In the Nick of Time
Make A Way Media, LLC (2019)
Reviewed by Eve Panzer for the Barefoot Librarian and Reader Views Kids (11/2019)
As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings is passionate about passing down the life lessons that were instilled in her mother, Andrea Mast Pecchioni, who passed away in 2003 from breast cancer. All ten of Cummings’ diverse picture books, poetry books, and workbooks are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all.
Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
Hi, Deedee! Thank you for joining us today on Reader Views Kids! Tell us about your latest book, “In the Nick of Time.”
This is a story about a little brown boy who saves Christmas. My family loves Christmas, but after years of collecting Christmas books we could not find any more with characters that looked like my children. Also, we never found one that resembled our children with one of our favorite storylines: a child that gets to help Santa save the day. So, I wrote the book I could not find.
What was your inspiration behind the story?
I wanted my son to see one of our favorite storylines in a book with a character who he could directly relate to. My 10-year-old son Nick is the inspiration for this story.
Tell us about your main character, Nick. What motivates him? And what about Cooper?
Nick is a fun and fiery kid whose biggest worry is when his next video game will arrive. He is fun, happy, healthy, has all he needs, and loves life. He does not recognize that one of his classmates (Cooper) is homeless and needs help because Nick always thought you could look at a person and tell if they were homeless or not.
What cultural and/or societal lessons will young readers learn about reading “In the Nick of Time”?
Young readers will learn a multitude of lessons:
- Bullying and choice of words
- Empathy, compassion and kindness
- What poverty looks like
- Service to others
- What is homelessness and what are shelters
What does your writing process look like?
I am a family therapist and a lot of the stories I write just come to me after I have worked with a client of a family on an issue. I think that the message I have received that day is one that needs to be shared and I sit down and write that message.
How long did it take you to write “In the Nick of Time?”
One day. Of course it was reviewed by others and edited a few times, but because the message had come to me so clearly, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.
How did you find your illustrator, Charlene Mosley?
I had a lot of difficulty finding an illustrator. It is not easy. I met Charlene by chance on Twitter.
What was it like working together to bring your story to life?
It is work. It is not all fun, but it is fun to see it all come to life. It is really miraculous honestly when you find a great illustrator.
What kind of reaction to your writing do you most seek from your reading audience?
I just want them to think about something that maybe they thought nothing of before. I want them to read my books and reflect on how they can be a more compassionate person, not just to others, but to themselves as well.
What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?
Ensuring that the story I write is one that they can relate to, understand, and carry with them- maybe for life.
What do you like to read?
Everything. Books, magazines, articles on the web. I am currently reading The Water Dancer by Ta’Henisi Coates. This book inspired me to buy two more books because I wanted to learn more about the subject, so just today I got in the mail: She Came to Slay and The Underground. I guess I hope my books cause people to do this too. To think long past the time they put the book down and want to continue to learn more.
Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?
Growing up my favorite books were Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown. I loved these books, but I do think I am more inspired now to write books with diverse characters because I really did not have that growing up.
What do you enjoy outside of writing?
Reading! I think that reading makes me a better human. Oh, and I like to play Plants vs. Zombies. Don’t ask me why.
So what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?
Yes, I have seven more books that will be published in 2020 and a seven-part series about a young girl who chases her dreams that I am working on as well. All of these books will move from picture books however, to middle grade and YA.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
To write. Now. Don’t wait. Just write. Even if it’s not good. Write.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors?
Don’t give up. I think it is just very easy to do. There is a way to make your dream happen. It will require time, work, effort, and sacrifice, but if you give up you have lost a dream.
Deedee, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views Kids!
CONNECT WITH DEEDEE CUMMINGS!
Make A Way Media
Louisville Book Festival – Coming in 2020!