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Cindy Jarrett retired as a school teacher and took up writing. With her partner, she’s written several kids books, which is nice since she taught kids for her hole teaching career. We discuss her books and what it’s like to move to a new career.
Today this is an interesting and special podcast for me. I have Cindy, Jared on and miss Jared. And I can’t call you by your first name. It’s very difficult. She was a teacher when I was in high school at my school. It is nice to see her again. And I’m glad to have her on.
This chair, how are you doing? I’m doing great. So I know you taught, but what are some things you like to do besides writing? I
Cindy: like to go to movies.
Stephen: Ah, you go see it man. This weekend,
Cindy: I went to see, oh gosh, what? I can’t think of the name of it right now. Tom Hanks is in it.
Stephen: Oh a man called Otto.
Cindy: Yes. A man called Otto is wonderful.
Stephen: Yeah. Part of that was filmed on the Keigo Valley Railroad. Cool. Yeah, the whatever train scene there is that was right here, Northeast Ohio.
Cindy: Yeah. It made me laugh and made me cry. So
Stephen: nice. It was a good movie. It did look good. It did look good. So we’re gonna talk about your books.
You have several books out and you have a co-author, and I don’t get a lot of these types. They’re children’s books, picture books. So it’s great to have an author that writes that. So tell us first about your books what they’re about and why you got into writing kids’ books.
Cindy: My co-author is my best friend since the middle of 10th grade in high school, so that’s over 50 years.
We won’t say how many. Okay. But she gets me into all kinds of stuff. She’s got me into cake decorating classes and Tai Chi and. Bow making bows and all kinds of stuff. And she said one day that she would like to write children’s books, but she doesn’t like to do anything on her own. So what I write with her and I said, sure.
Like I always do, I always go along with her
Stephen: ideas. Got it. And I bet there’s some stories from back in the day that we won’t talk about here.
Cindy: Yeah. We were with another friend and Elaine had said that she wanted to write children’s books, but she didn’t have any ideas. And the friend said, why don’t you write about a star, a sea star that wants to be a star in the sky, cuz I’m never gonna write that book.
And Elaine said, oh, that, that sounds like a good idea. But a couple of years went by, we didn’t act on it, and then our friend passed away. And so when we decided that we were actually going to tackle this we thought about her idea. And so that was our first book. We dedicated it to her. That’s how Sammy the Sea Star came about.
Nice. And we, she was a teacher also. She taught elementary and middle school, gifted, gifted student. And I taught at the high school, so she has a lot of imaginative ideas. We draw on our past childhoods and write about things that we thought were cool when we were kids. And I’m, I was a typing teacher, so I’m a good proofreader.
I know my English punctuation rules really well, and so we, we make a good combin.
Stephen: Nice. Okay, so you weren’t like, oh, I’ve always wanted to write and I finally did. It was just kinda something you came upon. Yeah,
Cindy: We just decided to be something that we did after we retired, although I’m still working, but I’m probably going good at the end of this year.
Stephen: Good for you. Okay, so you write kids books and you have an artist and you’ve got How may I out now? For what’s been the feedback, what are people saying when they read the books?
Cindy: Matter of fact I just got a feedback today. My, my aunt had purchased one for one of her nieces and she said that she was home today and they were coloring and her favorite book is Adventures with Grandma.
So she made her own cover to Adventures with Grandma. That’s awesome. She colored her own and there was another lady. That we met when we were in Hartville, and she was so excited to meet that She bought all four of the books and said that she was just so excited to finally meet the authors and that.
Almost everybody that we meet says that the kids really love the stories. So it’s a great feedback.
Stephen: Yeah, I read the Firefly one and it was enjoyable. If my kids were still young, it would’ve been a great one to read to them. It’s not necessarily something I’m gonna pick up myself to read, we, we’ve got it when a kid comes over now.
And you’ve traditionally published these, is that correct?
Cindy: Yes. My, my friend Elaine, she also writes books with another girl. They write books for teachers in the gifted program, and those people pay them a certain sum to write the books, but then they only get 10 cents per book that they sell.
Wow. And so she said she thought that we needed to do our own. We don’t actually publish them ourselves as far as like doing something with getting on the computer using a certain program or something like that. We found a kind of a person that’s an in-between, I guess you could call it.
He helped us find our artists and. He takes our books and puts the pictures and the words together for us on the page, and then he sends them to a publisher or a printer and they print them for us. So he’s. That’s
Stephen: how we did it. Okay. And do you have digital versions or are they all printed versions?
Cindy: all just printed. We have har soft bound and hardbound books,
Stephen: which for kids books seems to be the most prevalent especially picture books. They’re very difficult to do digitally and make it work. And you mentioned Hartville I know that’s for us a local like a swap and flea market, and they have an indoor stores and stuff.
So what are you doing to market these? Because I’ve, you and I went to the library with Kathy. She has a pop-up bookstore and you mentioned Hartville. With kids books especially, you gotta get ’em in their hands. You gotta be there. So what all are you doing to get the word out and get the books seen by kids?
Cindy: We have a website of course, although we don’t seem to sell a lot of books on the website pretty much if you do your own publishing, you have to get out there and go to craft shows. That’s what we’ve been doing. Going to craft shows and selling the books ourselves. We feel like we make the most profit that way.
Okay. We have gone into classrooms. Done presentations with the kids done art projects with them based on the books, and they’ve really loved it. Nice. So that it’s, that’s pretty much it.
Stephen: Nice. I like the art project. So do you work with kids to draw pictures based on just the words and they think, or are they creating their own stories?
Cindy: not creating their own stories, but we, with the Sammy the Sea Star, we used paper plates and we cut out different sea star shapes and they could. What shape they wanted and then they decorated their own sea star with nice markers and glitter and all kinds of stuff. And then with the Firefly book They were able to create their own firefly and decorate it the way they wanted
Stephen: As long as you weren’t shooting off fireworks in the classroom.
No, that sounds fun because when you write adult books, You can’t really do that. Adults don’t wanna color their own sea stars, right? It was a totally different environment, much more fun to go do those things. I think
Cindy: we also made a presentation at Southeast High School because the kids in one of the English classes, had to write their own stories and color them.
And then they were going to go over to the elementary school and read their stories to the students. So we did a workshop with them also. How we got into writing and how we go about it it really is best to just write about things that you know about. Although you do have to do some research too.
Stephen: Oh, that. No, that’s interesting because these are kids’ picture books. So what research do you do for a kid’s picture book?
Cindy: Oh, we did all kinds of research on the Firefly book. Fireflies are very interesting and that’s why we, one of our trademarks is since we were teachers, we don’t wanna just give the kids a story.
We want them to get facts. So in the Sammy Des Sea Star book, there are a lot of facts about sea stars, but what has become our tradition in all the books, Is to include a page or two in the back that has additional facts about the animals or the subject matter in the books, websites that the kids can go to if they want to find out more information.
Stephen: nice. Yeah. And I love that cuz I kinda have the same thing. I write middle grade and I include words to know in discussion questions. And I’m working on creating a whole study guide. So it’s, the, that thing you just can’t stop working with kids and doing those types of things becomes a part of all of it. Yep. So I can imagine these. Maybe not. If you had a choice, would you like to maybe see these turned into a TV show or a, an animated movie or something like that? We haven’t thought that far. That would be an interesting workshop for even younger kids is to animate the stories and, use some movie maker animation program or something.
That would be a fun workshop, I think. Yeah, it. All right let me know if you ever wanna do it. Cause I’d love to do that. That one with you, with the kids. That would be pretty fun.
Cindy: You probably know a lot more about it than I do but
Stephen: I’m not good with art. I’m not good at drawing. And either that’s
Cindy: why we needed an artist.
Stephen: Yeah, people, yeah. My, my cover, I hired a guy to do my cover cause I’m. Yeah. Stick figures, that’s still the best of my abilities on it. I do stuff with Reese Sampson. He always would do stuff for me withdrawing, oh, that’s interesting. You mentioned a website. What is your website?
Cindy: called fun Hyphen Dimensions.
Stephen: Dot com.
Cindy: Okay. And all four books are listed there and they could purchase them
Stephen: there. I would make, I’ll make sure and put links in there. Okay. For that. And we were talking about bookstores. We don’t have a whole lot of bookstores real close to here, but I’ll mention Kathy, she’s gonna be on the podcast in a couple weeks.
Kathy Klein is doing books of Go-Go, which is a. Bookstore and you’ve gotten involved with her. Do you, do do you set up and do things with her often or do you, does she just have some of your books?
Cindy: She works at the church that I was secretary at Edinburg Burg, United Church for 15 years.
Okay. And she works in the preschool there. That’s how I know her. Okay. And so the kid watch and the preschool have purchased my books and. That was the first time when you and I were there at the library. That was the first time that I had worked
Stephen: with. Okay. Nice. Yeah. Cheryl O’Connor got a copy of my book and got a picture of it on the intermediate shelf, and I’m like, oh my gosh, it’s on the shelf, yeah. More importantly, it has the little numbers and stuff that kids can check it out. Oh, good. That was the, important thing to see that, that kids could go check it out. So that’s kinda fun. Yeah.
Cindy: We were excited. Yeah. She’s bought a couple of our books too, and we’ve gone out to Southeast and read to.
The kids on to Read Week and done a presentation out there. And then the kids can find the book in the library.
Stephen: I love that. Yes. I think more people should encourage that, especially authors for kids in middle grade and all that. Encourage the libraries, encourage the kids.
They think it’s taking away from their income. But ma’am, when I was in school and I would read a book in the library, I’d go buy the book or buy more by the author and or, wanna keep reading more. That’s how kids do it. You kinda gotta understand that. Yeah. But you’re doing the marketing, you’re going to lots of fairs and trade shows and things like that.
A about how many of these are you going to like per year?
Cindy: That’s a good question. See, my co-author goes to Florida for six months out of the year, and so she does three different sales down in Florida. I do three or four up here after she leaves, and we probably do. Six to eight in the summertime when she’s here.
Stephen: Wow. Yeah. Wow. That’s a lot. And. I asked that because I know a lot of authors listen and a lot of ’em don’t wanna get out and push their book. They feel like a used car salesman. And I think it’s important because people gotta see you and know you, and when you’re there and they see you, they trust you more.
And if you really think, people shouldn’t buy your book, then maybe you shouldn’t have written
Cindy: it. Yeah. Really we’re excited about our book, so we love telling people about the stories. Nice. And they always want it autographed, I don’t think they value it more when it’s autographed,
Stephen: Yeah. I’m got a couple coming up that I’m going to be doing and I’m trying to, because right now I just got the one book and a couple prequel stories, so I’m trying to figure out what the, oh, look on my table one. I need to get a few things on there to make it look a little more interesting, especially for kids.
Cindy: We tried to do some crafts. Went along with the books too tried to get the kids to come over and look at ’em.
Stephen: Yes. Yeah I’ve got a floor mat I’m gonna put in front of the table that says this is not a trap door and it looks like a trap door. Cause I write fantasy, so I figured it fit.
And then my original intent was to do the Wizard Fest in Kent. With this first book I wrote, I didn’t. Before the pandemic, and now I’m hoping to maybe get in, but, so I wanna put up a magic candle with a wand so kids can point at it and see if they have magic to light the candle. Oh, that’s cool. Yeah.
Little secret. It’s a remote control that I’ll have in my pocket because, I figure if kids are coming up, their parents are probably coming up, right? So there’s nothing better than the kid lighting the candle with the magic wand and the parents not being able to do it. Kids love that type of stuff. I did when I was a kid, yeah. So that’s my whole, that’s my little shtick that I’m working on. Very good. Very good. So maybe we could, you we’ll be at a show together coming up sometime at Hartville or something this
Cindy: summer. This is not the Hartville flea market I’m talking about. You’re inside. Nowhere outside actually.
Okay. It’s not the Hartville flea market. Okay. It’s a winery that’s there. Oh. And they have a sunflower festival. Nice. Okay. Yeah. And they set up and people can go and pick sunflowers and then come to the show and buy things from
Stephen: the vendors. Nice. Maybe I’ll look into that one and set up for that too.
Yeah. Yeah. Nice. We talked already, we touched on the traditionally versus independently published. You explained. Why Have you thought of looking into publishing it independently and doing it more yourself instead of going through people? No,
Cindy: we haven’t thought about it. Okay. We are not real.
Computer knowledged. I don’t know how that’s not the correct English, but we don’t know a lot about computers. Everything that we try to do on the compu, actually Elaine tries to do most of it cuz I give up in failure. But it takes us a long time to get anything accomplished. So we’re happy to go with this guy.
He’s very good and really helps us out.
Stephen: And I think that’s important too, because a lot of people are like, oh, you should definitely independently publish. And others are like, no, find somebody to, there’s options nowadays, whichever works for you. And I think that’s important.
It, it’s better to write another book. Or to then to spend that time struggling just to make a couple extra pennies on the one book you have that thank you. Yeah, that sounds good. Yeah. And do it and enjoy it. Why not? Stress yourself out.
Cindy: Yep. We have a lot of fun writing
Stephen: them. Yeah, I can see that would be a fun thing is kids’ books.
I’m not, I don’t know. My brain doesn’t quite work at that level. Middle grade seems to be where my brain, I don’t think I matured past that. So maybe that’s the problem.
Cindy: Cause Elaine, top fourth grade, I guess she’s more oriented to that. Audience
Stephen: Yeah. That could be. And I just think I never matured and that’s what worked well.
Cause I know I tried to write, did, let me ask this. Did you, because Elaine got you into it, did you ever try and write like an adult thriller or anything like that? Or you just No, this works for me. No, I didn’t. That’s very important. Yeah. That’s important to two too. Also when you guys are doing. What do you use to write?
Do you use word or longhand or how, what do you do?
Cindy: We, because she’s in Florida and I’m up here, a lot of times we just sh I’ll write something, I’ll send it to her on the computer and then she’ll change some things and send it back to me, and then I’ll change some things and we just go back and forth
Stephen: Okay, nice.
And then you get a artist to match up with the, now do you use the same artist or have you used different artists? We’ve
Cindy: used three different artists. A different one the first and second time, and then the third and fourth book is the same artist. We really liked her, so she did both of those books.
Stephen: Okay. Yeah. Now, Again, my brain doesn’t work that way. How a lot of people say, oh, a kid’s picture book, there’s 50 words in the whole thing. That’s easy. I could write 20 of those a day. What makes it difficult and what’s the process you go through to make sure it is up to, a quality book?
Cindy: As far as the pictures go or the
Stephen: writing? No, the writing. The writing.
Cindy: I tend to first. Write the story. Elaine tells me what she has in her head. We’ve written to ’em together, but the last one is basically a true story about her grandsons. And she told me, we went back and forth about how we were going to do it for a year at least.
And then she finally got things. In her head about how she wanted to do it. So she told me the story and then I sat down on my computer and wrote the story out which she seems to have a hard time. Doing in the very beginning. Okay. And then she likes to take it and really find the exact words that she wants to use because she doesn’t wanna just tell the story.
She wants the kids to feel the story and understand what’s happening. She gets real picky about the wording. Okay. And then I pick it apart as far as the punctuation, the capitalization, and everything else goes until we end up with a product we’re happy with.
Stephen: Nice. Okay. That sounds like a great process though.
Each person using their strengths and it, I don’t know. I can see a lot of people just thinking that it’s super easy to do a kid’s book, but I think it’s super hard because because of the limitations. You can’t use super long words with big structures of sentences. It’s gotta, but it has to be engaging and not plotting and boring.
Because there are some books out there I’ve read with my kids that I’m like, yeah, that we’re not reading that one again.
Cindy: Yeah. We don’t dumb down the language. We like to challenge the kids as far as their reading level goes. would be a good idea for us to do a vocabulary list that the teachers could.
Stephen: Yeah, some words that are in our books you’re not gonna like to hear this. That is something you could do and add it on the website that they could go to download, because then you could add on the website where you’re going to appear and what new books are coming and keep people informed.
It’s that little, go to the website to get this free thing and also check it out so you can come. Go get more books and, Yeah. Keep the ecosystem going. Yeah. Something to think about. If you ever need to do it and you need a little help, shoot me a message. I can help you out with that.
All right. That sounds great. Yeah, because cuz again, I think working with the kids, Is super important rather than, oh my gosh, a competitor, or I’m gonna charge you or anything like that, that’s why I started doing what I do with my books because these kids have a whole life ahead of ’em, and I personally don’t think we do enough in the schools.
To work on storytelling. We do a lot with grammar, we do a lot with spelling. We do a lot with even history of words and things, but we don’t, we read a lot of books, but we don’t always focus on the craft of story itself. And I think that’s something we could do a little bit more of with the schools or, outside of school, after school, writing extra classes up.
That, that’s where my focus is. On things yeah. All right. So before we go and I love talking to you, it’s been great. Do you have any advice for authors out there that are thinking of writing picture books?
Cindy: I guess I would start with write about what you know, but then if you really have a subject that you’re very interested in and you don’t know a lot, then you need to do research on it. Think about selling them yourselves, even though it’s a lot of work, it’s very rewarding. Elaine and I get to hang out together and be friends while we’re selling our books, which is great.
So if you wanna get a co-author it’s a lot of fun. And I guess I would just say to sell your own books and I think that way you get a lot more. Connection with your audience and with the people that are buying the
Stephen: books. Agreed. Especially with kids are just way fun to Yeah. To talk to about the books.
When they get, when they love the stories in the books, they get so excited about it. And that’s, the best thing in the world when they just like, can’t stop talking about whatever the book is. So that’s exciting. Do you have any rabid fans of kids that like, oh, I’ve got your book. I loved it.
Cindy: Oh just the one that I told you today that my aunt said that her niece, that was her favorite book. All of our books have morals too. Not morals, but messages for the kids too, which I think a lot of the kids need to learn today. The Sammy, the C Star book message is you’re special just the way you are.
The Firefly one is Don. Don’t let the worry bug bite you. Stop worrying so much and just believe in yourself and you can do whatever it is that you wanna do. Nice kids need to hear that.
Stephen: So a agreed. We need, I have no problem with video games and stuff, but I think sometimes the, those messages that we got with some of the books are missing.
They, you don’t get that from a YouTube video. So
Cindy: the last book that we did is about Getting out and seeing what you can do to save the earth, basically. Oh, nice. Cause that’s a big topic right now with in the news and everywhere, so in the back, we have a list of things that kids can do to help with protecting the earth.
So Nice. And give them some ideas of things that they can do too. It’s not just an adult thing.
Stephen: What book is that one? What’s that called? That’s called
Cindy: The Old Man in the.
Stephen: Old man in the tree. That one I don’t remember seeing. I probably did, but I remember you just came out in
Stephen: Ok. Got it. Alright Ms. Jar, it’s been really great talking to you. I’m glad you took some time and hopefully I’ll see you this summer as I’m getting out in the area. Encourage all authors listening to get out and anybody listening from Southeast or from northeast Ohio. Look us up. Come to some of these festivals and fairs.
Bring your kids, get a book to read. Everybody always says kids have too much screen time. Let’s change that. That’s how you do it. Exactly. I hope you have a great rest of your day and I’ll let you know when this goes live. Okay, thanks. Yeah. We’ll, po stop it. Maybe. Oh, now it’s not stopping.
Failed to stop. What the heck? Oh.
I might have to just refresh it. Okay. Wow. I have never had it do this. You broke everything on my recording today now. Wow. All right. I’m going to hit refresh and see what it does.