Meet the Author! A conversation with Cindy Lane, author of “Smelly Begins”

Meet the Author! A conversation with Cindy Lane, author of “Smelly Begins” 330 378 Reader Views Kids

Smelly Begins

Cindy Lane
Tellwell Talent (2023)
ISBN: 978-1998190638

Cindy Lane is a wife and mother of two grown sons and a teenage daughter within a blended family. She has been sharing and creating stories with hidden lessons both at home and in the workplace for years.

With a degree in psychology, an established career in human resources with several published articles, and experience as a public speaker, she knows the power of good narrative. With a rhyming style and upbeat tempo, inspired by true stories, the author unites humor with positive values to create a children’s book series that everyone can enjoy.

Hi Cindy, welcome to Reader Views! What is Smelly Begins about and what was your inspiration for writing a children’s book centered around siblings and their bond through unique nicknames?

The Adventures of Smelly Rogers series shares stories about the relationships and experiences made by kids. These stories hold special memories and teach important lessons about life and love.  The main inspiration is Love as we jump into the simple joys and values of family life, no matter what your family looks like.

How did you come up with the nicknames Smelly, Jelly, and Welly? Were there other contenders?

I’m really happy you’re asking this question. My answer is simple: none. That’s what the boys came up with, and it’s genuine. However, someone cautioned that the name “Smelly” might be offensive. In that moment, I decided to stand against political correctness. I wanted to honor children just as they are. So, not only did the name stay, but “GET SMELLY” became a way to encourage jumping in, enjoying the moment, and seeking adventure with joyful curiosity and enthusiasm. Let me explain it another way.

Think about how society turned “That’s Wicked” or “Bad” (recall Michael Jackson’s Bad Album) to mean “Good.” I’m doing the same for “Smelly.” When you live life by playing, loving, and engaging, regardless of your background, circumstances, feelings, looks, or the labels people give you, that’s what we call “Getting Smelly,” and it’s a good thing. 

I have made and wear, “Let’s Get Smelly” T-shirts when attending promotional events, and live the brand. Pictured left are Mimi’s Mom and I sporting the shirts.

In addressing the topic of an embarrassing nickname like ‘Smelly’, what were your considerations to keep it affectionate and humorous?

Again, it comes down to LOVE, and having the confidence to be inspired and encouraged by one of the very best, Charles Shultz.  His beloved “Peanuts” stories had a particular character called “Pigpen”.

Here is the description of him from the Peanuts website:

He may travel in his own personal dust cloud, but Pigpen’s mind and conscience are clear. He’s confident in who he is and carries himself with dignity and respect. He treats others well and hopes they will do the same for him (they often do not, but he perseveres). Pigpen considers it a point of pride that he is cloaked in the ‘dust of countless ages.’

Reference https://www.peanuts.com/about/pigpen

Smelly, will personify grace with a wonderful sense of humor and her brothers and family behave in kind.

The nickname transition from ‘Smelly’ to ‘Nugget’ shows sensitivity and maturity. What key message do you aim to convey through this?

When Smelly asks her brothers to have a “public” facing nickname, she illustrates how to positively advocate for yourself with an explanation. 

I message to the young reader that no matter your age, when something is important to you, you need to ask for what you want.  I also wanted our hero to show emotional intelligence to explain why she was asking this from her brothers and in doing so they connected to her situation and understood.   With clear communication comes comprehension, then empathy, and ultimately in this case, a second endearing nickname as treasured as gold.

Balancing humor and important values are a notable aspect of your book. Can you describe your approach to achieving this balance?

While it may sound redundant, the solution lies in Love and Truth. These stories, along with many others, derive from genuine events, each possessing its own natural charm. I merely serve as the storyteller and poet, recounting tales through the lens of childhood’s light and delight.

Writing in rhyme and maintaining an upbeat tempo must have been challenging. Can you discuss your experience and any difficulties you encountered?

After outlining the story, I take some quiet time—either by sleeping on it or during a shower. It might seem strange, but in those reflective moments, words and phrases pop into my head. The next step involves editing and transforming the text into rhyme, connecting ideas, and using a thesaurus and rhyme dictionary if necessary. This part takes the most time to make the lyrics flow. Surprisingly, throughout this process, I naturally started “singing” my stories with a 4/4 beat count. Even my childhood piano lessons came in handy, helping me figure out the rhythm and how the words fit on the page.

To what extent is the story based on true events, and are the characters inspired by real-life figures?

All the stories are about real events and people. In fact, the actual Smelly is now 19 years old. Just before the book was published, we met up with her former soccer teammates and Coach Doug. The real Coach Doug was happy to see himself in the book. He laughed as he remembered the day of the three Victoria problem during their first game and hearing our family cheering, “Go Nugget Go!”

What themes did you specifically focus on to resonate with both child and adult readers?

“In Smelly Begins, the core theme revolves around Love and Joy, conveyed through relatable stories. Interestingly, this interview coincided with my nephew’s wife welcoming her second child. A heartwarming Instagram post captures the older sibling embracing the new baby, embodying a universal sentiment. The initial tale, How Smelly Got Her Name, revolves around that special sibling moment and more.

The second story, Smelly Makes a Smelly, transforms the challenges of separation into a tender moment of love. The third story resonates with all parents and siblings who have attended a sports game. Regardless of the outcome, it encapsulates the timeless feelings of Love and Joy experienced in those moments.

How do you envision your book serving as a discussion tool for families and educators on sibling dynamics and mutual respect?

I have been delighted to learn from young families that Smelly Begins is really connecting with kids.  Mimi’s illustrations are engaging and the children point and talk about them.  The stories naturally support asking questions like, “Do you think Jelly and Welly were mean when they nick-named their sister Smelly? Why do you think Smelly wants to wear Mom’s perfume? Do you have funny nicknames?  Do you talk nicely to your siblings when you have a problem?  If someone asked you to call them a different name, would you respect them like Smelly’s brothers did?”

 All of these are natural and easy questions a parent or educator can ask for post-story interaction.

What key lessons do you hope children will learn from the story of Adam, Luke, and Victoria?

These are three children from different combinations of parents, and they found a way to connect, express their love for one another and share in joyful moments.  Even in Smelly Makes a Smelly the second story of the trilogy, we experience a gentle and quiet moment where Smelly pauses and just adores her sleeping brothers.  These children have made a family through how they treat one another and I hope children learn that investing in agape love brings such joy and blessings in all relationships.

In your collaboration with illustrator Mimi Hong, how did her unique perspective and experiences, including being on the autism spectrum, enrich the visual storytelling of Smelly Begins?

Mimi possesses impressive visual art skills, bringing illustrated characters to life with her unique expressions and actions. Her artwork reflects certain attributes of autism, showcasing a sense of order, yet she skillfully infuses humor and logic into her illustrations. When faced with challenges, it becomes a collaborative family effort. Mimi’s mom and I have spent numerous Saturdays around the dining room table, acting out emotions and actions to convey story concepts. This experience takes me back to the days when my oldest, who has PDD-NOS, required assistance in understanding things. In those moments, I may tweak a word choice to enhance the story, drawing on past experiences. Additionally, if background edits or tasks beyond Mimi’s scope are needed, my daughter Victoria, currently studying 2D Animation in college, lends her expertise. Mimi’s autism becomes a unifying force, bringing two families together to create visual art, while also serving as a reminder of the language needed to connect with children. In the process, we provide a platform to showcase the talents of our daughters, making this journey a positive and enriching experience for us all.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of writing Smelly Begins?

Witnessing the finished product, with kids joyfully adopting names like Jelly and Welly, is incredibly rewarding. Seeing babies point to items in How Smelly Got Her Name adds another layer of heartwarming interaction. Attending book fairs and discussing the values embedded within the stories, especially with parents who understand the world of autistic kids, is truly uplifting. It’s a chance to showcase the incredible superpowers that kids on the spectrum possess. The moments are countless, each one brimming with positivity and the potential to make a meaningful impact.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your journey as the author of Smelly Begins?

The lesson learned stems from the untold backstory of losing my high school friend, Angie, which became the catalyst for writing the book. When I received the news while shopping with my daughter, she noticed my tears and asked why. Explaining Angie’s passing, Victoria immediately recognized her as the hero of one of my stories. That moment sparked the realization that I needed to share these stories as a tribute to Angie and to spread the values of Love and Joy that enrich our world. The key lesson is to “Get Smelly,” to actively engage in life beyond the routine. Balancing a full-time job, this journey also taught me the importance of early morning and weekend self-discipline, as well as honing organizational skills.

How do you think your book can help children navigate their own family relationships and understand the importance of empathy?

The world of Smelly Rogers is a sweet place to settle down for heartfelt stories that are based in activities and milestones that children experience.  Parents and children will connect with the experiences as they feel the Love and Joy, in the everyday things like the addition of a new family member, a child wanting to spend more time with a parent, or the whole experience from every perspective when a child and family join in to watch that first “sports game.”  The siblings and parents learn and grow together and illuminate positive virtues.

As an author, what advice would you give to others aspiring to write children’s books that blend humor with life lessons?

I think genuine sincerity and writing from the heart to the heart of a child is always the way to go.  Whether one is using humor and rhyme in retelling experiences or utilizing imaginative characters having fantastic adventures, the author is putting their headspace in the mind of the child and sharing, not lecturing on a values experience.  Then I believe it would be well received. 

Could you give us a glimpse into the future stories planned for The Adventures of Smelly Rogers series?

Exciting times are ahead as we gear up for the next adventures in the series! Coming your way are two engaging trilogies and a stand-alone Christmas book titled A Very Smelly Christmas. Each book unfolds through three heartwarming stories that promise to bring a smile to your face.

In Smelly Begins, we explored the themes of Love and Joy, delving into the meaningful investments required to nurture these emotions.  Run Smelly Run will capture your attention with tales of patience and perseverance. The third trilogy, tentatively named Circle of Smelly, revolves around friendships that blossom through kindness and self-control.

These stories strike a chord because they tap into universal values that transcend generations. As we expand the Adventures Series, my hope is to connect with readers, weaving more stories through shared adventures. The potential for The Adventures of Smelly Rogers is limitless, promising an enjoyable journey ahead!

CONNECT WITH CINDY LANE!
Website:?www.smellyrogers.com
Instagram: smellyrogersadventures
Facebook: Smelly Rogers Adventures

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