The truth is, as a writer you are going to be putting your heart and soul out to the world. Not everyone is going to think you did something amazing.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kimberly King.
Kimberly King is an award winning author, educator and certified sexual abuse prevention specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood development and family studies from University of Maine and a Master of Science degree in early childhood education from Wheelock College.
She is the author of “I Said No!,” the best-selling sexual abuse prevention book for children. Kimberly is a sexual abuse prevention facilitator with Darkness To Light. She spends her time training adults on prevention strategies and sharing her expertise as a consultant, advisor, and media source. Her work has been featured in various magazines and blogs including; Social Work Now, US News and World Report, The Health Journal, Modern Mom, PopSugar and is highly recommended as a resource by national prevention organizations. Kimberly helps parents, kids and organizations learn how to define, prevent and cope with difficult emotional topics using proactive communication.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
I grew up in Connecticut. I was the oldest of five children. I loved school, ice-skating, and spending time with my large, but close, family. I lived in a little house, on a quiet street, on a cul de sac. I always felt safe and carefree. I still remember my blue banana seat bike that I would ride around the neighborhood with my pack of little friends. I had to walk a mile, up a hill in the snow, to get to school in the winter. I loved bundling up to go outside and play in the fresh snow. I had an Wonder Woman lunch box. I had a happy childhood full of love.
My parents divorced when I was 13 years old. I was fortunate to be raised by two parents who really put the kids first, so my childhood stayed relatively happy. This experience served as the inspiration to my second children’s book, When Your Parents Divorce. My parents participated in what would be known today as a “COLLABORATIVE” or cooperative divorce. They made a conscious decision to share in decision making and parenting time. We alternated weeks between two homes during my teen years. As the oldest, I grew up as the anchor of my younger siblings. My dad often referred to me fondly as “The Admiral.” I became the constant babysitter, helper, driver, tutor and therapist. It seemed that I put myself in a management role of keeping the kids together, even though I really didn’t have too!
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?
As a young mom, struggling with identity and finding my life’s purpose — I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book took was a true inspiration. The way Elizabeth Gilbert found her truth and was able to express herself and share with the world was truly impressive. One of the most inspirational points for me in that book was when Elizabeth decided she was going to pray for the first time, in a long time. When she finally got quiet and still, she heard god’s voice tell her, “go back to bed Liz.” It was the moment she realized that god’s voice was hervoice. She realized that god was in her, as her. She symbolically and graphically represented ruin in the most beautiful way. She gave concrete inspiration to all of us who fail and have to rebuild. Her book gave me the courage to address some of the topics I had been avoiding for years. It became obvious to me that although I had been in many of the lost places she found herself, I was not alone. I was in good company with many women who fail, falter, rebuild and start again with resilience and spirit. I think she really taught me to get over my fear and just try to do something special, just for me. I decided to try to share my story.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?
There wasn’t an exact moment, more likely a series of isolated moments that culminated into a moment where I knew it was time to get to the business of sharing my story.
I was a victim of a sexual assault in college. I did not report the event to anyone except my mom and a college campus doctor. That decision and the guilt I carried with me was overwhelming.
Fast Forward to 2004, I was a Navy wife and had three young children. On June 8, 2004 our third son was born and his dad left on a deployment the very same day. I was left with a newborn and two young children to take care of. My mom came down to help. But, when she left my newborn developed jaundice and I had to go back to the hospital for an overnight. I asked my friend and neighbor to keep my kids for the night. She did so happily. Our kids had played together for months and were friends. When I went to pick up my kids in the morning, “Zack” came out of the house looking upset. He started to cry and said his friend wouldn’t stop bothering him and kept asking him to do things. He asked the mom for help and she sent him back to the bedroom. My little guy told me he ended up locking himself in the bathroom to keep this friend away from him. More details followed. But, — my son ended up creating a safety plan to avoid the inappropriate touch. I was so proud of my son for avoiding a bad situation and telling me right away.
To process this night my son started drawing. We started talking about how he did the right thing… he told. How he knew it was not safe and he did what he could to find safety. We talked a lot about how none of it was his fault. We talked about why his friend might have done that or said the things he said.
A few months following the sleep over incident, I looked over my research on sexual abuse prevention and my son’s journal. I started to think about all the talking and “what if’s” stories we had shared. Suddenly it just clicked! This pile of notes, a young boys journal, the stories from my classroom, the stories from my friends, my story, it all hit me at once. This was the story I had to tell and this was a book. It was time to be brave, share my truth and write this book to help other children. It was time to do something. We wrote I Said No!
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
I thought that writing this book with my son would be a therapeutic experience for us both. I thought to myself that if even one child could be helped by this book, I would be happy.
I wanted to help children and families learn strategies to stay safe.
Did the actual results align with your expectations?
No, I honestly did not think the book would sell because it was on such a difficult and uncomfortable topic.
I thought people would avoid the book in general. The topic was still not something people talked about. I was thrilled and truly honored that other parents found the value of this book in that is was really able to help their children. We managed to cover all of those difficult topics that nobody wants to talk about in a kid friendly, non- icky way.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement?
In 2014, I was at a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Virginia Beach. A sweetheart named Jenelle came right towards me. She saw the book cover on my table and yelled to her mom, “MOM! MOM! It’s the RED FLAG LADY! She was full of excitement and just blurted out her story and how she learned so much from my book. How she read my book to her friends. How she knows the red flags and they have really helped. Her mom thanked me for making the topic easy to talk about. The power of parents and kids learning and talking about this topic is unprecedented. The message is spreading like a wildfire with the help of the companion movement #metoo!
The book is going global and I hope to as well! The book is currently being translated into Spanish and French we are pursuing publishing the book in other countries. Just two weeks ago I got a call from a Vietnamese woman named Ngo Thuy Anh, asking if she could meet with me to discuss sexual abuse prevention and how to implement a program in her country. She met with me at my favorite little coffee shop, The Tusk And Cup in Wilton, Ct. We started chatting like old friends. She shared with me her sexual abuse prevention video series and business plan. She told me that my story and book had inspired her to bring sexual abuse prevention to Vietnam. Ngo just graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business and has developed an easy access, affordable, sexual abuse prevention video/book series for the people of Vietnam. I will be serving as a consultant for organization. The Spark spreads.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
The best place to hear authentic reader feedback on Amazon. Most of the reviews are similar in that they are highly positive, that has remained constant. All reviews are very special to me and I try to write back as often as possible.
Negative feedback is also important to read and analyze. One reader told us that she was offended by the use of the word “smart”. I think the text read something to the effect of, “telling makes you brave and smart”. I was intending to provide encouragement to the child. But, the parent pointed out that this statement could have a reverse effect. It might imply that nottelling would mean you were not brave and notsmart. This was really important feedback and she was absolutely correct. We removed that line of text and made further edits. We also received a few requests to include something about the dangers of the online risk. We added a new page last year that lightly addressed that issue.
A few examples what readers say from Amazon:
“This book is so well written. It provides clear, specific, real-world examples for kids of things they might experience, and gives them help thinking through how to handle these situations in case they ever do get into them. It is so important that have hard conversations with your kids about how to stay safe, and this book helped give us the words to begin to talk with our kids about these topics. The book is also open-ended enough that it encourages further conversation.”
“Everyone should have this book. I wish I had 100 of these to pass out to every parent I know. I am a social worker and my mom was a therapist for adolescent sex offenders. Children and parents need to have these discussions and know what red flags are. Buy the book. Buy ten more and pass them out.”
“We purchased this after an incident with our neighbor kid. My son even said he wished he had this book before to know what was happening. It really helps prepare them!”
“I passed on to friends so we can all be ready. It takes a village.Wonderfully written book! Thank you!!
“I read this to my 5 1/2 year old girl after she had two!!! incidents at school with little boys…enough said. I read this to her and was surprised to watch her reaction as I read it to her. She was so excited that there were similarities in the book and with what she experienced…she talked and talked and talked. She loved it. We will keep reading it to her, until she goes to college!!!!! Thank you to the author and her very brave son. Well done!”
“You have got to get this information to your kids. Too much abuse is happening, in too many places, to too many innocent kids. Abuse often destroys their self esteem, distorts teen years and effects their marriage. Stop it in the beginning, before it starts. Too many people are afraid to talk about it or think it isn’t time yet. Get this book, build their confidence and give them wisdom to know what to say to stay protected. Your kids are worth it!”
“As a school counselor, and a mother of small children, I have found this book to be unique in its delivery as well as very important for children, schools and parents to utilize in their homes, schools, and even in therapy sessions. The delivery of a sensitive topic is something I haven’t seen before in my trainings, education, or in bookstores. The use of the easy, and colorful, green and red flags make the tools easy for children to understand and relate to. The book is interactive, the author uses excellent writing skills, care, and knowledge in the layout and her writing. I highly recommend this book to parents, counselors, and school counseling departments.”
“I was sexually abused as a child and I never want that to happen to my son. But I wasn’t sure how to talk to him about it. I didn’t want to scare him so I looked for books. This book stuck out because it was actually written by a kid and his mom. It has been very helpful in helping my son to understand safety. My son now knows what to look for and he knows without a doubt that he can always come to Mommy if anything happens. I highly recommend this book to anyone with kids.”
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book?
The most fulfilling part of writing this book was watching it grow and hearing from those kids and parents the book has helped. One of the most incredible stories can be found with a former Kindergarten Student. While teaching in Virginia I was blessed with the most wonderful classroom full of students and very active parents. I sent home a copy of my book for my students and parents to read. It was just before Christmas Break. Following the holidays one of my mom’s came in and said she needed to speak with me privately. She shared with me that her daughter had been the victim of an unwanted touch by a distant relative at a holiday party. She was very upset and hugged me. She was blaming herself and did not know what to do. I tried to give her my advice, mom to mom. She said that because the family had read my book, her daughter knew what to do right away. She spoke up, said no, and TOLD. She was so proud of her daughter and so appreciative to me for sharing my story. They have recovered from the incident and it is really a true honor to know that my book actually helped.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
Yes. There are negatives in talking about this topic, especially writing about it. A family very close family member who shall remain nameless, told me they were embarrassed that I was willing to talk about this topic in public. That was one of the most painful experiences of my life because I had finally found the bravery to tell my truth. In the end, I guess there will always be people in our lives who just don’t want to hear the truth because it is uncomfortable and brings up the past.
When I first published the book there were some negative reviews. One woman blamed me for my son’s incident. The best thing to do with those types of reviews is say you are sorry they did not find your book helpful, offer a refund, and direct them to another resource. Always keep things professional and pleasant online.
The truth is, as a writer you are going to be putting your heart and soul out to the world. Not everyone is going to think you did something amazing. Not everybody is going to like your writing, your style, your parenting choices. You have to have a bit of a thick skin if you are publishing a book.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
Children’s books like this have the power to create true change through education. Education is power and sexual abuse is preventable. When you put the two topics together in a book, it creates an energy. You quickly realize that preventing sexual abuse is just about the most powerful thing that you can do for your kids and all kids. Books are passable, shareable, relatable and accessible to all. Books full of valuable and important information like this can save lives.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
My mom taught me from a very young age to believe in myself. She encouraged me to be persistent and patient. She encouraged me to practice, because anything worth having wouldn’t come easy. I worked hard to learn many things like how to play the piano, how to ice skate, how to be a teacher. “Practice makes perfect”, she would say. I always enjoyed the time spent practicing. But, I never became an olympic skater or concert pianist. I didn’t have the passion for those things. The magic happens when you find your true passion and practice. I loved teaching and helping children. When I had my own children, they became my passion and have inspired me and my writing.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career?
Books don’t sell themselves! You have to be brave enough to keep writing. Also, I struggled with the challenge of working from home. It is difficult to establish mom work hours when you are home with three young children. My work at home often seemed less valuable than friends with “real jobs”. There were always so many other things to do: laundry, cleaning, shopping, cooking, bills, driving! Time management is a very hard thing to master from home.
Also, one of the big challenges was learning about social media and marketing. I’m still learning!
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?
I wanted to write about real situations that kids might encounter in a day, at school, on the bus, on a playdate, and a camping trip. I wanted to cover the topic of sexual abuse in realistic factual terms. That 1/10 kids are abused before the age of 18. That 90% of abuse happens from people we know and trust. That 40% older children abuse younger children. That it is not the stranger in the van. Dispelling myths and being real were important. But, doing that in a kid friendly way without scaring kids was the challenge. I wanted my book to be specific.
2. Do your research ahead of time, make sure nobody else has published on the topic.
I did extensive research on sexual abuse prevention books. There were a few books on the topic already but they were not specific and one of them was downright creepy. I wanted my book to be full of scenarios for kids to practice. I wanted to encourage communication between kids and parents. This was my niche.
3. Educate yourself with how to effectively market your book.
Take a class that will help you develop the tools to actually spark the movement. Your story may be great but if you don’t know how to get the word out… it will remain just a great story.
I highly recommend taking the the training Kary Oberbrunner gives online and in person.
https://karyoberbrunner.comHe provides a number of free trainings and is a powerhouse author marking guru. He has sparked his own movement called “Igniting Souls”.
4. Borrow other people’s platforms and give.
I spent a lot of time reaching out to national sexual abuse prevention groups. I sent book samples. I contacted my favorite mommy bloggers, parenting bloggers and kept trying. I volunteered to write guest blog posts. I did a lot of giving. I ran book giveaways on goodreads. I contacted local media. I said YES! To every single interview request. Form relationships with your peers on the topic of interest. You will be very surprised to find that authors really enjoy collaboration.
5. Have a plan to become an expert.
I took training to learn about sexual abuse prevention. I read all the books i could get ahold of. I reached out to the current experts in the field. Then, decided to teach others about sexual abuse prevention and signed up for the D2L facilitator program. I am trained and certified to teach adults through a nationally recognized program called Stewards of Children. I actively engage and promote D2L.org and reference their program as the best overall sexual abuse prevention program.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next?
I am working on a new book that will start the discussion of sexual abuse prevention for tweens that will focus on consent. I think that if I was more aware as a young college student about consent, I would have been able to better understand what happened to me and how to handle it. The #metoo movement has brought countless stories to the world. For the first time real action and accountability are taking place and that makes hope and healing possible. As a culture, we all have to get ahead of sexual abuse before it starts.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter and instagram @kkingbooks
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.