Interview Q&A with Kylie Mort, author of Little People Big Emotions
Tell us a little about you and your journey to creating this book?
If what some say is true, and we chose this life, I guess I must have been a bit disappointed with the mundane nature of my last! I must have been sitting up there thinking, okay, what can I throw at this next journey? What obstacles and crazy traps can I pop in here? How can I really test my fortitude? My life has been one of overcoming abuse and trauma, one of using inner resilience to steel myself against outside forces and then later finding connection and knowledge and looking back on the adversity that shaped me with kindness and a willingness to gather together these pieces and use them to build resources for the next generation.
I first wrote in a collaborative title, “Empowering Women Empower the World” and this was a compilation of memoirs written by successful businesswomen who had gathered the metaphorical stones flung at them and paved their paths to prosperity. In Chapter 11 of this title, I wrote creatively about the harsh realities of my earlier years and how I had succeeded despite it all. I have contributed to many novels and magazines since, and as I did, I saw how organically my niche was returning to that which had always been my business focus, my ability to support young people.
During the pandemic I was supporting, not only my own children as a mother and a lock-down teacher, but also the children and families of my clients. It was through this need to provide resources, structure, and guidance to this community, that the children’s book “Little People Big Emotions” and the corresponding FREE study guide was born.
What made you want to write this book?
I became a teacher because I wanted to support young people through the most rigorous and heartbreaking chapter of their lives. Being an adolescent is hard! It is confusing and frustrating, and it takes courage. I wanted to be a guide through the journey using my own experiences to give valuable assistance. After my journey through motherhood and career changes and further study in psychology I realised that the blueprint created in childhood is where the adolescent journey begins so I started developing resources for younger and younger people, wanting to make a difference right at the beginning.
How long did it take to prepare?
I believe that imagination needs quietude. It needs peace and stillness and beauty to flourish. This book was born from a meditation session on my front porch which overlooks the garden, waterways, and paddocks of our small farm. On this morning I was captured by the butterfly of my imagination as I struggled to focus on but one priority at a time. This reminded me of my daughter who has been challenged by the symptoms of inattentive ADHD her entire life. She too, is a creative soul, and I am constantly working on new ways to support her through challenging myself to see the world through her eyes. From this one image, the narrative sprang to life, and it was finished within a couple of hours.
Are there any interesting/amusing anecdotes about its preparation?
I had never written a children’s book before. It was simply the narrative of my knowledge and expertise. I emailed the publisher I had worked with on my last business novel and said, what do you think? She replied that she loved it, and it was such a surprise to me when her editor changed a single word and then we went straight to print! I am grateful for that single word change as “bad” and “painful” really do take on very different meanings when you couple them with emotions, so thank you Teena! Fabulous food for thought!
Please list the most important features of your new book.
This is a children’s book that can be used as a platform to begin very important socio-cognitive discussions. It is award winning in emotional intelligence as it approaches important safety conversations in a child-friendly and individualistic nature. Being written by an author with professional qualifications and experience in education, neurolinguistic programming and psychology, it is purposefully formatted with literary devices that will build a thematic and contextual study of unique child experiences and give rise to conversations that will empower children and families and equip them with the resources they need to explore areas they may not have the confidence or vocabulary to navigate on their own. Further to this, the FREE study guide adds as an educational tool that can guide little people and their adult networks through age-appropriate activities to inspire open and honest connections.
Who did you write this book for?
I wrote this book for little people. I wrote it for the child I was who never had the support structures necessary to guide her through the horrors of childhood trauma and abuse. I wrote it for my children, the beautiful protagonist of its pages, to instil in them the confidence in just how important, special, loved, and safe they should feel. I wrote it for my daughter, who journeys through her childhood with the additional challenges presented by Inattentive ADHD, not an impediment, but a unique perspective on the world. I wrote it for every young person who will find understanding and solace in its pages and perhaps even the courage to connect with their important big people about a ‘monster’ that is making their world uncomfortable.
Tell us about the illustrator and how you collaborated?
It was certainly a long-distance labour of love and there was much to be discussed about our differing perspectives. We are all viewing the world through the unique filters that are created by our environment and our experience and Tiina Morton was a wonderfully empathetic and considerate partner in bringing to life the images from my mind. I sent photographs of my little people and I discussed with her the various contextual elements that had shaped the illustrations in my mind’s eye. The ‘monster’, our antagonist, was the biggest challenge and when we took the ‘paper tiger’ monster of her perception and melded it with the ‘dark and sinister’ monster of my life experience, we found ‘our’ monster as Tiina beautifully depicted in her illustrations.
What is a day in the life of Kylie Mort like?
A day in the life of Kylie Mort is a lot like a locomotion. It starts out in the dark serenity of dawn with a cup of tea and the peace to check-in with gratitude for the present and an abundance of time. Then ever gradually, as the pressure increases so does the pace. The schedules, the questions, the deadlines, the fluctuations. The allocations and priorities through the shifting sands of a calendar that needs constant new fluidity breathed into it. By 8pm the pressure is declining, the children are in bed, stories are read and told, lullabies sung, and exhausted little bodies have had their back rubs and their mindset check-in. Then, by 10pm I am out of time and out of breath, needing to slow it down and recentre myself with some mindful stretching and yoga, before the last quiet steps through a darkened house, listening to the gentle breathing of the people that matter most.
When is your favourite time to write?
As you could probably note from my previous answer I love the dawn, I love the magic of watching the world awaken. Hearing the change from the night sounds to the burgeoning sounds of a new day. Seeing the inky blackness of the skyline slowly transforming with the warm hues of morning. This is my serenity and quietude, and imagination needs this peace, creativity needs this stillness to evolve.
My other great resource is water which I honestly feel is linked to the vibration of my higher calling. We all vibrate at a frequency and all my best ideas, and my moments of enlightenment happen in the shower or the pool! Alas, it is not conducive to writing so I am certainly known to signal the end of my reverie with a dripping dash to a note pad more often than not!
When you are not writing what do you like to do?
I have an unquenchable thirst for time! Time with my family, time to read books, time to play games, time to ride my motorbike, time to explore, time to connect, time to work on the myriad of ideas and creations that pop into my head whilst I am swimming!
But just the like the butterfly in “Little People Big Emotions” time is elusive and the more I chase it the more it stays away….so I need to “close my eyes and breathe slow and deep…and [time itself] comes gently to rest on my shoulder…and I smile” because I know the secret to finding time and I am going to share it with the world.
Favourite kids’ read ever?
When I was a child, I read avidly but I didn’t have books. My parents didn’t buy books and I was at the mercy of whatever I could get my hands on. A dear friend of mine, who is still dear to me today, used to bring books on the school bus and we would read together.
Later in life when we were parents with small children, she shared with me a book called, “The Book with No Pictures” by B. J. Novak. This incredible narrative cannot be simply read, it needs to be enacted dramatically with all the sound and fury of Shakespeare’s greatest actors! When I think of what reading children’s books means to me, I picture the fun I have with my own children as I bring narratives to life.
What are your reading atm?
My children are now 9 and 11 and being an educator, I want them to have the best head start possible to adolescence. For this reason, I am taking my own advice when it comes to English essay writing and ensuring that we have all read from the same script! As much as it pains Darcy at times that we have moved on from illustrated children’s books with our family reading at night (and at times we do revisit this genre), I now select age-appropriate middle school resources to read and discuss with them. We have just finished “Skellig” by David Almond and we have just started “Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh” by Robert C. O’Brien. I am always encouraging parents to engage with the English school curriculum with their children, as their wisdom and experiential knowledge is critical to the young people having the contextually rich perspective that will give rise to impactful and expository essays. If anyone would like support on this, please get in touch! It’s one of my favourite subjects!!