Episode 7: Bobbi Brandt & Kasey Rodriguez

Author and Editor of the children’s series “FEELINGS”

In this episode, the interviewers become the interviewees:

Featuring guest interviewer, Rob Grover.

Rob: 2020 has been a year when so many folks, especially kids, have had to deal with a barrage of different feelings, many for the first time. How  have the events of this year affected how you and your family approach writing?  

Kasey: You would think that everyone having to stay home, with the kids doing virtual learning, would present you with more time to focus on creativity when working on children’s books, but it has been the opposite. With 3 of my kids in virtual academy and 2 toddlers trying to break some sort of catastrophic disaster record, it’s been hard to find time for the books and blog. We somehow squeeze it in there, though.

Bobbi: I agree with what Kasey said.  I obviously have more time than she has, because I have 4 less children, but my health has had setbacks during the pandemic.  I’m finally moving in the right direction health wise though.  Luckily it doesn’t take too much energy to sit at a laptop so I was able to keep the blog going.  A lot of writing has been put on hold though.

Rob: Though your books wording and the illustrations are very simplistic and approachable in their style, they talk about and express complex feelings. Is it tough for you and your daughters to balance keeping your books approachable for kids, while still rich in their subject matter?

Kasey: I think that this would have been more difficult had I not had all these kids. Being able to just watch them navigate their feelings on a daily basis really gave us most of our material. 

Bobbi:  Agreed, these books really came together because we all come together as a family in the summer.  We spend Weeks together in a very small house during the hottest months of the year. The kids go on a technology diet while they’re here so feelings can be difficult to navigate as they decompress and live off line. With the virtual schooling they have all been spending a lot more time online than normal.  Even though it’s schooling, the screen time still has an affect on them. 

Rob: This question has two parts in it. Firstly, though I am sure it is a joy to collaborate with your family on these books, are there also challenges of working with family? Also, I understand that Kasey,  who edits the books, lives out west, can it be logistically challenging to collaborate when you are living long distance from each other?

Kasey: The most challenging part in collaborating on these books long distance has been technical aspects of the actual images we use. Having to email back and forth and upload these images can take a toll on the image quality if you aren’t careful. Not only that, we end up with color changes between the different programs we each use. It gets pretty frustrating at times. 

Bobbi: The frustration for me comes in the form of time frames. I have to be really lenient with my expectations of what is going to get done and when. Especially with virtual schooling being a part of everyday life now. Kasey’s house is crazy insane and teaming with life every second of every day. I don’t know how she does it.  

The image quality is a thing we are working to correct. When you self publish you really don’t have anyone to complain to. It’s tough to get help from the platform we publish on. The finished copy comes off of Kasey’s laptop so when there is a problem it’s frustrating because i can’t be right there to help solve it. I feel like a lot gets piled on Kasey. 

Rob: Continuing on the subject of family, as you are writing on a subject so universal to all humans as ‘feelings,” has writing these books influenced the way your family members speak about their own feelings to each other? Have you discovered more richness of conversation in your family on the subject of your feelings towards each other?

Kasey: It actually has. I started making a conscious effort to let my kids know, the four who can understand, that they get to feel what they are feeling. Validating our children’s feelings will eventually lead into them understanding what they are feeling in the moment, what caused that feeling, and how to handle that feeling in a healthy way. I think that, in the past, we were taught and continued to teach each other that expressing certain feelings will give off the perception that you are weak and vulnerable to others. This causes us to push those feelings down and not deal with them, until the bottle explodes and they get expressed in unhealthy and even toxic ways. 

Bobbi: Right, I absolutely grew up bottling feelings. For me listening to Kasey with her children and also having another child so late in life has opened up avenues for me as far as addressing feelings. Kasey and I are always talking about ways to improve both of our parenting skills in this regard. Mostly by revisiting my mistakes on my practice child (Her). I enjoy the friendship we have now and she keeps me in the know so I don’t embarrass my youngest child in public. Our daughters are 6 months apart and very close to each other as well.

Rob: Do you have any plans for your books to deal with some of the more “darker” feelings that can be particularly hard for children to process, such as the feeling of loss when a loved one passes away, or that of maybe a complex illness or other major challenge?

Bobbi:  We’ve discussed this. We’re not sure exactly how serious we want to get. We want to be a little jovial so kids enjoy picking the book up. So if we can find a way to express the issues in a way that leaves children feeling hopeful at the end, we’ll probably tackle any subject.  

Rob: On the subject of where your books go next, how do you all decide when it’s time to write another book? Do you finish one and then immediately start another? Do you wait for something to inspire you all to write the next one?

Bobbi: What usually happens is one of us will have an idea and then there is no working on anything else until our brains exhaust the idea fully. Rarely do we decide on a topic first.  It somehow picks us. I like to take characters out of the file and throw them in the program and alter them.  Sometimes this will inspire me. This is how the next one is being started. Our spider character is looking like the next focal point for our next book.  

Kasey: I agree. The best ideas just kind of come up during our daily lives and take off from there. 

Rob: Finally, other than your own, for each one of you what is your all time favorite book, and author? It’s ok if you have more than one!

Kasey: My taste in books falls under the horror genre. Currently, my all time favorite author is Elias Witherow. His short stories and books are not for everyone, but I just love them! 

Bobbi:  I love anything Stephen King or Neil Gaiman. My favorite book is called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. You wouldn’t think a book like that could be very amusing but I laughed a lot reading it. 

Rob: Your books are a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to read them to my 3 year old niece!

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