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Author Interview: Ruth Maille

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Ruth Maille, author of The Power of Kindness: Through the Eyes of Children.

FQ: You mentioned in the Introduction that The Power of Kindness was born out of a day at your daycare/preschool. Would you tell us a little about the discussion you had with the youngsters and what made you think it was a good basis for a book?

MAILLE: My children and I love to explore different topics during our snack time. One day, I asked them what kindness meant. That conversation evolved into where they see kindness in their world and how they can make a difference. Their answers were delightfully surprising. I could see each child's answer inspiring the other children in the class. Children teaching children, helping one another to create a better world. I had to share that message.

FQ: Your website is impressive! You even have an Orbit plush. Do you have a background in marketing?

MAILLE: I have no background in marketing. For 30+ years, I have owned and operated my licensed daycare/preschool located in my home, and my "marketing" has been strictly word of mouth. Learning online marketing has been the biggest challenge for me on my journey to becoming an author. It has been a real eye-opener. I will credit the marketing savvy to the many years of selling Girl Scout cookies in my youth and then as a scout leader for my daughter's troop.

FQ: Along the same lines, are you also a songwriter? Please tell our readers about the process of writing/producing your song "Kindness is the Way!" It's super cute and upbeat!

MAILLE: I am not a songwriter. In my preschool, I use stories and songs daily. With my 1st book, I had Orbit hiding on all the pages. That helped the children scan the pages and take in the illustrations and the story. I wanted something different for this book. Since I love music and music is a great way to learn, I thought a song would be fun. I went onto Fiveer and found a beautiful singer and songwriter. We worked together to come up with the words for the song. I wanted the music to be upbeat and catchy so children would remember it. I have received a lot of great feedback. The children tell me it makes them smile, lifts their spirits, and reminds them that kindness really does matter.

FQ: There are lots of great suggestions of kindness that children in your story offer to Orbit. Were these real suggestions that your students came up with?

MAILLE: Every suggestion came from the children. The first two were suggestions from the little girl on the cover of The Power of Positivity. Natalie loves when her mom and dad go on a "date night." Her grandparents drive an hour and a half each way to take care of them. She also had recently rescued a dog, Reba, from Puerto Rico. She knew that by her family adopting Reba, they saved her life.

Another example came from an experience in our daycare. We had a new little girl missing her mom and dad and would cry every day. One day I asked her dad what her favorite song was. He told me it was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Anytime she started to cry, the children would sing her song to her, and eventually, there were more smiles than tears. Truth be told, I could have written a much longer story because the children kept coming up with so many examples!

FQ: Kindness is so important and something that many people seem to ignore. What can parents do to help their children understand the Power of kindness and the need to spread it to others?

MAILLE: Children need to learn kindness early in their lives. Research with children has determined that showing kindness creates positive changes in the brain and that selfless acts provide physical and emotional benefits to help develop well-rounded children.

Being kind is a powerful thing. One act of kindness can change a person's day and sometimes life. Plus, kindness is contagious in a good way!! I encourage parents to notice and acknowledge when their child has performed an act of kindness. The more acknowledgment and appreciation is shown for acts of kindness, the more people of all ages will continue to do those acts. Over time, being kind becomes second nature.

FQ: I understand that you used Kickstarter for your book. What was that experience like? Is it something you'd recommend to other authors?

MAILLE: There are so many factors that come into play when choosing how to launch your book. I think crowdfunding has many benefits; When you crowdfund your book, not only do you have more funds to create high-quality books, but you offer your readers something they can't get when they buy your book online. Another benefit is that you can capture the attention of the larger mainstream media, therefore reaching more people.

There are also disadvantages; Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing format. This means if your funding goal is not met, you receive nothing from the pledges, and those who backed your campaign are not charged anything. There are months of hard work preparing for a Kickstarter campaign. Building your following and creating the campaign means learning new technology, researching pricing, and choosing the right rewards. Once the campaign is underway. The work continues with answering emails, keeping connected, and posting updates. If the campaign is successful and funded, you then send your book to print, order rewards, order shipping materials, and finally deliver the rewards to all your backers.

Looking back, I am glad I chose Kickstarter to launch my book. It takes a lot of time and can be super scary. However, I worked with an incredible crowdfunding consultant, Lisa Ferland, who taught me so much about Kickstarter. I would recommend any author team up with Lisa because her knowledge and ability to help you create a successful Kickstarter campaign are well worth it.

FQ: When you do readings of The Power of Kindness, do you have children interrupt you with their own suggestions of kindness?

MAILLE: Yes, the children interrupt all the time. I love it for so many reasons. I love when they see themselves in the story and relate to the characters. When suggestions in the book trigger a memory, they want to share it with everyone. It is beautiful to watch. It empowers them, it helps them feel like they are making a difference, and they are.

FQ: I see that you published a coloring book, The Power of Positivity Coloring Book. At 116 pages, there must be a lot of images in it for children to color. Would you tell our readers a bit about it, what they can expect, what age it is geared to, etc.

MAILLE: I have published a coloring book and an activity book for The Power of Positivity. The coloring book is geared to 3-5-year-olds. They are simple pictures that make it easy for children to color. The activity book is geared to 5-8-year-olds. It is filled with word search, crossword puzzles, seek and find, mazes, unscramble the words, and more complicated coloring pages. There is also an activity book for The Power of Kindness with similar activities to promote kindness. At the end of this activity book, there is a Kindness Matters Chart that is filled with various acts of kindness. Children can keep track of how many acts they accomplish, and if they email me a copy of the entire chart completed, I will send them a small reward in the mail.

FQ: For both your coloring book and activity book, did you work with the same illustrator that you use for your books? Was the experience similar to working on a book?

MAILLE: Yes, for The Power of Kindness, I worked with Pardeep and his wife, Priyam. All of the illustrations were taken from the storybook. When illustrators create the pages, they use a lot of layering. Priyam takes the different layers and separates them, makes them black and white in some cases, and extracts them from the page. I created all the activities, using technology to make word searches, mazes, etc. I want my coloring book and activity book to enhance the storybook so the children are still learning about kindness in various ways while doing the activities and having fun.

My next book, The Power of Gratitude, is complete and available on my website and Amazon. The Power of Gratitude is an ABC book based on my research with children ages four to eight years old. Our discussions centered on their understanding of the concept of gratitude and discovering the things for which they feel most grateful. What you will see in these pages are ideas and topics that many of us don't usually notice, and therefore might take for granted. Once we look for opportunities to be grateful for, we begin to see them more often and become second nature.

The Power of series will have books focusing on essential character traits that children can use in their everyday lives. Other topics I am considering are curiosity, patience, mindfulness, and honesty. Every child has superpowers within them, and my books help each child to find their superpower and focus it on making the world a better place. The children learn they can make a difference one step at a time.

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