I am so excited to interview the oh-so-talented artist and clever kid literature writer Karen as my featured December spotlight. I first became acquainted with Karen via Twitter social media kid lit groups and am happy to say she is as welcoming as she is creative and professional.
Her sweet children’s picture book “Hello Teeny Pheeny” captures not only the imagination but is detailed with beautiful artistry to engage young readers into the delightful and charming story. Karen’s passion for inviting readers, writers, and illustrators into her captivating world promoting children’s literature is clearly evident in her smart blogs and insightful, resourceful and supportive website.
Karen makes a point of not only welcoming kid lit talents but also extending genuine enthusiasm and knowledgeable experience throughout her work with fellow children’s literature colleagues. Three cheers for such a brilliant creative and let’s take a peek into her world of children’s picture book writing and illustration!
Also, please stay tuned at the end of the interview below for link to a CONTEST ~ Win a copy of “Hello Teeny Pheeny” and more!
Hello Karen, please introduce yourself!
Hi There! My name is Karen Emma Hall and I work as an author and artist and created several kid literature platforms, and creative places online. It is so good to be invited to the wonderful world of imagination. I am thrilled to be a guest artist and author for your inspiring Imagination site, Sondra. Thank you so much.
Being an author and an artist is very time-consuming and very rewarding to say the least, I’ve often thought of combining the word author and artist together somehow, for those of us who are under the same umbrella. Somehow I’m not sure ‘Authist’ or ‘Artor’ works too well, but I love new made-up words, so you never know, this could well take off.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author and artist?
I can’t remember a time when I did not love books, real books, the ones you can pick up and flick through page by page. So I suppose the love of reading helped further my interest in writing. Even though I had written millions of words in all sorts of order, I had never actually thought of sharing these with anyone once they had turned into actual stories. It was like a diary in a manner of speaking, and only I was allowed to peek in and read. It was only 2 years ago I decided I would go ahead and think about publishing any.
I took childcare N.N.E.B and also art, and various other courses at college and Uni. Sports studies and Fitness instructing too!
These days I am arting, learning photography and youtube blogging, writing, promoting and publishing and it is a lot harder than any other job I have ever had. Much more rewarding too, but you really need dedication to be a writer as I have found.
What part of your work process captivates you when going through the developing and creating process.
We are all creative in one way or another, and some may still be discovering their creative niche. Any creative outlet works, it is all about expressing how you feel and enjoying learning something fun or different. So go for walks, forage for leaves, make snow angels, or learn a fun new arty app or game. Literature too is an art, a creative outlet for your thoughts on paper.
What really captivates me is the progression of a child’s development once they gain a love for books. Give them books as a gift and not as a chore. They will then see books this way. Soon they become self-dependent enough to form their own ideas, through a nurtured imagination. When words and pictures transform into ideas the imagination is ignited and this takes them on a journey of discovery. To see where this leads is enchanting and positive for children. A group of children can listen to the same story being read to them and see different places in their mind. Each one unique. Nothing is as captivating as guiding young people’s imagination. You give your child the world if you read to them.
Tell us about your book ‘Hello Teeny Pheeny’.
The first thing you have to know is that Teeny Pheeny is an owl.
A magic owl, who captures hearts, and he is the main character in a series of tales. In the first book ‘Hello Teeny Pheeny’ you are introduced to some of the other owl characters who reside in Boohoo Village. This series brings you teeny bits of teeny magic. The owls are almost living and breathing as they’re very endearing, funny and even a bit grumpy! It’s all about the owls!
The idea for Teeny Pheeny came about all of a sudden. I have a passion for owls as we used to visit rescue owls and still support wildlife. One day I came across a beautiful owl called Phoenix and an idea formed. I wanted a special name for the main character, a baby owl, so my children named it Teeny Phoenix. Later I changed it to Teeny Pheeny, and his mother became Mrs. Phoenix.
While writing the first few stories in the series I found that I just sat down one day and wrote and wrote. It was as if the idea had been there all along, waiting for me to put it down on paper. If you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited you will be able to download Hello Teeny Pheeny Free. Teeny Pheeny books on Amazon
What memorable responses have you had to your art and writing?
The very first memorable response to my writing was when I sent my parents the first draft, and they said that they could see it play out in front of them as if on a programme. This encouraged me to do two more stories in the series. I loved everyone’s response to Teeny Pheeny, as they love the little owl characters I sketch. I have had 2 art days with children at the Baltic Art museum in my home town. We did drawings of owls and then could crayon our new owl and cut it out. The drawings then went on a tree board to keep Teeny Pheeny owl company. The children loved it and we took photos. They kept checking their owl was still there during the course of the day and couldn’t wait to take it home, bless.
I love how your own family and children can be so matter-of-fact about your own success! One day someone came up to them with the book and said, ‘Wow, do you know the lady on the ‘Teeny Pheeny’ book? and they said ‘Yes, that’s my Mum!’ It’s also amusing how they find it odd that other children feel about Teeny Pheeny in the same way they feel about their favourite character.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to someone thinking of writing a children’s book?
A passion for writing as well as reading to children is what is needed.
Be prepared for a lot of work. If you have the passion, you are half way there. When hard work and passion come together, and you are off on a writers discovery, you will soon know if being a kid lit author is for you.
Write down the things you wish to achieve with your stories then research them. I started off on twitter first, but some people prefer Facebook, or other media. Everyone is different.
Even if you have done a few words and they don’t make much sense, just keep at it, keep on writing.
File things carefully so you can refer to anything if needed. Also you will need to go on a social media journey and be prepared to research what are the best options for your book.
What advice would you give when people are going through the creative slumps or when they feel overwhelmed or even hit a road block?
This is easy. Take breaks and do something different that you enjoy. Spend time with family, go out for walks, catch up with people or have a pamper day to yourself.
And if needs must do what I did once: take a three month break, during which I travelled round Italy. It takes a little while to come down from writing or working at full tilt, so one or two days off sometimes isn’t enough. When you know your mind is not going back over your writing or editing, or what emails need answering, then you know you are more relaxed and the mind thinks clearer again. You need to think clearly if you are at a block, or are overwhelmed with tasks, so it is important to take breaks. I can’t stress this enough, so I did a blog about it. Writing Are you meant to be a writer
When have you been most satisfied with your work and what illustration or art piece in your portfolio feels connected the most to “you?”
When I completed my art work for a book, and had to give that little bit extra, but it is all worthwhile when you are rewarded with creating a new little character you end up liking as much as a live owl! When you see it come to life in front of your eyes, add a touch of colour to give it some magic, and then you see the effect it has on children. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing how much children can enjoy books even before they read.
So Teeny Pheeny connects well with me. I brought him to life.
Tell us how you have developed Kid Literature authors and artists from concept idea to full out online blog and resource?
I had no idea about hashtags or their purpose before heading to twitter, so I learned most of my skills from twitter I would say. I wanted to learn the highs and lows of the indie author and set out to research and see what worked and what didn’t. I now believe one day something works so well, the next day it may not. It can all depend on so many factors. I soon discovered ebooks on Amazon Kindle had really starting to take off and I was looking forward to putting my book out there. So it was twitter that was my only social media site at the time, and that was where I met like-minded kid-lit people who were wanting to make a way in the ‘twittersphere’ with their book. I also enjoy writing blogs about writing, reading, books, authors, and various other topics of interest. I get a staggering amount of hits on my blog and sometimes it still takes me by surprise. It is so good to know we go to the top of google searches very regularly.
When I opened a kid literature authors page on Facebook it became an exciting and very demanding job. There was daily retweeting, sharing, reviewing, blogging, logs to keep, updates to do, meeting people, chatting to people, working with people to support a kidlit community. http://kidliteraturetoday.blogspot.co.uk
What is your favorite part of running Kid Literature? What is your most challenging?
Kid Literature became a way of life. I didn’t really have a structure at first. I quickly learned what worked and what didn’t. And I can tell you now it is not for the faint-hearted. Many lessons were learned, and also many positive things came out of making mistakes. I believe making mistakes is a good thing. Making mistakes allows you to learn and grow and become more knowledgeable. Then there are times when you’d happily go back for more even though you have worn the T-shirt out.
Life does tend to get in the way though, as I found, and before long I had to take a long break. It was such a long break, I didn’t feel like coming back, I had got so used to being outdoors most days, concentrating on my health and my family. When I did come back after a break I wanted to concentrate on my art for my next book, maybe squeeze a bit of writing in, and definitely make sure I had me time and plenty of family time.
The challenging part was learning not to take on too much at once when I had already set a schedule. It is so easy done. Everyone wants to support each other in the author community, and the challenge is not to feel bad if you say you can’t do an extra task for yourself or someone that week. Just do what you can easily manage, otherwise you may feel guilty if someone is disappointed or let down. Know it is ok to say you have a full workload on and you can’t take on any more for the time being. It is essential to take time out for anything to work and have direction.
So I set out a schedule, checked it over with some friends and decided that if I stuck to it then it would work.
What is the single most critical talent you possess that has helped Kid Lit grow?
Just a passion to try anything new and to have the audacity to feel it will work, to know it in my bones. So I simply went with it. If I am passionate about any one thing I will see it out and give it my all. That’s what I did with the colouring group. So it is definitely the want and the passion that keep me going. If what you are doing inspires just one person, then you know you’re doing something right. Be grateful for everything, and then whatever comes along is enough.
How has being an author, artist and entrepreneur affected your life / family life?
Greatly! Very positive and also challenging times that had to be balanced. I have teenagers and they love to hang out with their Mum and they are really into their art and writing. They’re also into sport in a big way so I am very proud of them. So when they are at school, or with relatives or friends I focus on work, and home is quality family time where we chat and discuss what life is bringing at that moment, and how best to overcome any obstacles. They know they have Mum to come to with any queries or English homework etc, but they also love chatting and chilling out wherever we go and I think they are amazing kids. The challenging times are when I have not completed tasks I have to go back to later. So this is why it is so important to keep a time schedule. I will be doing a blog about this in the New Year.
Tell us about your Facebook group ‘Colouring in With Color’.
I decided to open a group for colouring art therapy as it is such a stress-relieving past time, and I was surprised by how many wanted to join up and post their colouring pages and photos. It just grew in a moment, and many love to post their art or their photos and links. Everyone is welcome to join and see what all the fuss is about. People have been picking up a pen or pencil for the first time and colour in from a variety of pages and books. Once you discover adult colouring it is very addictive and relaxing. I think it is so popular because people who do not illustrate or do art can colour as a creative outlet
Now Teeny Pheeny is to be in a colouring book! This is to go out very soon. The link will be on my author page and all my other sites later in December. You must look out for it, and see it for the first time! Author page
Teeny Pheeny loves to bring teeny bits of teeny magic, follow his hashtag #Teenypheeny
Teeny Pheeny also has two twitter accounts and two Facebook accounts!
Owls on Facebook twitter.com/KidLiterature
How important is group support and collaboration among Kid Lit authors and artists and how to you encourage this?
It is very important to grow a group support. It offers advice and even on occasions good friends who you can share things with and have complete trust. You need these basic things for any author relations and when building a community. It can also be overwhelming and everyone has their own schedules and you find life gets in the way on occasions. But that’s ok, as long as you have support from like-minded people you know you can take a break, and if they are there for you that is very securing to know. I have supported so many wonderful folk, and I know they would do the same for me.
If you are considering getting in touch with me about posting a book to the kid literature page, feel free to message me from the kid literature page for support.
I also have social media sites on pinterest, instagram,google+, goodreads, Kid Lit today- Karen Emma Hall blogspot website and www.kidliteratureauthors.com The kid literature.com website has various links and blogs from kid lit authors and inspiring people, as well as art games and typing fun for kids! But at the moment I’m not in a position to update this website as my workload is to the max. I am sticking to that schedule I mentioned! I will be soon looking to involve people who are able to update this website, so if this excites you please feel free to contact me. email firstname.lastname@example.org