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Ahhh, relax, it’s finally Monday!

What, don’t like Mondays?

You will once you read BEING A DOG: A TAIL OF MINDFULNESS by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Pete Oswald. This pupper knows how to just BE.

Maria, I know you’re an animal lover, as your books always feature them. Tell us, why a dog for this book?

This book was inspired by my late rescue dog, Becca. We had a very special bond, and she inspired many a book, including this one.

After she died I was deeply depressed for a couple of months and unable to do much of anything. When I was finally ready to write again, I thought of the ways that dogs are present and how they live in the moment. I wanted to feel the joy and calmness I felt being with Becca, and as I wrote, the moments and memories came alive and the words flowed out. I like to think of this book as Becca’s gift to me.

Aww, Maria, that is such a sweet story! 

We have all been through a rough time lately and need some uplifting reads. What is your hope for children who read this book?

Great question, Tara! That they can find moments of joy, and try to be present as much as they can. This comes naturally to kids, but the pandemic has brought so much stress and fear and sadness and isolation to us all. When we play, experiment, do art, play or listen to music/dance and explore nature, these moments come more easily to us all—we immerse ourselves in what’s in front of us, or in the process. There’s a mindfulness breathing exercise in the book, and my hope is that kids can use this whenever they feel sad or scared or stressed to self soothe and find some calm to help them cope.

A little birdie told me there’s another book in this series. I’m as curious as a cat! What can you tell us about that?

Yes! It’s called BEING A CAT: A TAIL OF CURIOSITY and it will release next April. The final art just came in this week and Pete worked his magic again—it’s sweet, adorable and very funny. To counter the idea of “curiosity kills the cat,” let’s instead inspire curiosity and wonder in kids—they are already wowed and curious about so many things in the world, and I’m hoping this book will also encourage them to ask questions, experiment and play. It’s dedicated to our editor, cat-lover Nancy Inteli and her trio of kitties, Jerry, Lulu & Keiko.

One last question—I thought this dog might be named Becca, but I see the dog doesn’t have a name! Is there a reason why?

I intentionally left the dog unnamed—that way it leaves things more open for readers. Kids can imagine it’s their very own pooch, or it invites them to imagine one who might be their furry friend.

Excellent!

Thank you for stopping by, Maria!

Blog readers, BEING A DOG: A TAIL OF MINDFULNESS was released last week from HarperCollins.

You can win a copy here just by commenting. (Tell us about your pet if you have one!)

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!

by Tara Lazar

Amidst the chaos and confusion of the past year, a Zen movement gathered steam, gently simmering in the background of our harried lives and minds. You may have noticed—albeit fleetingly—while shuffling through news of war, tragedy, and a deeply divided nation. You may have caught a glimpse, in the corner of your eye, as you rushed from work to home to school to conflicting calendar commitments.

Our technologically advanced, modern lives are supposed to be more efficient and productive, but instead we feel required to do MORE with the time we have—and to feel badly when we don’t, to somehow believe we are faulty, we have failed.

This picture has been reproduced by kind permission of stormthorgerson.com.

This picture has been reproduced by kind permission of stormthorgerson.com.

And for these reasons, “mindfulness” achieved an elevated status this past year. I witnessed it everywhere in 2016—in magazines and articles, on TV, and even in the opening of a sensory deprivation spa a few miles from my home.

I learned about mindfulness before it had a name. Newly diagnosed with MS, I became a worry-wart, imagining my future as a helpless invalid. I lamented the inevitable loss of independence, a retirement not surrounded by loving grandchildren, but by indifferent nurses. Finally, after what I refer to as “the lost year,” I learned that worrying about the future makes you miss out on the here and now. I strived to instead be present in the moment. This is mindfulness.

Mindfulness can work wonders for creativity. Being more aware of your environment, your actions, interactions and emotions gives you a better understanding of being human, which, in turn, is fuel for character development. Others’ reactions also serve as powerful material for storytelling. Being mindful can help us capture and remember pieces of daily life that lend an authenticity to our stories. Moving about with a constant, present focus, will allow you to see ideas, to be open to the inspiration that exists around you every day.

In being mindful, we should also make time just to be, just to think. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world schedule time to ponder their lives and careers. You should be similarly thoughtful about your writing path. Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to be as an author?

This is where I often sit and just think. I call it the "brick oven" because it remains warm on sunny days...and because it bakes my ideas.

This is where I often sit and just think. I call it the “brick oven” because it remains warm even on winter days…and because it bakes my ideas.

And now I am going to confuse the Dickens out of you.

While I am all for the benefits of mindfulness, I also urge you to let your mind wander, to daydream. You probably already do. And you should not stop.

Not being mindful when performing routine tasks—like folding laundry, washing dishes, taking a shower—allows the mind to escape the doldrums of daily life. You do not have to think about how to do the things you have done thousands of times. You can free up your mind to go on an adventure. Some of the best ideas come when we are not focused on the here and now.

But wait, isn’t that the opposite of mindfulness?

Actually, I believe practicing mindfulness can lead us to become better daydreamers. They are not adversaries, but partners in creative living. According to daydream researchers McMillan, Singer and Kaufman, “Creativity lies in that intersection between our outer world and our inner world.” I interpret this as meaning we must pay strong attention to both daily duties and daydreaming. In other words, let the things around you stimulate the daydream. This is called inspiration, right?

We can set aside time just to daydream, or we can be aware when we lose our focus to daydream, and allow the thoughts to flow. If we stop our minds from wandering, I fear we may lose our ability to be creative. After all, the illusive ideas we seek ultimately come from within our own minds. So maybe when you feel a daydream coming, you can pay attention to it, let it happen. Grab a notebook. Yes, be MINDFUL of when you are not MINDFUL.

And this, my friends, is how you mine—and mind—your ideas.


taramay2014blogTara Lazar is a picture book author and founder of Storystorm. She has two books releasing in 2017—WAY PAST BEDTIME from Aladdin/S&S and 7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY from Disney*Hyperion. Tara is a council member of the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature and a picture book mentor for We Need Diverse Books. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and far too many stuffed animals.

prizedetails

Tara is giving away an “Ask Me Anything” Skype session (or Facetime, or telephone). These typically last about an hour, but she will stay on the line (internet?) until you have answers to your most burning questions regarding children’s publishing. From initial idea to polished query, from deciding on an agent to marketing a book, she will cover it all. The opinions of Tara do reflect those of her employer, which, incidentally, is also Tara.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!

 

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Coming soon:


TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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