Kathleen Harper – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – Dec. 22, 2016

Book Journeys Author Interview – Dec. 22, 2016

 

Jenn McRobbie with Kathleen Harper, author of Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book.

 

”Find a mentor.” ~Kathleen Harper

 

Jenn:

Welcome, everybody! Welcome to Book Journeys Radio. Every week here, we speak to accomplished authors who’ve gone from just having an idea for a book to a finished book, ready to make a difference in the world. Our goal is for you to walk away inspired and motivated to write your own book, and I am super excited to introduce you to today’s two-time author, Kathleen Harper, she’s written two books with us, The Well Crafted Mom, which some of you may find to be very important now, as we’re heading fully into the holiday season, and the second book she wrote, she wrote in conjunction with her husband, and it’s called Happy Baby Signs. So, can’t wait to talk to her about that, and welcome, Kathleen!

 

Kathleen:

Thank you! I’m excited to be here with you!

 

Jenn:

So glad that you could join me before the holidays and you’re not crafting your – your mind away before Christmas, right?

 

Kathleen:

There’s a little bit of that going on, actually, ….

 

Jenn:

Now is the time when the inner crafter in all of us comes out, though, right?

 

Kathleen:

It is so true, really so true, my husband said, “Are we gonna get the dining room table back?” and I said, “Soon! Yes, it’s soon, soon.” ….

 

Jenn:

Eventually!

 

Kathleen:

Eventually.

 

Jenn:

Well, I always ask our guests to tell our listeners that – their book is about and who it’s for. So, if you could tell everybody that, about each of your books, that would be amazing.

 

Kathleen:

Sure. My first book, which is The Well Crafted Mom, is about – i – it’s about how to manage all of the messiness of motherhood and come out the other side feeling like who you wanna be. Motherhood really changes us, I think it’s the most dramatic experience that a woman can go through, and what I hope to do with my book is to help moms navigate their way through that journey. I also combined some crafts ‘cause that’s really what helped me get back to who I was, … ‘cause I feel like I had lost myself, and I think a lot of moms tha – they go through that same process.

 

Jenn:

Oh, yeah.

 

Kathleen:

And so, my book combines story, it combines self-coaching tools and it integrates crafts with the coaching tools, so that, when you can create a momento, something that they can use to remind themselves of what that – what this book is learning, what they really wanna take away from each chapter. And my second book, Signs of a Happy Baby, is – wrote it in conjunction with my husband, who i – as a company that brings baby signing issue throughout the San Francisco Bay area and online, and and it is for parents of – primarily growing children, babies, but also older kids, to help them learn how to integrate sign language into their families, because baby sign language is such an amazing tool to learn what’s going on inside the babies who are pre-verbal. Babies can start to sign and – and be able to communicate their wants and their needs long before they can ever verbalize them. And so, it’s this beautiful window into what excites them and what they’re interested in and what they want, so that it cuts back on temper tantrums, it – it just opens up this wealth of information about your child, … – all these things you would never know without this tool, this baby sign language.

 

Jenn:

Yes. And … I use baby sign language more extensively with my first daughter than with my second, and I cannot underscore, for anyone listening, enough, how important it was for us as a family, to be able to communicate before my children had words. It – it –

 

Kathleen:

Yeah. It is amazing.

 

Jenn:

It is simply amazing, that it – it really adds to that amazing feeling of being a parent, when you can communicate with your child even before they can form full sentences, doesn’t it?

 

Kathleen:

Yes, it – it is, and there’s some research studies that have shown that babies can understand what word means as early as six months old, …. They’ll show a picture of an apple and a picture of a hand, and they’ll – they use the word, “apple,” and the baby will look at the picture of the apple. So – so, all of that’s going on inside their heads with no way to really communicate it, other than grunting or pointing or crying.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Kathleen:

… it helps so much to be able to know – … it really benefits them long term, because they – they understand how language works, and to really start to verbalize with spoken words, how to – what is it they want, or what it is they are thinking about, the word come ou – spoken word comes out there so much faster.

 

Jenn:

Yes. Yes, it is – it is such a worthwhile – and it’s a great way, honestly, to just spend time with your children.

 

Kathleen:

Yes. ….

 

Jenn

So, … you’re both learning something, it’s fun!

 

Kathleen:

Right! Right. It is! It’s a blast, and we still do it. My kids are now twelve and thirteen, and we’re still signing, …. It’s great when you ….

 

Jenn:

Really? That’s great!

 

Kathleen:

Yeah! Yeah. And – yes. So – so, it – it’s still – it’s so fun.

 

Jenn

I love that.

 

Kathleen:

And … Bill and the kids sign a whole lot more than I do, so Bill would sign something and say, “Translate for Mommy.” ….

 

Jenn:

Yeah!

 

Kathleen:

“Dad wants you to know . . . .”

 

Jenn:

Nice!

 

Kathleen:

It continues to be fun.

 

Jenn:

Well, Kathleen, what motivated you to write The Well Crafted Mom in the first place?

 

Kathleen:

Well, I – … what I wrote about in Well Crafted Mom is the work that I do with my clients. And that really originated from what I felt … I needed and I missed out on having when I was a mom with young kids and feeling so isolated and lonely and feeling like I was the only one out there who was struggling. They … – it just seemed like all these other moms had it together, and I realized, in my work with moms, is that – that people don’t, they’re just really good at hiding it. And so, what I wanted to do is create this place, this safe place for moms to – to understand that they’re not alone, to really be able to – to feel like they’re a part of a community and give them the resources and tools for moving forward. And there’s only – only so much I can do with my work, … individually and in my … with moms. And so, the book allows me to extend … this – this community further out into – into the world.

 

Jenn:

That’s amazing. And since you were doing this … every day, or – or as your job, your love, did you find that you had almost too much material for your book?

 

Kathleen:

In some ways, yes, I really had to be very clear about how to – how … break it down, how … organize it, so that it – it made sense, and it also had a flow of the process that moms go through, and there’s a – each of the titles creates an acronym of “Rest, Craft and Fly.” So, really feel that – that’s a process that you have to go through, is to really – is to rest, so that you have the energy, so you can create the life that you wanna have. And then – then, you’re really able to fly.

 

Jenn:

Oh, that’s – that’s amazing. Did you envision the book completed before you started it?

 

Kathleen:

Yes, I – I – i – it’s … , because … I – I’ve always wanted to write a book that I started and stopped or had ideas and and … where those – oh, here’s something else. … there’s always something else that demands your time.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Kathleen:

And so, I – … I was nervous, because of, “How am I going to do this?” And the fact that my editor, Grace, and Angela both had so much confidence in me, that I was going to finish, I … hold any space … gave me the freedom, really, to be able to imagine the book as a book. It – it – holding it – my hands, as a paperback, I don’t – … it’s like holding a baby, right? Of – for the first time.

 

Jenn:

Right!

 

Kathleen:

“Oh, my God, here’s my baby!”

 

Jenn:

I made this!

 

Kathleen:

Yes. “I made this!” I know. I made this.

 

Jenn:

That’s amazing, and you’re so right, that – that idea that, when you’re surrounded by people that are holding space for nothing other than your success, you then begin to hold that same space for yourself.

 

Kathleen:

Yeah. Yeah, that – yeah, that, to me, is … really key. I – I had – I didn’t really understand how the group process works until I was in it, and once I was in it, then I really recognized the power of it.

 

Jenn:

Yeah.

 

Kathleen:

Because there were questions that I didn’t even – wasn’t even able to articulate, that somebody asked on a call or bring up in the Facebook group. And so, it gave me … this – this bigger picture of what I could do, and it gave me a framework that I could really rely on, that – that was instrumental, for me being able to finish that book.

 

Jenn:

I’m so glad to hear that, because I know a lot of people, when they’re looking it, worthing – working with the Author Incubator and Angela, they’re maybe a little off-put by the group idea, because they’re concerned they’re not going to get enough individual attention, but what you’re saying is, you got that attention almost in spades.

 

Kathleen:

Yeah, it – it was – I – it really worked for me, and I’m not necessarily a joiner, … I tend to be someone who – I’m an introvert, right? So, I get my energy when I’m alone, and so, I was … delightfully surprised … at how well it worked for me. That … really, a hundred percent, being able to rely on the other authors to be able to – … I never felt like I wasn’t getting what I needed. I always had access to my editor, Angela was available for questions in the groups, and it was great, because I’d ask a question and – or someone else would ask a question, and it was – there’s always answers for what I needed at that moment.

 

Jenn:

I love that. What’s the best thing that’s come out of having The Well Crafted Mom as a book?

 

Kathleen:

I think what it – it gives me a credibility. It – immediately, once you become an author, your – people go, “Oh, my God, she wrote a book!” ‘Cause I think so many people wanna write a book, and so i – it puts you in a category, … “Oh, I’ve al -” and people always say that, …, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” And so –

 

Jenn

Why don’t you?

 

Kathleen:

… it’s credibility – I know, why don’t you? Here, ….

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Kathleen:

One sec, go look it up, it’s great. … yes, so it gave me that immediate credibility, which opens up a lot of doors.

 

Jenn:

Yeah. Did it change the focus of your – your work at all, or are you still doing – … teaching moms in this group environment how to get back in touch with themselves, … having children?

 

Kathleen:

It – that’s the work that I love to do, is really combining the coaching and the craft. In a group situation, I also do one-on-one work as well. But in the group situation, it’s the same as … working in the group with Angela. There’s things that come up that didn’t normally – be brought to the surface, and having that safe space for moms to be able to talk about the things that they can’t talk about anywhere else, because they’re embarrassed or ashamed or they think they should know all this, but to hear a story from a brave mom who says, … “This is really hard.” And another mom says, “Oh, my God, you’re right, it really is.”

 

Jenn:

And I’m not alone!

 

Kathleen:

I know, and I’m not alone! Yes. Yeah, it is, it’s really amazing.

 

Jenn:

It sounds like such rewarding work, I’m so glad that you’re bringing it to the world, because I know, when I was a new mom in particular, it really is – … being a new parent can be quite isolating.

 

Kathleen:

Yes, it really is. Especially if you – if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you’re really enclosed in this environment, and then, if you’re working, there’s no time for anything else, except for work and baby and work and baby.

 

Jenn:

Right. Right.

 

Kathleen:

And so, y – having a place, having someone who gets it, can be – can be life changing.

 

Jenn:

It – you’re – you’re so right, and I – I encourage anyone listening to look up thewellcraftedmom.com, not only is it an amazing book but Kathleen just gives you clues and tips on – on how to … find yourself again amidst this new title of “Mom.”

 

Kathleen:

Yes.

 

Jenn:

Maybe it’s not a new title, maybe … you’re reinventing yourself. But how did – was – is there any connection to finishing The Well Crafted Mom and then you and your husband, Bill, writing Signs of a Happy Baby together?

 

Kathleen:

Yeah, it – it was – my husband had always wanted to write a book, and he had talked about us collaborating, and I was always really nervous about that, because it is hard to work with your partner, really hard. And – but I had this opportunity to write another book, and basically he pitched me. … he said, “So, I really think this would be great if we did this book together.” And I thought about it and it was … truly an amazing experience, it was one of the most challenging experiences I have had, but it was really amazing for the two of us, and to be able to bring – be able to bring that to life – … it was like our third child – … you look at the cover, look – beautiful baby on the cover, … okay, that’s … for all, right?

 

Jenn:

I love that. Yeah, you all have to check out the cover, because it’s probably – … it has to be considered the cutest cover we’ve ever made. … I don’t know, but this baby’s face is just way too precious.

 

Kathleen:

She is so prec – I – I was seriously thinking it was a boy until we got Angela … all the authors, … that mounted cover, … just beautiful cover.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Kathleen:

And it was bigger than we had seen it, and Bill’s … “Ah, it’s a girl!” because you can see the little earrings in her ears. … yeah, ….

 

Jenn:

Aaawww! You guys got a girl, that’s so great!

 

Kathleen:

So, the story about our girl.

 

Jenn:

Yeah. So, what was different about writing a book on your own versus collaborating on a book with your husband?

 

Kathleen:

That – i – it was very different, because when I’m working on a book on my own, I am responsible, I am where the buck stops, and – and so, when I set deadlines, I’m – I – I’m – I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I set deadlines and I meet them, right?

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Kathleen:

You can see that there’s no wiggle room for me. And – … my husband and I are – well, very different, and our – and our pace. … even when we walk together, we’re very different, … I walk really fast and he – he says, “Where are you going? Why are you – why are you rushing?” And – and that really came to light when we were writing the book, too, is that he’s … – the speed, the pace, is hard for him, because he likes to process things at a much different pace than I do. And so, we’ve both had to give and take in a completely different way to make this happen. He had to go out of his comfort zone and – and really allow things to move along at a quicker pace, and I had to go out of my comfort zone and be okay with the fact that we weren’t making our deadlines all the time, and that had to be – missed deadlines had to be okay, because that’s what was happening, ….

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Kathleen:

We were missing deadlines. And so, how do I stay calm in the midst of things that were definitely not the way that I want them to go?

 

Jenn:

Right!

 

Kathleen:

And – … how – ho – how do you stay together, right? … it’s … do you wanna stay mad or do you wanna stay married, … do you need to always have a choice? And so, we – we really learned a lot from that experience, quite a bit, and it made us stronger, it really did, and so, to have … all the experience we had together … writing a book and now marketing the book, it – it’s – it’s been – it’s been amazing, and to be able to give him – to be able to help him make that dream come true for him was – … beautiful, it was a great experience for me.

 

Jenn:

Aww, that’s incredible, Kathleen, I – I never really thought about it as … something – well, … I realize that, I think, when – when I knew you all were writing the book together that it would be a bonding moment, but to be able to say that it was – … you got to participate in that together, that sounds like such a wonderful bonding, and … it was something that not every couple has.

 

Kathleen:

Yeah. Yeah, … and then, it’s – … all these experiences along the way, … it was writing a book, it was figuring out what would go in it, it was our conversations with Angela and the editor – … it was the photo shoot, … that – that – it just … spread out over many days and it was done in one, …. And – and then, the launch of the book in D.C., which was an amazing experience, so it – it – it really does – … something that we will always treasure. ….

 

Jenn:

… That – that’s so fantastic, I – how did your kids react, I – … they’re – knew, obviously, you wrote your first book, and then, when you two were working on a book together, were they upset, did they feel neglected, were they happy you weren’t around? ….

 

Kathleen:

My – my children – … then, the book – both times, when my book – when I’m … “Okay, I’ve submitted the manuscript, we’re gonna have more time together, we’re gonna get to go and hike again,” … their face would just … – they got sad, I’m … “What’s wrong? … what is – what -?” And they’re … “Well, you’re gonna be paying more attention to how much time we’ve been on electronics now.” And so, I’m … – ‘cause they’re delighted, the busier we are, … the more … easygoing we are, in terms of … how much time they have on electronics, and the rules, …. Well, I – I’ll never forget, with my first book – … my – my son announced one evening, … “I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days!” And he was so – so delighted by that, he hadn’t bathed, he hadn’t changed his underpants, and I’m … “I’m the worst mother in the world!” … He was so happy, … i – it was just – it was …”I’m – I’m getting away with something, this is really fun.” So, ….

 

Jenn:

My hus – my husband and I like to call it “wholesome neglect,” Kathleen, we call it “wholesome neglect.”

 

Kathleen:

That’s a really good term, it is. They – they’re – they know who they are, right? And we are there, still picking them up, we haven’t forgotten them in school, but – think you know. They – we know where they are, and – and we’re feeding them, but it does get a little bit – yes, it’s that recovering perfectionist, right?

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Kathleen:

… everything’s important, nothing is. So, where and the priorities always have to shift, … what’s the priority right now, … right now, it’s almost Christmas, and my priorities’ my kids, and it’s awesome. And … then, … when we were writing a book, kids were still a priority, but they … they’re – it’s just that the rules soften.

 

Jenn:

Ha – have they changed the way that they think of you or interact with you, your – your kids, since they know that you both are published authors now?

 

Kathleen:

I would think so, … I’ve heard my boys – overheard my boys … bragging about it.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Kathleen:

… “My mom’s – … my mom and dad have a book,” right? It’s ….

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Kathleen:

But to – … in person, to us, now, we’re just – we’re still just mom and dad.

 

Jenn:

Yes. You’re still those people that limit their electronics time.

 

Kathleen:

Yes. So, those people that – well, yes. … they’re really great, though, it was so lucky, … they had such – … they – they come home and they know – … there’s certain things that have to be done, … and then they – and … they do their homework before they get on their electronics, … they’re – they’re great kids, so, yep, it is so nice.

 

Jenn:

Well, with all of these attendant responsibilities, of just life and being a parent and … being a wife and – did you find, during either book, that you had any kind of writer’s block or had trouble writing at any time?

 

Kathleen:

Yeah, with my first book – especially my first book. I’d … really nice week, and then it was like hitting a wall, and I couldn’t write anything. And I – I talked to my editor and she gave me some advice, and – and she told me to get in touch with Angela and Angela gave me great advice, and what I learned, in my … with Angela, is that I’m carrying on writing the chapter about fun and I wasn’t having any, right? … and I was writing and I was researching and I was doing all this book stuff, but everything else had … fallen by the wayside, and I needed to bring in more fun in order to be able to write the chapter about fun. And so, I stepped aw – very deliberately stepped away from my computer, closed it, went downstairs, worked on some projects, got outside, played with the kids, really took a very conscious step away from the book and then, when I went back to the computer, there – there was no writer’s block. I could pick it right back up again.

 

Jenn:

Interesting! So, the way to get through writer’s block, for you, was to stop trying to write.

 

Kathleen:

Yeah. Oh, absolutely. A hundred percent. Yeah. Hundred percent. And it really had to do with turning off that “Go, go, go” part of my brain, right? That “Get it done” … part of my brain and allow the other part, the more … creative, introspective, just more … part, to be ab – to have that be – bubble up to the surface.

 

Jenn:

And I think that’s so important, too, because … you’ve allowed yourself to get back in touch with who you are, which is what you were writing the book about, was for other people to help get back in touch with who they are!

 

Kathleen:

Right. Right, very much so.

 

Jenn:

Aww, that – that’s amazing. … you’ve had a lot of … book writing experience now, and so I’m sure a lot of people look to you as an expert, and a lot of people listening will look to you as an expert, so what advice would you give to anyone listening, who really believes there is a book in their heart but they just can’t bring themselves to start it?

 

Kathleen:

My advice is to – to not do it alone, to find a mentor, find somebody who is doing what you wanna do, and then follow their advice, and … that, for me, is what totally worked. I found somebody who had … – she had … a hundred success stories in – … at least, and I signed up to work with her, and so – … and she had a proven strategy, a proven method. She had … – it was full service, right? It’s … the editor’s there, … proofreading is there, book cover design is there, publishing is there, everything is under one umbrella. So, what I could do was focus on what I – what I knew, … what I wanted to do was to writing, and allow her team and her process to be the vehicle, right? That moved me forward on my journey. ….

 

Jenn:

Oh, I like that!

 

Kathleen:

I don’t think it’s ever happened in any other way, … I’ve been talking about it since I was a kid, and then, on my list every January for years, but yet, something always was gonna be in the way. … you’re always gonna be busy, right? ….

 

Jenn:

Of course!

 

Kathleen:

There’s never gonna be … a beautiful w – … window of time that’s just gonna open up for you to write, it’s … –

 

Jenn:

There are no dull moments.

 

Kathleen:

Yeah. It’s true, and so, by committing to the process, by committing to the program, it gave me the framework that I needed and …, and the motivation with a view to make it happen.

 

Jenn:

That’s so – I have chills listening you to talk about it, and I – I’m just so thrilled that you found Angela, and so thrilled that you put your craft out into the world. Anybody listening that wants to find – … wants to find Kathleen, you can find her, there are two websites, thewellcraftedmom.com and happybabysigns.com. You can also find her on Facebook under … “The Well Crafted Mom” or “Happy Baby Signs.” Kathleen, it has been such a pleasure, I feel like we could talk for hours.

 

Kathleen:

I know, I want to!

 

Jenn:

Exactly! Well, what I’m going to recommend is that you get back to your holiday crafting. I will get back to crafting a holiday, because I have not put together everything in my household yet. And then, let’s get together in the new year, and we can find out just how well crafted we – that with our holidays.

 

Kathleen:

That sounds like a great idea. ….

 

Jenn:

Wonderful! So wonderful. Thank you so much, Kathleen, and thank you, listeners, for listening in to another episode of Book Journeys Radio. See you next week.

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