Written by JJ Barnes
Inspirational writer and psychologist Rachel Tomlinson spoke to me about her work, her career, and her latest book; Teaching Kids To Be Kind.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Rachel Tomlinson, I’m a mother (a four-year-old girl, and two boxer fur babies), wife, psychologist and author. I live in Perth, Australia. I’ve worked in many different industries as a psychologist and other community services roles; addiction counselling, trauma counselling, play therapy, education settings, vocation and employment, in disability services and women’s refuges. My work has been quite eclectic but my passion is working with families and specifically child wellbeing development.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I remember even as a young child I would write stories, and staple them together and decorate cover pages. I have always been an avid reader, so equally found that I enjoyed writing. So, I think wanting to write a book is something I have always wanted to do.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I used to write little stories for my clients in play therapy. I would take a situation that was troubling them and we would write a fiction story that involved some elements of their real life; their troubles, their way of coping etc. Once day someone said they loved my stories and wondered if I had ever thought about publishing them. I took the idea of a therapeutic text and wrote a children’s picture book which I started querying with a couple of publishers.
Whilst I was waiting (publishing is always about the long wait) to hear back from them I made a few connections with fellow aspiring authors and found out through a connection that her editor was looking for child development experts for an upcoming book she wanted to be written. I ended up getting in contact with this editor who floated the preliminary concept of “Teaching Kids to be Kind” and after a bit of communication and back and forth asked if I wanted to submit a proposal for the concept we had been discussing. Within a few weeks I had a publishing deal for a nonfiction parenting book, teaching
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
From the offer of contract, I had about 9 months to submit to my publisher. As part of the proposal, I put forward I had to write a chapter and map out the contents page, so I already had a good idea of structure, but my goodness it was an intense 9 months! There was then all of the editing and back and forth, and cover selection and things like that which I think took another 8 months or so later the book was released in the US, and the following month was released internationally.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Well, I don’t know if you recall I was querying a children’s picture book when “Teaching Kids to be Kind” came about, well a year after submitting to a publisher I was offered a contract by them for “A Blue Kind of Day” – it will be released in March next year (2022) …so a much longer and slower process that my first book. Very different publishing experiences being non fiction and then a picture book.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Teaching Kids To Be Kind?
Working with children is a passion of mine, and helping them make sense of big feelings and their internal experiences is so important. It gives the confidence to understand what’s happening to them, and why and helps them to cope because they know what’s going on, so they can manage triggers or self soothe. A Blue Kind of Day is a very gentle story exploring what sadness and symptoms of depression feel like for children. They often don’t have the words, but can describe the feelings in heir body to you. This book was about helping them make connections and also learn some coping strategies at the same time.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Teaching Kids To Be Kind?
None really, I enjoyed writing it and I’ve been so excited about being published that all of the steps have been enjoyable. I’m trying to savor every moment as I know this is such a novel experience. The only challenge is that I’m impatient. Publishing takes a long time…a long, long, glacial time. I just want a copy of my book in my hands already ha-ha.
What was your research process for Teaching Kids To Be Kind?
Well, I’ve worked with children for a number of years in different settings as a case worker, carer and psychologist. So, I had a lot of great experiences to draw from. However, I did cross check my diagnostic manual to ensure my letter to caregivers at the end of the story was clinically accurate!
How did you plan the structure of Teaching Kids To Be Kind?
This book came nearly fully formed into my head so I guess you could call me a “winger”, it was only the ending that I needed to really work through. I didn’t want a nice happy ending that tied up nicely in a bow. That’s not how feelings or depression work. It needed to give some kind of ending, but not necessarily a resolution. So, I did have to do a lot of structuring in the book to set this appropriately.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Teaching Kids To Be Kind need?
A Blue Kind of Day needed a lot of editing. With picture books there are so few words (mine is about 250 words) so you have to be incredibly precise. I have had many email chains and phone calls where we labored over one word until we got it just right.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Just write what you are passionate about. If you aren’t passionate, or you’re just trying to write the newest fad or popular topic, it won’t sustain you through the edits and re-writes and long nights. Write what makes your heart sing, write the things that you can’t stop thinking about, that you would need to get out on paper even if you never get published. Write for the sheer enjoyment.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Yes of course! I have another parenting book in the works, but it’s a lot slower going…I’m going to give myself more than 9 months to write this one. Ha-ha. I also have another picture book that is in the final draft stages and I’ve been going back and forth with my agent to get it ready to go on submission. So, watch this space!
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Oh, my goodness yes, it was absolutely all worth it. Its such a surreal feeling to know there is a book out there with my name on it. Its such a massive, humbling, experience to have been able to do something many people never get the opportunity to do…and I don’t take it for granted how fortunate I have been in publishing journey.
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