Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Ruth Maille, author of The Power of Positivity: The ABC's of a Pandemic.
FQ: Your background is in running a licensed family daycare/preschool. How has the Pandemic impacted your business? How do you stay positive during such a difficult time?
MAILLE: The Pandemic has affected my daycare in so many ways, besides the obvious new rules and regulations. I remember the first week I was off. I was sad, lonely, depressed; I had all these thoughts like, is this what retirement will look like? Does my world consist of only my kids and my daycare families? As much as I loved that part of my life, there had to be more. But what? I felt like I had no control over my life, and I didn't. It took about two weeks to shake those thoughts. It was when I embraced that time off, let go of the control that's when I began to see it differently.
I have always been a positive person, looking for that silver lining even in my most difficult times, so I embrace the time off. It had been 30 years of owning my business, and I never had more than two weeks off per year. So I wrote a list of what I wanted to accomplish and began checking off the items one at a time. One of those things was to write and publish a children's book.
FQ: You're also a certified, licensed parent-relationship coach. Would you tell our readers a bit about this training and how it helps you when working with both parents and children?
MAILLE: My training has helped me to understand children at a deeper level. Most people think children misbehave on purpose. However, they react in an instinctual way, out of fear or frustration caused by the unknown.
I help them to recognize their emotions and the effects of their emotional responses on those around them. I help them to work through their feelings instead of acting out.
I have helped them use this tool: ask yourself, What if the other person is not misbehaving? What if there is a good reason why someone, children, and adults are doing what they are doing? Then approach it with curiosity and listen to learn. This curiosity has helped children and adults to understand one another.
FQ: Have you been able to run your daycare during lockdown? What impact have all the changes to daily life (mask-wearing, social distancing) had on the children you work with/care for?
MAILLE: I was shut down for over several months. During that time, I attended many zooms to learn about this virus and help my families. I knew some of the new rules would not be easy. Social distancing and mask-wearing were probably the hardest.
One of the beauties of family daycare is, everyone becomes a part of each other's families. Lot's of love, hugging, and support. So helping the children understand that while we fight this virus, we need to give each other space, wash hands, cover mouths, etc was a challenge, especially when you have 2-5 year olds.
Wearing a mask is one of the hardest things. Although the children in my care are not required to wear a mask, adults are. Masks tend to be scary at first because children read smiles. They rely on social clues through body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, or words. So being extra aware of that has been very important.
FQ: The Power of Positivity is your first book. What inspired you to write it?
MAILLE: The inspiration for my book was my daycare children. I have always wanted to write a children's book, and I have dabbled in it a few times but never knew enough about publishing actually to move forward with the story.
During this Pandemic, my daycare/preschool was closed during phase one. I wanted my daycare children to feel connected to one another,so we would do daily zooms together. We would read books, exercise, show and tell, circle time, and give them some sort of assignment to keep them busy. We would post on our facebook group sharing our creations. I found this to not only help them but me as well.
One day on the zoom, one of my children looked so sad and lost. He was missing his normal routine and his friends. I opened a conversation so that the children could share what they were feeling and what I found was that most of them were feeling the same way, sad, lonely, scared and confused. Children shouldn't have to feel these emotions.
I am a very positive person, So I started to brainstorm all the good that has come out of this difficult and challenging time. Everywhere I looked, I could find nuggets of kindness, love, and compassion for others. That is when The Power of Positivity, The ABC'S of a Pandemic, was born.
FQ: Writing a children's book about a current event is a difficult and very time-sensitive task. How long did it take you to put the book together, and did you ever feel rushed to get it published?
MAILLE: Believe it or not, writing the book was super easy. Looking back, when you believe in something or someone, in this case, the children, the words just flow. My heart was so sad that children were stressing over the uncertainty of this virus. Their lives were in chaos. Some children didn't have the vocabulary to share what they were feeling. Parents were doing the best they could but juggling distant learning, work, caring for small children at home now, worrying over finances, and not knowing what the future caused a whole new level of stress.
I know my book was something I needed to get out as soon as I could. I didn't feel rushed, but I spent every waking hour when I was not running my business to get my book published—my illustrator lives in Indonesia. Harry Aveira and I would collaborate during my evenings into the early morning hours to get the illustration done. He was an amazing man to work with; his ideas were so spot on.
I was also blessed with an excellent graphic designer, Praise Saflor who had an eye for placing the letters just right, matching color, etc. Any time I had a new idea, both Harry and Praised welcomed it.
I had a project manager April Cox. She is a self-publishing expert, so her knowledge and dedication helped to keep the project on track. She noticed things that I would never have known to look for.
FQ: I love the positive message in your book. What has been the reaction of children who read it?
MAILLE: The children have embraced looking at this Pandemic with a positive eye. When they read it repeatedly, they learn new things, see the message differently, and start to open up conversations with their parents, siblings, grandparents, and teachers, and so many more. I have even witnessed a little boy having a conversation with his friend where his friend is sharing the terrible things he remembers, and this little boy listened with empathy and then pulled out my book and pointed out the positive things that happened. It was beautiful to witness him sharing examples in my book and turning it into a conversation of joy and happiness.
FQ: Orbit is such a cute and clever character and he really ties the whole story together. How did he come about?
MAILLE: While working on the cover, we tried to find the perfect picture to represent the book, encompassing the message, and speaking to both girls and boys. The image is from the O is for Optimistic page. We took that picture and made adjustments, so both boys and girls were represented. The cover took over two weeks to design.
Loving the way this mascot turned out, I decided that it will be the mascot for my future books. Luckily, I found a fantastic company in the Netherlands that makes custom mascot costumes. I am all about fun, and I want my book signings to be as exciting for the children as it is for me.
Then I realized that the mascot needed a name. Simply posting the query on Facebook led to a number of all good names, but something was still missing. None of them really popped—until one day, someone in one of my groups suggested the name Orbit. Perfect! He represents "positivity, love, and kindness, and spreading it worldwide."
The children immediately took to him. At our book launch, he was greeted with so much love. He has taken a life of his own on. I have tattoos of him, mugs, sippy, stickers, and most recently, he is being made into a plush toy. One of my little girls said "Orbit is lovable, his smile helps me remember the good in the world. I love hugging him."
FQ: In addition to your book, The Power of Positivity, you also have a companion coloring book and an activity book. Would you tell us a bit about those?
MAILLE: I think it's important for children to be able to express themselves. The illustrations are simpler in the coloring book, so younger children can color and not worry about details. There are activities that they can do, like making cards for essential workers or finding the teddy bears.
The activity book has more detail in the illustrations, more challenging activities like word searches, crosswords, even decoding messages. These activities help to reinforce the message in the book.
Both books end with making a time capsule so they can record their experiences, and years down the road, they can open it and look back at this time with positivity.
FQ: I have to comment on your book's Amazon page – it has to be the nicest, most professional book page I've seen. The "From the Publisher" section is fabulous. Where did you learn to do that?
MAILLE: Thank you. When I was studying to be a parent coach, I had to create visual aids to share my material. I have always loved that creative side, so a lot of what I do for promotional or marketing, that creative side of me has helped immensely. I have also been blessed with so many fellow authors that have shared their wisdom and knowledge.
FQ: You're a member of several writing organizations - The Association of Rhode Island Authors, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and The Independent Book Publishers Association. Would you recommend new authors join these or other similar organizations? Why?
MAILLE: I think it is essential to support and be a part of organizations like these. I have learned so much from unique and talented people who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. I believe in partnership. By being a part of these organizations, I can do my part in helping others out. Publishing a book can sometimes throw you curveballs. When you have a supportive group of people to help you through the challenging moments and help you celebrate the victories, well, that is priceless.