Monday, February 23, 2009

Getting to know author Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown, author of All You Want and Then Some is a graduate of Baylor University and a former elementary school teacher. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and three children. Carolyn loves to find God's surprises in everyday life-like a flawless trip to the mailbox on a pogo stick or the thrill of finding a long-lost constellation. All You Want and Then Some is her first book.

Brown took the time to answer a few questions concerning her book:
Explain the significance of the title of your book.
My dad frequently used the phrase “All you want and then some” referring to the volume of food at the dinner table or his supply of duct tape, rope, baling wire, Old Spice aftershave, and anything else he kept in great quantity. I wanted to remember him in my first publication, and this phrase, which was never delivered with any spiritual meaning, made the connection I was looking for between Bella and Christ. Our Lord faithfully provides for our needs, and because he is a loving and generous God, he is eager to satisfy some of our wants as well.

The book is based on a true story. Tell us about that.
When our daughter, Katie, was three, we welcomed the arrival of her little brother, Parker, and then eighteen months later our third child, Cash, was born. Parker was a happy, very busy baby, and right before his second birthday he experienced a seizure in his high chair. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and a developmental disorder (PDD-NOS, which is on the same spectrum as autism and Asperger syndrome). In the months that followed, Parker’s seizures increased. My husband and I, with three small children, were sleep deprived and struggling to meet the children’s emotional needs and still have any time for each other. Soon Parker required one-on-one attention and for his safety and those around him, could not be left alone. It was then that God sent us a special neighbor, who was a nurse, a grandmother, and a disciple of Christ, to serve us during our time of need. She loved our family unconditionally, and because she was a seasoned parent herself, she anticipated our needs even when we couldn’t think straight.

What message would you like readers to get from the book?
God intentionally puts people in our lives at just the right time for a specific purpose in order to fulfill his plan.

You decided to self-publish the book. Why was that important for you?
Because this story is personal to our family, we wanted the characters and the setting to be portrayed as they really are. We also wanted to be in control of the final text, because if the story were altered then it would not be our own.

Were your children involved in writing the book?
They were! They were involved in making the illustrations come to life. By the time I got around to writing the story, several years had passed; Katie had grown, and that created a challenge for the illustrator. So little brother Cash posed as Katie during the photo shoot to capture the emotions Katie feels throughout the book. Katie, on the other hand, posed for all the shots that didn’t show her full face. The artwork shown in the book – on the refrigerator, the Gallery, and on the final page – are actual pieces by Katie that were scanned into the illustrations.

The illustrations are wonderful. Tell us about the artist.
Deb Hoeffner created a magnificent fusion of color and breathed life into the book’s characters, making the illustration amazingly lifelike. Deb has had a twenty-five year professional career, and her paintings and drawings are in many private collections. She describes her unique style of “soft realism” as a layering of thought, paint, and possibilities. Deb’s studio is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

What do you believe is the number-one need of children growing up today?
Children need to know Jesus and learn of him, but beyond that, what children need, and want, more than anything else is the undivided attention of an adult who dishes out healthy portions of affirmation with a few sides of fun and laughter.

Why are small acts of kindness and service sometimes the most precious?
The kindness and attention our neighbor gave to our three children were to her just small, incidental acts of service, but these acts made a big impression. Young children are very impressionable and perceptive. When we model (or simply observe) small acts of service to others, we all realize that hey, even I can do that! These seemingly insignificant acts sometimes have a huge impact, even if we can’t see it with our eyes.

You love the outdoors. What are your favorite outdoor activities with your children?
Creative outdoor play is so good for children. Our family enjoys building forts, playing by the creek, climbing rocks, jumping bales of hay, looking for animal tracks, stargazing, camping out in our tree house, and roasting marshmallows.

Do marshmallows really sink?
I have conducted that experiment, and my data lead me to conclude that marshmallows really do not sink, even when they are nearly petrified! But in this book, sinking marshmallows symbolize Katie’s heart-sinking feelings of sadness. When the family situation improves and Katie feels noticed once again, one reason is that Mom is remembering to buy squishy marshmallows once again.