May
4

Author Champion of the Month: Roma Khetarpal

roma headshotFounder and CEO of “Tools of Growth,” Executive Board Member of PSLA, Member of the Board of Directors for the Santa Clarita Valley Education Foundation, and proud mother of 2, ROMA KHETARPAL, is our Author Champion for the month of May!

Our talented author wrote ‘The “Perfect” Parent: 5 Tools for Using Your Inner Perfection to Connect with Your Kids‘ and is the recipient of the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award, the Parents’ Choice Award, the Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and, most recently, Nautilus Silver Award Winner.

Her book helps parents establish a healthy relationship with their children. She explains how the key to a fulfilling parenting experience is to stop chasing an ideal and instead use your inner perfection to nurture a strong, communicative connection with your children—which will lead kids to be happy, think positive, and do good.

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“You have written a book that carries a powerful message and we are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate your book, ‘The “Perfect” Parent’ by making it visible as a Nautilus Silver Award Winner. We welcome you to the honored and respected group of Nautilus Award winner.”
– The Nautilus Book Awards 

We were honored to interview Roma as our Author Champion:

 

1. What inspired you to write this book?

In 2010 I was pulled in by a small group of parents to teach parenting workshops. As the parent audience grew, I realized that very few parents knew of the research behind child rearing and emotional intelligence, communication, mindfulness, and the benefits of positive psychology in raising children.

The tools I taught in the workshops blended this science with personal growth, which the parents found easy to digest, and I made two key observations: First, with the speed of life today, parents are finding it really hard to find a work-life-family balance. Many of the parents in my workshops were overwhelmed with the negative effects of their fast-paced life showing up in their relationships and their communication with their kids. I was successful in helping parents ease the burden of guilt, doubt, worry, and fear that adds turbulence to our relationship with our kids. Second, we all want to get parenting right! But there’s even more pressure in today’s competitive world as we enroll kids in several after-school activities and try to get children “prepared” for college early on! I found parents were struggling with that as well.

So my goal with this book was twofold: One, through the time-tested, science-supported tools I taught in my workshops, I aimed to educate and empower parents to be mindful and conscious, relaxed, happy parents. Two, I wanted to simplify the parental ride and amplify the enjoyment. I’ve shown that it’s possible to power up your Parental Guidance System (PGS) with Emotional Intelligence tools like “Dealing with Feeling” so that you can navigate through the ups and down of parenting.

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Parenting workshop held at St. Mary’s Montessori School

2. At Milk + Bookies, we believe all parents wants to raise their children to “be happy, think positive, and do good.” How did you come up with the idea for “Tools of Growth” and what would you like parents to take away from it?

tools of growthActually, the idea for Tools Of Growth got hold of me! In 2008 my son, a junior in high school, was going through some challenges. One evening, after dinner, he asked these big questions: What is it that makes kids trust their parents and turn to them when they are in trouble or have made a mistake? What makes them not be afraid to turn to their parents when they know they have messed up?

That night I pondered his questions, and the next morning, right after a meditation session, the answer came to me: communication. When I relayed this to my son, he said, “Then you need to come up with some ideas on how you can help parents build communication early on with their kids. I’m a teenager and I see it every day—nobody wants to talk to their parents when they are in trouble or have an issue. When I’m in trouble, even though I’m afraid of what will happen, I’m not afraid to talk about it with my parents.” That is how Tools of Growth was born. That first seed grew into the first product: parenting workshops called Happy Relaxed Parenting that taught parents the basic ingredients of communication—what I like to call the Communication Balance—to support them in raising kids to be happy, think positive, and do good for themselves and others. That then led to this book.

Communication is what builds the relationship between parents and children. Our efforts should focus on communicating mindfully and consciously, and that requires us to manage our own emotions so that we can build lasting bonds and relationships with our kids.tools of growth communicate

3. We hear you’re working on a line of children’s products! Can you tell us more about what you are working on?

Yes, of course. Parents have many tools that help them teach their children about their outside world. What about tools to help teach children about their inner world? Teaching children about their inner world is one of the primary responsibilities that parents have. Unfortunately, even as adults—and especially because we live in a technology-driven, fast-paced world—very few of us understand our own interior lives. This is what we are working on in the background—giving parents fun, kid-friendly interactive Tools Of Growth (books, games, toys)—to help them teach their children about their inner world and educate themselves at the same timeOur line of children’s products is called TOGs, toys that serve as tools of growth.

4. Society has changed throughout the years, especially when discussing parenting styles and techniques. What do you think is the biggest struggle parents face today to be the “perfect” parent, and how do you think your book can help?

There has never been more emphasis on how we should raise our children. With social media we have never been so open to publicly discussing kids’ activities, complaining about their behaviors, and seeking advice on parenting. The advantage is that parents form bonds and build communities to share and learn from each other’s experiences. But it can also make parents question themselves and their decisions. There is tremendous pressure on parents to get it all done and to do it all right. That same pressure is felt by the children, which taxes communication and the parent-child relationship.

With this book, my purpose is to put all of that agony to rest and use that energy to activate our own inner strengths—our inner perfection. What you can expect is a short, sweet, easy-to-grasp guide and some simple tools that empower you to be a mindful and conscious parent—a surefire pathway to building not just a good but a great lasting relationship with your kids. It will help you relax into the long-term role of parenting and to raise kids to be happy, think positive, and do good.

 

Get your copy of
‘The “Perfect” Parent’
here!

 

Thank you, Roma, for sharing with us your journey, your inspiring book and your words of wisdom !

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Are you an author/illustrator of a children’s book or parenting book?

Find out how you can become a Milk + Bookies Author Champion TODAY by visiting our website here!


by Wendy Paniagua
December
2

Author Champion of the Month: Rana DiOrio

09e01fdFounder and CEO of Little Pickle Press, investment banker, lawyer, and mother of three, Rana DiOrio, steps into the spotlight as our Author Champion of December! Our multi-talented author wrote the children’s book, What Does It Mean To Be Kind?as part of the award winning series, What Does It Mean To Be…?®. Her books are inspiring families across the country, sparking meaningful conversations between adults and kids.

Native to Rhode Island, Rana’s curiosity about the world began very young as she studied China…and panda bears in kindergarten. She went on to study political science and psychology at Duke University before pursuing a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. Between practicing yoga, writing, and spending time with her Little Pickles, Rana generously agreed to answer a few of our questions. She shared with us her inspirations and thoughts while writing What Does It Mean To Be Kind?We are so grateful to count her among our esteemed Author Champions!

First of all, What Does It Mean To Be Kind? (“Kind”) is a beautiful book with a wonderful message. What was your inspiration to write this book and the What Does It Mean To Be . . .?® series?

My inspiration was the desire to start meaningful conversations between my children and I, and all children and their caring adults, about the topics that matter most—being kind, most importantly.

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We LOVE the book’s emphasis on acts of kindness. What are some of your favorite ways to bring kindness into the world we live in?

Kindness is something you need to practice, personally and professionally. In my personal life, I like to give deserved compliments liberally, listen actively and attentively, invest my time and resources to empower others to succeed, and practice patience. In my professional life, Little Pickle Press is dedicated to creating media that fosters kindness in children and youth—and to doing so in a manner congruent with that mission. We give back to our communities—local and global—through brand partnerships pursuant to which we raise awareness of important issues that impact children, cultivate strong values, and give resources to nonprofits championing the causes we care most about.

For example, Little Pickle Press recently partnered with The Great Kindness Challenge to help educators teach students how to be kind. To achieve this goal, we will donate an electronic copy of Kind, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch, and the title’s discussion guide to 16,000 participating schools in the United States. In addition, we will donate 15% of the net sales of the book to The Great Kindness Challenge to fuel its important work.

In addition, Little Pickle Press does its best to be kind to our employees as well. All have flexible work schedules, so they are free to prioritize their families and other personal obligations. We train and empower our employees and provide them with access to all material information used in reaching corporate decisions.

imagesLittle Pickle Press also does its part to safeguard the environment. We have three titles in our collection that teach young people how they can help protect the Earth’s natural resources—my book, What Does It Mean To Be Green?, illustrated by Chris Blair, Sofia’s Dream by Land Wilson and illustrated by Sue Cornelison, and A Bird On Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Plus, Little Pickle Press prints its books in the United States on recycled paper using soy-based inks. We also use 100% tree-free paper (produced by Prairie Paper, a fellow B Corp founded by Woody Harrelson) and other environmentally friendly solutions throughout our business and supply chain.

Since you have a background in a number of different fields, including law and banking, how have your experiences impacted your perspectives and the creation of this book?

When people discover that I was a Silicon Valley corporate securities lawyer and investment banker during the height of the Tech Boom, they inevitably ask—why did you start a children’s media company?!

The Great Recession roared in like a freight train while I was pregnant with my third child, and it became an increasingly difficult time to be in finance. Moreover, I was finding my work increasingly at odds with raising children with the values I felt would best support their development. So, I decided to do something professionally that aligned with those values, something dedicated to fostering kindness in young people—my own children included. After a great deal of research, I concluded that a children’s media company would best serve those goals, and so Little Pickle Press was born.

Whether our books encourage children to help ensure we all have a hospitable world in which to live (A Bird On Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba), stand up to bullies to restore peace (Ripple’s Effect by Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson and illustrated by Cecilia Rebora), or overcome great personal hardships to help others (Breath to Breath by Craig Lew), everything Little Pickle Press publishes is based on kindness. So, a book encouraging children to be kind seemed a natural addition to the What Does It Mean To Be . . . ?® series.

This book starts an important conversation on kindness and interconnectedness. What would you like the future of this book to be?

It is my heartfelt wish that Kind helps parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caring adults throughout the world plant seeds of kindness in children for generations to come.

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What advice would you give children growing up in today’s society?

My advice to children is to be global, green, present, safe, and above all, kind.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?

I was most surprised to discover that all major world religions and philosophies have espoused some form of The Golden Rule since the dawn of civilization. In fact, the more I read, the more I became convinced that the notion of “treating others the way you would like to be treated” gave rise to the concept of laws and social justice systems and, consequently, acts as the very bedrock of civilization. Most importantly, my research left me with the deeply held belief that the future of our civilization will rest on society’s collective ability to instill kindness in our children.

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Get your copy of What Does It Mean To Be Kind? here!

 

15% of the net sales of the book will be donated to The Great Kindness Challenge in support of creating a culture of kindness at schools.

 

Thank you, Rana, for sharing with us your journey, inspiring books, and reminding us to bring kindness into the world!

Read! Give! Grow!


by Marianna Yamamoto
September
16

Author Champion of the Week: Michelle Staubach Grimes

Our Author Champion of the Week is Michelle Staubach Grimes! This author of newly penned children’s book Where is Pidge? is a true lifelong learner! After receiving her B.A. in History and then her J.D. in 1994, Michelle found herself lured back to learning once her children grew older. She enrolled in an SMU Creating Writing program and drafted a women’s fiction novel; on the side, she began “Where is Pidge?”.  She currently lives in Dallas, where she grew up, with her husband and 3 children: Jeffrey, Gracie, and Emma.  We recently had the delightful opportunity to interview Michelle, who offered us insight into creative writing, military families, and affirmatory parenting.

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What drew you to study creative writing?

I was drawn into the world of creative writing because I love to journal. Years ago I drafted a non-fiction short book and wanted to move forward with it so I enrolled in the SMU Creative Writing Continuing Education Program.  I fell in love with creative writing and continued taking classes while drafting a fiction novel. On the side, I began writing the story of Pidge, which I started at my kitchen table one evening and couldn’t stop.

Many people have asked since the publication of my book– “Weren’t you writing a novel? How did you end up writing a children’s book?” I tell them, that if I hadn’t studied creative writing for two years, I wouldn’t have been able to write the children’s book. While the story of Pidge is 736 words vs. my 90,000 word novel, both are stories with a beginning, middle, and end. A person must go through something and change for a story to be complete. As Mark Twain said, “A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

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How long did it take for you to see “Where is Pidge?” through to completion?

From the day I put pen to paper, to the day I held the book in my hand, was approximately eighteen months. However, I prefer to say about three years as I began learning the elements of story writing in the SMU Program in August of 2011. I launched my book in March of 2014.

Michelle with her illustrator Bill DeOre

What’s been your favorite part of writing this children’s book?

My favorite parts were finding my voice and core story, and sharing the story of Pidge with children and adults. While it’s a work of fiction, there are many truths in the story. In the beginning of the book, Pidge thinks her family doesn’t care about her. As the story develops, she experiences numerous emotions from mad to angry to scared to happy.

When I talk to children about Pidge’s journey, I tell them that I, too, as an adult have these same feelings. I’m sad and lonely at times. And my all time favorite is when a child’s face lights up and they make the connection between their feelings and Pidge’s feelings. One girl raised her hand one day and said “while I’m not a middle child, I feel like Pidge because my mom is getting remarried and I’m going to have new siblings and I feel left out.” I hope Pidge begins a conversation among kids and adults about emotions, and how we can learn to cope and work through the tough times and enjoy the good times.

 

How did you get the idea to start #pidgepromise? How has the reception been?

As I prepared for the launch of my book, it was very important that I promote literacy.  I knew I would read my book and talk about the process of writing. However, I wanted my appearances to be more than just about Pidge; we must ensure that children are exposed to books from the minute they are born, and educate adults on the importance of reading aloud to children. When I visit schools, I try to make reading and storytelling fun and encourage children to read more books than they’re assigned in class by making a “Pidge Promise” (#pidgepromise).

I ask the children and even adults to pledge to read more: read more themselves, read to a young child, or someone who can’t read. The reception has been fabulous. Sometimes schools will have their students make a #pidgepromise before I visit the school. When I returned to my grade school Prairie Creek Elementary, where I learned to read, they had the walls covered in #pidgepromise’s.

We heard you have also been popular amongst military families on bases – what commonalities do you think can be drawn between Pidge’s experience and those of children in military families?

First, I must say I’m very proud to have been born on the military base in Pensacola, Florida during my father’s service. However, my father’s military service ended when I was a little over one-year old. While I didn’t grow up as a military child, I can only imagine how tough at times it can be for military children as they move often, which requires them to adjust to new schools and cities more than many of us. In addition, they are physically separated from their mom or dad for extended periods of time. I know they must feel unloved, unimportant at times, or just “lost” like Pidge feels in her own home.

I visited Barksdale Air force Base recently and I’m looking forward to spending September 12th at Fort Hood. I’ll be travelling to military bases in San Antonio and California this fall to share the story of Pidge with military families. These families make the ultimate sacrifice for our country and I want to give back to them. If I can put a smile on the children’s faces, especially a child who is missing his or her parent, I can’t think of a better way to spend my day.

We love that your book emphasizes the importance of affirming children in our lives-what do you think are ways that both parents or siblings can demonstrate gratitude towards children who may not feel valued?

Affirming children and validating their emotions is crucial to developing a child’s confidence and sense of being. As parents, we may not agree or understand their emotions, but to our child, it’s their “truth.” One of my kids may say – “So and so is so mean. She hates me. I don’t want to go to school.” As a parent, it’s easier for me to respond, “It’ll get better. Of course she doesn’t hate you and school is fun.” But I try to listen to their concerns, affirm their feelings, and help them work through the problem. Sometimes it is best not to say anything at all, but to assure them that I understand they are hurting. Kids must be able to express their emotions, and we as parents must listen; and just because we validate their emotions doesn’t mean we’re in total agreement with their position. I tell them their voice matters, they are loved, and that they are an important member of the family.

I grew up with four siblings so I know firsthand that siblings fight and don’t always treat each other with respect. But I also know it’s important to talk to children about how they treat their siblings. It’s hard to know when to intervene or let your children work it out themselves; when I hear screaming and slamming doors, I want to walk upstairs right away and punish all of them. Sometimes I let them work it out, but when they’ve crossed the line, I pull them aside individually and let them know how I believe they’ve really hurt their sibling’s feelings. I hope my children see the love I have for my siblings today, and how important they are to me.

My oldest is a boy (age 16) and then I have two girls (ages 14 and 12). I’ve told my son as the oldest and as a boy, his sisters will be heavily influenced by how he treats them and how my husband treats me. While I know his sisters drive him crazy at times, he must give them the respect he’d give any other girl or woman. And, that I believe he learned from how my husband treats me. A few years ago, my youngest daughter travelled alone with my husband. They had a great time, but she said to me after the trip – “mom, you know Gracie (her older sister) drives me crazy at times, but it’s just not fun without her.” 

 Can you share a favorite memory with Maverick?

Maverick gives unconditional love. He’s a big dog so he can’t crawl up in your lap. My favorite memory of Maverick is more than one memory. It’s the memories of every time I lie on the floor next to him. He takes his leg and paw, places them over my body and gives me a big bear hug. When I take him to school visits, the kids can’t get enough of him.

 

Thank you Michelle for not only sharing your story with us, but also teaching us how children and parents both can benefit from emotional awareness in “Where is Pidge?”

Get your copy of “Where is Pidge?” here and make a #pidgepromise today!

 READ! GIVE! GROW!


by Betty Fang
August
11

Jack Jones is our Author Champion of the Week!

On August 1st, Milk+Bookies held its Leaders+Readers Wrap Party at TOMS and had the honor of featuring special guest Jack Jones! Author of the recently published children’s book, “Chizi’s Tale“, Jack was drawn to the issue of anti-poaching and endangered animals, and decided to pen a story on Chizi, an orphaned black rhino taken in by family friends in Zimbabwe. Jack Jones is our Author Champion of the Week for not only providing excellent vocal impressions of black rhino sounds, but–more importantly–for educating future generations on the issue of endangered species!

 

Tell us about the origins of Chizi’s Tale! How did this amazing story come about?

I heard about this story two years ago. I have known Colin Saxon, Chizi’s guardian, my entire life. He got a call from two scouts at the national park, alerting him about an abandoned, week old baby black rhino. After adopting it, he emailed me about this magnificent story.

 

As a new author, what were some unexpected challenges you encountered during the writing process for Chizi’s Tale?

The hardest part was cutting the story down to a reasonable children’s book length. Unfortunately, there were so many funny, heartwarming, and suspenseful moments that had to be edited out.

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What advice do you have for other young authors who are trying to write?

Read, read, read! The more you read, the more you improve your vocabulary and writing style. One can learn so many valuable lessons and adopt key writing methods through reading.

 

What made children’s literature the right vehicle for you, given the many mediums that enable individuals to draw awareness to various causes—from crowdsourcing campaigns to films?

A children’s book addresses young generations. It is important for these young generations to understand the plight of the black rhino. If we want black rhinos to exist in 100 years, then it is imperative that the younger generations are educated on anti-poaching and dwindling rhino populations, so that when they grow up they can contribute to combating poaching.

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How did your collaboration with illustrator Jacqui Taylor arise?

We met through a mutual Zimbabwean friend. He put us in contact through email, and the rest is history.

 

What is your favorite rhino fact?

A group of rhino is called a crash.

 

 

Can you tell us more about TUSK and why you chose this specific organization?

TUSK is a non-profit based in London. Its goal is to combat the poaching of endangered animals, specifically elephant, white rhino, black rhino, and lion. TUSK is a fantastic organization, and I thought that it would serve as the best organization to dedicate the proceeds of the book to.

 

What’s in the future for you? Do you plan to write any more books?

I start college in the fall, so right now I am just focused on completing assignments and essays. However, if the opportunity presents itself, I would love to write another book.
 

Any upcoming plans for Chizi’s Tale?

As of now, events are slowing down. The book tour ended in July. However, in September, we plan to revamp the tour.

 

 

Thank you Jack for coming to read at our Leaders+Readers Wrap Party, sharing your wonderful stories about Chizi, and inspiring us all!

 

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Get your copy of “Chizi’s Tale” here!

All proceeds benefit TUSK and their mission to protect endangered species, support communities and promote education in Africa!

 READ! GIVE! GROW!


by Betty Fang