by Dr. Rachel Kowert PhD
Tales from Cloud Canyon is a series of character driven, topical short stories celebrating the everyday child, doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities designed for children aged 3+. Developed by a research psychologist and mom of 3, these stories were developed to be entertaining, educational, and celebrate the power of the everyday within our the beautiful, diverse world.
This Kickstarter collection features three topical short stories from the Cloud Canyon Universe: Here, There, & Everywhere, The Secret to Success, and Invisible Friends. Each of these titles are fully illustrated from artist Randall Hampton and are about 25 pages long.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE WRITING
The fictional characters in childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. We learn a range of things through the observation of these symbolic models, such as what is right and wrong, a desirable and undesirable behavior, gender roles, norms, stereotypes, and more. The role of models is particularly influential in childhood as it can have a long lasting impact on development.
Each story in this collection was developed to not only be entertaining but educational as well, with the stories’ characters modeling a range of age-appropriate skills spanning four areas of human development: intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. The skills that are modeled within any particular story are displayed on the back cover of each book and explained in more detail on the last page of the book.
DIVERSITY, REPRESENTATION & INCLUSION
Tales from Cloud Canyon changes the narrative by reflecting and celebrating the beautiful and diverse reality of our world. The characters within the Cloud Canyon Universe were developed to represent a range of shapes, sizes, abilities and disabilities, and traditional and non-traditional families.
In the Cloud Canyon universe:
-More than half the characters are female
-More than half the characters come from an ethnic-minority background
-1 in 10 characters have a visible disability
-Characters come from traditional and non-traditional families
-Different body shapes are represented
-she/her, he/him, and they/them pronouns are represented
It was also equally important that these details were not the central theme of the stories themselves as our shape, level of ability, and what our family unit looks like are just some of the many parts of who we are and not necessarily the defining feature of our stories.
PRODUCTION AND RELEASE
All of the stories have been written and are currently being brought to life through the illustrative magic of Randall Hampton. The physical production of the books is expected to start in June 2022. Time from production to shipping is about 6 – 8 weeks (+/- 2-4 additional weeks due to COVID delays). Once Rachel receives the books, they will be shipped to backers. There is an expected arrival date of the books no later than November 2022.
Here, There, & Everywhere Is the story of Eli and Ophelia. Ophelia notices Eli isn’t at school one day only to find he is at home mourning the loss of his grandmother. This is a story about death, dying, and grief told in a child appropriate way from a faith-agnostic perspective. Meaning, it would be just as appropriate in a religious home as it would be in a non religious home.
“First we are kids, then grown ups, then wrinkly and old,
And life is a cycle that way, so I’ve been told.”
Eli paused and looked back up at his friend,
“But what about after? What happens in the end?”
“Well, that is a really big, difficult question,
There are a lot of ideas, superstition.
Some say you go up in to Heaven in the sky,
And reunite with everyone who passed you by.
Others say you come back here as something different,
A bird or butterfly, something significant.”
“But whatever happens, a part of them stays here,
Inside of all the people they’ve met and held dear.
We hold pieces of everyone we’ve loved, embraced,
Those who are still here and those in a different place.”
“Though she’s not here, your grandma is a part of you,
Who you are and the things that you think, say, and do.
The way your hair springs up, your encouraging gaze.
Those are just two of the many possible ways.
So really you two will always be together,
In your heart and your mind, today and forever.”
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I am originally from Austin, Texas (born and raised) but have lived just about everywhere. I received my BA in psychology from University of Texas at Dallas, moved to Santa Clara for graduate school and then York, England for my PhD. I lived in Germany for a few years after that before now settling in Ottawa, Ontario. I have three children, a very supportive husband, and a fledgling lemon tree in my backyard that I am desperately trying to keep alive. During the day, I am a research director for a mental-health non-profit and over the last few years have really grown the creative side of myself through the creation of Tales from Cloud Canyon.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Cloud Canyon is a place where the everyday child is celebrated for doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities. It is a world where mistakes are learned from, diversity is celebrated, and every child gets to be the hero of their own story.
Tales from Cloud Canyon is a storybook collection that features a series of male and female centered stories as well as topical short stories. The first book in the collection, Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency was successfully kickstarted in 2019. This project raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and earned an INDIES award for educational children’s picture books. Over the last few years, I have continued to write and expand the Cloud Canyon universe and am excited to announce that I am launching a second Kickstarter June 4 for a BRAND NEW collection of three topical short stories: Here, There, & Everywhere, Invisible Friends, and The Secret to Success.
The creation of these stories have been such a wonderful interconnection of my personal and professional lives. I drew from my background to develop stories that would be fun, entertaining, but also maximize learning. Childhood stories provide an incredible opportunity to teach children a range of skills and behaviors across various categories of human development – intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. I wanted to make sure to take advantage of this opportunity by enlisting diverse characters and storylines that reflect everyday situations. My educational background also allowed me to develop characters to model effective skills and strategies to navigate some of the more difficult situations in childhood – such as fear of missing out, feeling left out, and constructive confrontation.
I created these stories to not only provide a space where all children can see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, but also as a tool for starting difficult conversations with my own children!
How do you create your characters?
When I sat down to write these stories, I thought to myself who do I admire? Who have been my greatest teachers and inspiration? From these answers, I developed my characters – my characters are all people I know or admire. For example, Quinn is loosely based off of Serena Williams, Yanni is named and modeled after the contemporary composer Yanni, and Eli is named after my youngest child. Naming and developing the characters was perhaps the most fun part of the writing process for me. It is also an extra special treat when other readers notice my “secret” references and geek out with them alongside me.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
My inspiration really came from frustration out of what was currently available for my children to read. In 2019, when my daughter was 4 years old,I was lucky enough to pick up about a hundred different paperback books at a garage sale of a former teacher and had started reading her a new book every night before bed. After a few weeks of this, I started to notice a theme: there were very few books with female protagonists and when there were, they were pigeonholed into a damsel in distress or only successfully navigated their challenges with the use of superpowers. While there is nothing wrong with a female superhero or a knight in shining armor, I wanted something different.
After a bit of digging, I realized there was a dramatic lack of representation in children’s literature. The Nielson 2018 book scan report found that of the top 100 best-selling children’s books, 1 in 5 did not feature a single female character, only 2 out of the top 100 featured a black, Asian, or minority ethnic character in a central role ( with 70% of the black, Asian, or ethnic characters were in non-speaking roles) and only 1 out of the top 100 featured a disabled child but they did not speak or have a key role.
Fueled with discontent, I called my friend who runs a small micro press and told her she needed to write or commission some books with strong female characters at the heart of them. She told me I should write them. At the time, this made me audibly laugh! However, after sitting with her words and fueled by her encouragement, I decided to open up my notes section in my phone and give it a try. In less than two weeks I had written what ended up becoming the first collection in the Tales from Cloud Canyon Universe: the 26 stories of Pragmatic Princess. In 2019, I successfully kickstarted these stories as the collection Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and earned an INDIES award for educational children’s picture books. So I guess I can write children’s books.
I continue to be inspired by my children and the challenges that parenting brings when it comes to navigating typical childhood challenges. How can I talk to them about childhood stranger danger? What is the best way to approach death, dying, and grief in a child appropriate way? The symbolic models in stories are some of our earliest teachers and are a great way to open many of these conversations with our children.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
All I need is the notes app on my phone and a stroke of inspiration. Inspiration can hit at the strangest times – while I’m trying to go to sleep, first thing in the morning, or when I am driving in the car. I am never too far from my phone so it is usually pretty easy for me to stop what I’m doing and jot down my notes. I find it really difficult to just set aside time to “sit down and write” so I make it a priority to ride the waves of inspiration when they come.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
My ideas largely come from the world around me – my own experiences and my interactions with my children. For example, my oldest child was talking to strangers on Minecraft one Saturday afternoon despite the fact I have told them many many times not to talk to strangers on the internet. This interaction inspired (necessitated really!) the entire plot of Invisible Friends.
What do you like to read?
Fantasy is my favorite genre of book and I am currently making my way through the Witcher Series of books. I also really enjoy YA fiction and am waiting with bated breath for the next interaction in The Graces series by Loure Eve.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write what you love and don’t let the rejection keep you from creating. I have received so many rejections in my time for my work and while discouraging I’ve never let it stop me from continuing on. If you have a story to tell – tell it!
Dr. Rachel Kowert is a research psychologist, award-winning author, and mom of three (and #CavillInfluencer). In 2019, she launched her first Kickstarter project from the Cloud Canyon universe – a collection of female centered stories entitled Pragmatic Princess: 26 stories of self sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and won an INDIES award for educational children’s picture book. Dr. Kowert has been featured in various media outlets, including NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and Wired.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Dr. Rachel Kowert is a research psychologist, award-winning author and mom of three. In 2019, she launched her first Kickstarter project from the Cloud Canyon universe was a collection of female centered stories entitled Pragmatic Princess: 26 stories of self sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and won an INDIES award for educational children’s picture book.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Randall Hampton is an author, illustrator, husband and father of 3. He is the Creator of “The Little Game Master” series of books and considers himself a story teller above all else. When he is not spending time with family and friends, Randall enjoys reading, video games, music, and table top games of all sorts.
Author’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/s?i=stripbooks&rh=p_27%3ADr.+Rachel+Kowert+PhD&s=relevancerank&text=Dr.+Rachel+Kowert+PhD&ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1
Kickstart Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pragmaticprincess/tales-from-cloud-canyon
Book video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCTQ0ZgA14Q
RACHEL’S SOCIAL MEDIA https://www.rkowert.com/ https://twitter.com/drkowert https://www.facebook.com/drrachelkowert https://www.instagram.com/drrachelkowert/ https://www.youtube.com/Psychgeist https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachelkowert/
Dr. Rachel Kowert PhD will be awarding a $75 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC or 1 copy each of the 3 Cloud Canyon books (available in November) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.