE–illustrated by Natalia Moore / Magination Press–which releases today! (Cue confetti!)
Check out this **STARRED REVIEW**
HOME FOR A WHILE “takes apart the fostering experience as few books have-from the newcomer’s point of view…VERDICT Most books with this much purpose fall down on the lessons. This one transcends them, for a true story of how a home happens.”
— School Library Journal
Happy Book birthday to HOME FOR A WHILE, Lauren. Everything about this book is so huggable!
Lauren Kerstein: Awww! Thank you so much!
Q1. I love your YouTube reading of HOME FOR A WHILE, and the activities you share about how to take charge of your feelings. What big feelings have you experienced as HOME FOR A WHILE went from idea seed to manuscript to this Book Launch?
Lauren Kerstein: I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the reading and activities. Wow! I must admit, I have had a lot of BIG feelings. This book poured out of my therapist’s heart. The first twenty or so times I read it, I either teared up or outright cried. I can finally read it without crying. On the flip side, I have experienced so much joy watching this book—this tribute to all of the amazing children and families with whom I’ve worked—come to life. I am excited for the world to meet Calvin!
Q2. I remember last Sept. when we celebrated your second Rosie the Dragon & Charlie book, you told us HOME FOR A WHILE is “straight from your therapist’s heart.” What did you mean by that?
Lauren Kerstein: For years, I worked with children who were in and out of foster care, or who were on the brink of foster care. I watched them struggle to make meaning out of their worlds and of themselves. I wanted to write a book that not only paid homage to them, but also offered a way to help ALL children see their strengths. I hoped I could add some light to dark times, and highlight the incredible resilience and fortitude of the children with whom I’d worked. I also wanted to offer emotion regulation strategies that any child might embrace. Finally, I worked with wonderful, caring foster parents, and I wanted to show the positive ways a person can impact another.
Q3. Given that this is such a unique approach to an important topic, and Magination Press, the children’s imprint of the American Psychological Association, makes sure their books include relevant back matter written by experts or professionals, how did you decide what back matter to include?
Lauren Kerstein: For the first time in a book by Magination Press, the back matter is only available online. Magination Press decided to give the text the breathing space it needed and offer the supplemental information on their website. I decided to focus on emotion regulation in my back matter. We all need help managing our emotions (especially right now) and that felt most helpful and relevant to me.
Q4. How is your work as a clinical social worker similar to writing picture books? How is it different? (and HOW do you balance your time?)
Lauren Kerstein: I love this question! I actually find that there are a lot of commonalities between therapy and writing.
As an author and a therapist, I need to:
- Identify and build on strengths.
- Dig deeper into the heart of the conflict.
- Look beyond the surface of the character/person to their true selves.
- Think about what growth looks like for that specific person/character.
- Harness creativity.
- Be open to feedback.
- Embrace flexibility.
- Help the character/person see the amazing qualities they bring to the proverbial table.
- Identify the back story.
- Individualize the process for each and every person/book.
- I also love to ask my clients a developmentally appropriate version of the following questions: If you were reading about this situation in a fiction book, what would you want the character to do? What would you like to see happen? Looking at it through this lens really seems to help.
Balance: Ha! Although my ability to achieve some level of balance has improved, I must admit (in case it wasn’t already obvious) that I’m a bit of a workaholic. But, I’m lucky because I really enjoy my work! In reality, I don’t think of balance as a destination, I think of it as a journey. Here are some strategies that help me on this important journey:
- I have been slowly decreasing my private practice so that I can increase my writing.
- I have a rule that I can’t add something to my plate unless I take something off. (This works about 45% of the time.)
- I deem Wednesdays writing-task only days (Wacky Writing Wednesday) and ensure that I leave about half of the day for creation or revision.
- I try to “touch” my writing every day, even if it is only for a moment. Connecting on some level with my writing makes the day feel brighter. I often use a 30 or 60-minute sand timer and then either work on ideas, revise, create, research, or review past ideas to see which ones I’d like to explore next.
- I think of Thursdays as private practice catch-up days.
- I try to schedule clients only a few days a week and protect other days.
- I make sure to exercise every single day.
- I take a 14-minute nap to recharge if I need it.
- I read wonderful books in a lovely bubble bath every single night!
- I try to meditate for the last few minutes of my bath.
- Although I sign into social media, I don’t scroll. I use my trusty sand timer or a stopwatch to limit how much time I’ll allow myself to be on Twitter, FB, and Instagram.
- Finally, I never used to watch much television, but during the pandemic, my family and I have been watching a variety of entertaining shows together. It is wonderful to have that designated, predictable time to relax together!
So the answer to your question is that I try to find balance by avoiding rabbit holes, and incorporating enriching activities into each day
Q5. What do you hope readers—young and old–will take away from this book?
Lauren Kerstein: I hope readers will walk away with a new perspective—a paradigm shift of sorts. I hope that instead of focusing on their weaknesses, they will see their strengths. And I hope readers will learn that all feelings are okay. It is important to let ourselves feel, even though it is painful and hard. Finally, I hope readers see that although we can’t control tough times, we can control the strategies we employ in the midst of our struggles. We can all be superheroes like Calvin! And finally, may we all have a Maggie in our lives! (Fun fact: I chose the name Maggie because we had the most amazing, intuitive, sweet, and loving rescue dog named Maggie. She passed away, but her unconditional love will remain in our hearts forever.)
Q6. What do you hope the future holds for Calvin?
Lauren Kerstein: I hope that even if Calvin is only with Maggie for a while, his newfound trust, emotion regulation strategies, and ability to see his strengths will support and bolster him wherever he might go.
HOME FOR A WHILE “…is as much a model for foster parents as it is a story to provide validation of foster children’s experiences…Gentle and wise—especially as a read for foster parents.”
Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who currently lives in Colorado with her husband, their two dragons…er, daughters, and their rescue dog. Lauren is the author of the Rosie the Dragon and Charlie picture book series (Illustrated by Nate Wragg/Two Lions). Her latest picture book, HOME FOR A WHILE (Illustrated by Natalia Moore/Magination Press) moves into shelves February 2, 2021. Lauren also writes books in her field. Lauren is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek, a judge with Rate Your Story, runs a critique business, and is a long-time member of 12×12 and SCBWI.
Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts.
Thank you so much for joining us, Lauren!
#BookGiveaway news: Lauren would love to give away a copy of HOME FOR A WHILE plus some cool PB swag! To enter RT this post on Twitter, Instagram and/or FB, and be sure to tag us both. For bonus points, and another chance at the giveaway, add a comment below and tell us who you’ll be reading this book to.
Next up on the blog:
Feb. 9th: Part 2 of Room 313’s Blog Takeover–> WRITING POETRY!
Feb. 16th : #Kidlit author Sandra Nickel talks about her out-of-this-world picture book biography:
Last but not least–this Thursday,
in honor of all the
I LOVE TO READ events and #WRADs,
my first record,
“If You Love Books and You Know It“
Stay tuned. (Literally!)