No is not Never. It’s NOT NOW. Unfortunately, there will be many NO’s — but sometimes ‘no’ actually starts a conversation, or it could be mean no for now, but a ‘yes’ in the future.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nadine Haruni, the author of the Freeda the Frog™ children’s book series, which addresses various life issues or types of family situations. The first three books, all of which have received a Gold Mom’s Choice Award for excellence in the picture book category. addresses divorce, blended families of all kinds (step-families, & families of mixed race, religion, or ethnicity), & moving to a new school/ town, transitioning schools, and other life changes. The latest book, “Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish,” addresses the loss of a pet or other loved one will be released on June 21, 2019.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I always enjoyed writing — I wrote poetry as a young child, and always enjoyed art classes growing up. In my early twenties, I took a class called “Writing & Illustrating Children’s Books” at a local college, and that inspired me to want to write books.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
My books are picture books and are geared towards younger children (ages toddler through 10); however, I had several teenagers send me direct messages on Instagram, to tell me how much these books have helped them (through the particular situation that that book was addressing). It kind of surprised me that teenagers were reading and resonating with the book’s messages. After further reflection, I think the reason the stories appeal to such a wide gap of ages for kids is that the younger kids like the colorful pictures but the older, more sophisticated readers, can better understand some of the more difficult topics.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was when I met an older teenager at a book event who asked me to sign the book, and I asked him if he wanted me to personalize it — if this was for his younger brother or sister, and he told me it was for himself. He had a good sense of humor about it, so we both laughed it off — but it made me realize to not assume that my books were only geared for younger children, that they can help children of all ages.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
For the past few months, I have been working on the release of “Freeda The Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish,” hoping that like the other books in the series, it can be a tool to open up a conversation and help families have honest and helpful discussions with their children. I recently teamed up with Dr. Huma Imtiaz on the “Wake Up With Marci” show for an interview, and I began to see the power of my stories and how adolescent therapists can utilize my words with their clients. I am currently thinking about the 5th Book in the Freeda The Frog Series.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
I believe a combination of tenacity, as well as writing from the heart and personal experiences, has really contributed to my becoming a great writer. I wrote the first three books from my own experience, as they were situations that my family was personally facing — divorce, a blended family, and moving to a new town and school. I noticed, when I was going through my own divorce, for example, that there was not a plethora of books out there helping families. When my children had a tough time adjusting to the loss of their great-grandmother, I realized that there was a need to address the death of a loved one next, which is what my latest book is based on.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
There isn’t one “most interesting story” in particular. Each book resonates differently with the reader, depending on their own personal situation. I have found that at my book readings, children will often run to me and tell me how they are like Freeda. This is why I wrote the books and created a frog language.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
I hope that my readers recognize that families come in all ‘different shapes and sizes’ so to speak, and that their family is no less important or unique than anyone else’s even if they look a little ‘different’ than their peers. I hope my books help begin the conversation about their feelings with someone they trust and help them realize that there are a lot of other people who can relate to their situation OR, learn to be more empathetic and understanding if they have a friend going through this particular situation.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I would say my biggest challenge was not knowing how to go about getting published, and not really understanding the power of social media. Social media is an invaluable tool. I am also an attorney and yoga teacher, so learning how to balance all of my ‘passions’ with my family was a challenge as well.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I love J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, because (like me), she has a very active imagination, her books take the reader into another space/ dimension, and she is completely self-made. I have started an outline for a novel that I will eventually work more on, that is based on a fantasy (like the Harry Potter series is).
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I know that my books are helping a lot of families out there who can relate to the issue being discussed in that particular book, and the more people I can reach, the more families I can help. The books are written in a very candid way and are a good tool for parents, educators and psychologists to open up the discussion into these somewhat difficult to broach topics. I hope the books can encourage kids to open up to someone they trust about how they feel, and help them to accept and appreciate diversity or a unique family situation, and one another’s differences. I am also hoping that even kids who are not going through these particular situations will read them and become a little more understanding and empathetic towards their peers who are.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
It would be best if you were persistent, be prepared to do a lot of work, have the vision that this will succeed, and really believe in the product you are putting out there.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You really have to put yourself out there. If I didn’t write and try to publish my book, I never would have known if it would resonate.
2. No is not Never. It’s NOT NOW. Unfortunately, there will be many NO’s — but sometimes ‘no’ actually starts a conversation, or it could be mean no for now, but a ‘yes’ in the future.
3. Understand the power of social media, understand Instagram and know how to use it. I’m from a generation that did not grow up with hashtags or understand what a hashtag was. I like to refer to myself as a bit of a technological dinosaur at times, but using the right hashtags really helps to reach a lot more people that can find you and your message.
4. Focus on creating a brand to help with the image you want to convey. I started off as just writing books, but over the course of time, understanding Freeda and her reached helped create my mission/ tagline on the website (of ‘helping families of all species, one tadpole at a time’).
5. Be prepared to network with all sorts of people and get advice from other authors as well that you will befriend. It becomes a network of helping one another figure out what works, and what doesn’t.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement would be for schools to promote diversity of all types and educate kids who might not currently be in these situations. Books like these need to be mandatory, so that we can combat racism, bigotry, and ignorance, and promote a love for all of mankind, regardless of what that child or family looks like on the outside.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow us @freedathefrog (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), and I also post information about my upcoming books, news, events and direct purchase links on my website at www.freedathefrog.com.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.