Interview with Kendra Preston
What is your background and how did it lead you to become an author of children’s books?
I have always loved writing creatively, but it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that I decided to develop a children’s book series. My occupational background is actually in Cardiac Rehabilitation, so I spent most of my college years writing research papers versus writing for pleasure. Creating this “Savvy and Maddy” series has been more fulfilling and gratifying than I ever could have anticipated. It has reignited my passion for writing and has also provided a wonderful avenue for me to promote a love of literacy within the children I meet along the way.
How do you pick a theme for your stories? How did you decide on an art theme?
To be honest, the themes for my stories come directly from the specific social-emotional issues that my children are dealing with during this season of life. My daughter is in first grade and my son is in kindergarten. There have been several topics that have come up in the past few years that have evoked strong emotional reactions within both of my children. I have always felt like it is important to talk through those intense emotions with the two of them and to discuss the situational context as well. We talk a lot as a family about how to productively deal with both the BIG emotions themselves and also the circumstances surrounding those emotions.
The stories I write address: bullying, inclusion, perfectionism, working together, overcoming obstacles, recovering from failure, etc. Each storybook also comes with an activity book that is designed to aid the reader(s) in thinking critically about the accompanying themes in a fun, engaging, and age appropriate manner.
In terms of an art theme, I am going to have to give all the credit to my illustrator, Mabel Chong. Her ability to bring my stories to life has been incredible. We collaborate, obviously, but she deserves all the kudos there. She is an absolute talent.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
In the back of my mind, I have always treasured the idea of “being a river, not a reservoir.” I live a very blessed life. I am healthy. I have a home, a wonderful husband, and two amazing kids. What more could I really ask for? The (marketing) world wants everyone to think that they always need more, but I disagree. I feel like it is important for everyone to draw their line at what is “enough” for them and then to bless the people around them with the excess. Personally, I just feel like it is my responsibility to pass the blessings I receive along to others who may need them more than I do.
What role did art play in your life?
Art, to me, is interwoven through all aspects of my life. It is inherent to who I am, all I do, and how I do all of the things I do. It has been part of me since day one and will be part of me until my last day. So, for me (as a writer) to answer this question concisely, completely, and eloquently would be impossible!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers or artists?
JUST KEEP CREATING! Some people may not understand what you are doing or why you are doing it. And that’s ok. Remind yourself that what you are doing is for yourself, not necessarily for anyone else. Also know that whatever you are creating may not turn out exactly as you had anticipated. Despite it all, there is so much value in what you have to offer the world by putting your creativity and your heart out there! You will inspire others and you will grow immensely in the process. I promise.
How did you choose EIAA as the recipient of your book proceeds? How did you learn about us?
My husband and I have attended your “Harvesting the Arts” event for several years now. We were initially introduced to your organization through Adam Burger, who works with my husband. Year in and year out, at this annual celebration, we’ve heard stories about how kids’ lives are transformed not only by the programs you offer, but (more importantly) by the environment you foster. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of kids who don’t feel like they “fit in” anywhere until they walk through your doors. You are a second home to so many, and I can’t think of a more deserving place to donate my profits than to an organization that provides a safe and inclusive environment for children of all ages to freely express themselves. Bravo to you for all that you are doing for our community!
Purchase a book and support Eastern Iowa Arts Academy classes in the community.
Kendra will be at Harvesting the Arts to sign and sell copies of her book! Come meet this inspiring Author and mom.