I DON’T WANT TO WEAR A MASK!
Author: Tiffany Turner
Illustrator: Natalia Cano
Shadowcat Publishing (2020)
Tiffany Turner is the author of the Crystal Keeper Chronicles children’s fantasy adventure series. She has been a teacher for eighteen years, and has experience working with second, third, fourth, and fifth graders. She developed teaching techniques to nurture a love of writing in her classroom using her own fantasy adventure series. She has been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for thirteen years. When not writing, Mrs. Turner enjoys reading, making wire-wrapped crystal jewelry, playing the Gaelic harp at Northern California Renaissance fairs, and spending time with her husband and her new cat, Zeta. The cat, of course, is still the center of attention. For more information on Tiffany Turner, visit her website at: http://tiffany-turner.com.
Hi Tiffany, Welcome to Reader Views Kids, we’re delighted to talk with you today! What is I Don’t Want to Wear a Mask! about?
The book is about a little boy that has been in preschool before the pandemic. During the spring, he has to go online with his teachers and classmates and is having to start Kindergarten the next school year. His preschool teacher tells the class he’ll need to wear a mask, and he becomes upset. All the changes overcome him, and he has a melt down. His mother soothingly tells him how the changes can be fun for him, by using his imagination to turn the masks into costumes for characters such as a pirate, ninja, or spy. This sooths Albert, and he’s able to finally face his first day of school.
Parents and educators are facing many challenges with their children and students. Add a global pandemic to the mix and it can get overwhelming for everyone. What was your inspiration behind the story?
I am a semi-retired elementary school teacher, and was working part-time at a tutoring center. When the pandemic started, our center went online for one-on-one tutoring support. I saw firsthand how the kids were dealing with things. During this summer, there was a lot of speculation about how kids would return to school in-person, and I realized teachers, parents and kids would all need support for that change. So, I wrote this picture book to help parents and teachers support children during this transition.
What can you tell us about your main character, Albert? What are his concerns?
Albert is an “Everykid” character, meant to represent what a lot of younger kids are going through right now. I think of the kinder and first graders I was tutoring at the center and the other children I’ve taught during my eighteen years in the classroom. I combine this into a modeled, normal reaction that kids would have to what is going on and show how parents and teachers can support the emotional ups and downs their children are going through. I wanted to validate Albert’s feelings and model what could be done to support him.
How should parents and educators talk to their children about the importance of wearing masks?
First, we’re all going through a lot together. We all need to support each other. I think that’s why I wanted to write this book, to help those teachers and parents struggling with all of this. They need tools to help comfort and reinforce to children how to be safe. Reading a book to a child can do this. It helps promote discussion about what has been happening and to validate how a child is feeling. Hopefully, the tool I created will help parents talk with their child about why it is important to wear a mask and how a younger child can do so. If they understand why something is important, they are more likely to follow instructions to do it.
How do you have those conversations in ways that don’t scare or intimidate?
The best way to introduce topics with children is a book. It promotes reading and literature, and models what you would like to teach the child. Then, you can answer any questions they may have. Sometimes activities can help as well, such as role-playing. Children can wear the mask ahead of time and try it out. They’ll feel more comfortable about it then, and you can monitor how they wear it ahead of time. Then, on the big return day to school, they’ll feel ready.
Teachers have a significant role in the lives of our children yet often seem to be unsung heroes. As an educator yourself, what drives your passion for the field?
I come from a family of teachers. My great grandmother was a teacher, great-aunt, grandmother, mother and now myself. My sister is a teacher, and my brother-in-law started as a teacher and is now a principal. We have to work hard not to “talk shop” at the Thanksgiving Table.
So, growing up, I was surrounded by a teacher friendly world. I used to play school with my sister with the many teaching books that were around the house. I joke about it being in my blood, but I almost think it must be. It seems to be a calling for us. Teachers are drawn to teaching. I feel alive when I’m teaching and helping kids in some way.
Given the circumstances of the world today and the added challenges presenting to teachers currently, is there a message you would like to send out to teachers?
Yes. I’d love for teachers to know that likely you were called to be a teacher at this time to help the world. We know it’s a calling, and I feel directed even now to help and support teachers. It’s the most important job that gets little or no recognition. Yet, we are driven to do it. We all know this. Like on 9/11/01, when I was driving to work, because I knew it was important to not let terrorists win, it’s important to help support our children and parents and not let the virus win. We can keep going and bind our communities together into the support structures needed right now.
What is the most important point you hope young readers take away from I Don’t Want to Wear a Mask!?
I hope they take away it’s okay to be scared and nervous right now. Even the adults are too. But together, with wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distance, we’ll stay safe and get through this. But it’s going to take everyone working together to do so. We’re all a community and a nation that can overcome this.
How did you find your illustrator, Natalia Cano?
I used the freelance website Fiverr.com. I have been finding supportive and help for self-publishing aspects of my books for the last few years there. I also have active gigs of my own, such as book blurb writing and picture book editing, to help support other authors. It’s a great way to find different areas of self-publishing support.
I looked over Natalia’s work and those of other illustrators. I chose her because she had the look I wanted for my book. I was the writer of my book, but also the creative editor. I also hired my formatter from Fiverr.com as well. I love the fact that Fiverr supports a global economy.
What was it like working together with your illustrator to bring your story to life?
Natalia was very professional and helpful. First, she looked over my manuscript before agreeing to do the illustrations. She said she fell in love with the story and could see the importance of it. We negotiated the price within my publishing budget, and she got to work on the illustrations, which took about a month. Then, I gave her feedback and she made changes where needed.
What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?
I think trying to not preach to children in a book is a challenge. An author needs to show or model what they want to convey or express in their book. A lot of people think writing for children is telling them what to do. But you actually need to model through character and plot what the message of your story is. In writing, this is called “Show, don’t tell”. I see this mistake when editing picture books. I see this mistake in a lot of manuscripts. So, I’d like to let people know to avoid “telling” kids what to do and “show” them what to do through story, character traits and plot.
What do you like to read and what are some of your favorite children’s book authors and stories?
Being a teacher, I have books I’ve taught as novel studies and books I’ve enjoyed as a child. The ones I’ve read as a child probably influenced my writing the most. Some of those are: “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Half Magic”, the Lord of the Rings series, and Judy Bloom’s books. I also read a lot of Peanuts books, because I wanted to be a cartoonist as a kid for while. I loved drawing Snoopy. I know now that kids learn through imitation. So, a lot of all of this was study for how I write now.
Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?
For this, now I have to tap into some of my adult reading. I loved reading women sci-fi/fantasy writers while I was a teenager. I discovered the world of Pern and Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Mercedes Lackey. This moved me onto Anne Rice in my early twenties, and I fell in love with the paranormal fantasies. Eventually I found paranormal romances and have started writing those under the pen name, Marilyn Vix. From my children’s writing to paranormal romances, I love building worlds people can get lost in. I know how much I enjoyed it as a kid and growing up. I try to do that now for my juvenile and adult readers.
What do you enjoy outside of writing?
I enjoy other hobbies such as making wire wrapped crystal jewelry that I sell at Art & Wine festivals and Renaissance Fairs in Northern California. I also play the Gaelic Harp and have been working and performing at Renaissance Fairs and Scottish Games throughout Northern California for fifteen years.
So, what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?
I always have stories in the works. My brain never stops. But I have noticed with all the changes, I’ve done a pivot in my writing. I also write paranormal romances under the pen name, Marilyn Vix. But I found my children’s writing has been calling out to me this year. It might be my teacher-self just feeling the call of all the stories needed for children right now.
The next children’s book I’m working on is a prequel to my children’s fantasy adventure series, the Crystal Keeper Chronicles. The main cat sorcerer character named Brewford is a favorite among my reading fans. So, I’m planning on writing his prequel of his adventures as an eight-hundred-year-old cat sorcerer. The original series is filled with hints of what he has done in his past, and I think a book of all his adventures will make good reading for my fans.
Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?
I have both really. I have a regular author website at: https://tiffany-turner.com. I also have an active blog in which I connect Indie Children’s Authors with readers called the “Indie Children’s Authors Connection.” I’ve been actively trying to give back to the Indie publishing community by giving a voice and platform to feature Indie children’s authors. I feature interviews and their books. I get a wide range of types of children’s books from a diverse amount of authors. I’ve also posted a free novel study for my first book in my children’s fantasy series, “The Lost Secret of Fairies” for at home schooling or distance learning.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
I think the best thing I’ve ever discovered about being a writer is “Just keep writing”. Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that your book is not for the world or any market. All books are needed. All voices need to be heard. I’ve never regretted becoming a self-published, or Indie author since it’s given me the independence to set my own deadlines, budget my own books, and be in total creative control. Best thing to do is not give up. Just keep writing.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors?
Tiffany Turner: Find out what market your book is suited for and decide whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is good for you. I just finished writing a book about this choice and published it this summer. It’s called “Get Ready to Push the Button: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing”. I put in all my knowledge any aspiring or emerging author would need to know to make this choice. It also goes over the steps you need to know to get started as an Indie/Self-Published Author.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’ll all get through this together, and please, wear a mask!
Tiffany, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views Kids!
CONNECT WITH TIFFANY TURNER!
My illustrator is available to contact on Fiverr at: https://www.fiverr.com/natpads.
Where can readers purchase your book?
My picture book is exclusively available on Amazon as a print edition or as an ebook edition on many Amazon/Kindle devices.