Author Kristin Barnett talks about her new children’s book series “The Bug Who Thought He Lost His Buzz: What Happens When the Big, Bad Beast Stings” (August 8, 2018) that she wrote that seeks to alleviate some of the pressure presented by difficult conversations, like facing cancer or a serious illness. With parents, teachers, and youth leaders in mind, Barnett has seamlessly weaved a variety of tough life scenarios into storylines that keep kids interested and inspired. Please visit: http://wattsbuggingyou.com
Kristen Barnett has a Bachelor’s Degree in Creating Writing and Master’s Degrees in both Counseling Psychology and Human Resource Development. She is the President of a management consulting firm called Evolve Consulting Group, but it is her experience with her faith journey, her 5 year old daughter, and volunteer work with young children living with life’s bumps and bruises that makes her the perfect author for her ministry and books. Like many of you, she asked the tough questions when she lost her daughter, Hope, or when she sat with parents who feared losing their young child to cancer, or when she wondered whether the adoption process would ever end. She listened and coached parents who didn’t know what to say when life seemed bigger than them. It is these real life experiences which have led her to writing, healing, and not losing faith, even when it was tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Currently, Kristen lives in Colorado with her husband Phil, her daughter Ryley, and her dog Mugsy. She feels blessed to write the Watts Bugging You Series and prays her heart will shine through, and that her words will reach the hearts of the young angels and parents who need to hear the messages the most.
Neal Howard: Welcome to Health Professional Radio, so glad that you could join us on the program today. I’m your host Neal Howard, we’re going to have a conversation with author Kristen Barnett. She’s going to talk with us today about her new children’s book series ‘The Bug Who Thought He Lost His Buzz: what happens when the big, bad beast stings.’ And she wrote the book seeking to alleviate some of the pressure that’s presented by difficult conversations that she had to have with kids, like facing cancer or some other serious illness. Welcome to the program Kristen, how are you today?
Kristen Barnett: I’m doing great and thank you for inviting me.
Neal: Well give us a little bit about your personal story and tell us why you developed this Watt’s Bugging You series for kids.
Kristen: Yeah. So I always say the best books, right, are the books that have experience and so there really was two scenarios happening at the same time that I would say spearheaded this series. First was I was volunteering for 10 plus years at Children’s Hospital Colorado and during that time, I had several parents asked me “Do I tell my two, three, four year old child they have cancer? And if yes, how?” And then at the same time my husband and I were adopting our beautiful daughter Riley and people kept saying “How are you going to tell her that she’s adopted?” And so that’s the time I went to both libraries and bookstores to try to find really books and tools to help families and what I found was there was plenty of books for early readers and teenagers but not a lot of books for that like 2 to 7 year old range around these types of topics.
Neal: Well the first book in the series is called ‘The Bug Who Thought He Lost His Buzz: what happens when the big, bad beast stings.’ Tell us about this book and the prominent theme within this book.
Kristen: Yeah, so this book follows a bee named Bugsy and at the beginning of the book, he feels like he has lost his buzz so he goes to the hospital. And at the hospital, unfortunately, he finds out that he has the big, bad beast – in this case, cancer. And so really, this first book highlights Bugsy’s journey, both of being diagnosed and then asking some of those really tough questions, right, the kids would have such as ‘Why me? Why do I have to be in the hospital? Why do doctors and nurses keep coming into my room?’ Those kinds of questions. So this book is a beautiful journey kind of through Bugsy’s, as I said, kind of his diagnosis to really how does he help manage having pediatric cancer.
Neal: Why did you feel that you needed to start this series with this particular topic, cancer?
Kristen: Yeah. So as I mentioned earlier, one of my one of the scenarios have really kicked off me even saying this series was needed was the time that I was spending at the hospital. And so I felt because it really gave me the idea that I thought it was important to start with this particular book around pediatric cancer because I knew there was the need and I kept continuing to be asked there’s this really tough questions.
Neal: I was raised on children’s books. My kids have seen lots and lots of children’s books. All kinds of characters in children’s books: animals, cars, trucks. Why bugs for this particular series?
Kristen: Yeah. So I was lucky at the time of course that I had an audience, right, at the hospital and and so I spent a lot of time reading to your point, right, of different kinds of characters different books to children and the one thing that I tested out and that I found was that both boys and girls like bugs. They may like different types of bugs but they both like bugs so that’s really what caused this whole series of characters.
Neal: Is it the bug aspect or the way that you put forth the information that sets your book apart from other children’s books that are out there about how to talk to kids about difficult things?
Kristen: Yeah. So I think kind of what puts our book and I was there overall series different than some other books out there is first of all, the topics right. Like I mentioned before there’s not many books around difficult topics for little people and then beyond that, I mean we knew pretty quickly that this wasn’t just going to be a one book deal. But that we were really looking to make it a one-stop shop for parents and so as they’re going through difficult scenarios such as cancer, losing a pet, moving, some of those areas that even little kids, right, have to deal with. That parent had somewhere to go so I think that’s really what makes kind of a series special and different is that we’ve really created a one-stop shop, both for children and parents.
Neal: We’re into the second week of September and September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But do you think that this book and this series will be helpful in explaining to children not only why and how they’re to navigate their journey of diagnosis but what about their parents, their uncles, their loved ones or a grandparent who may be going through the same thing or something similar? Isn’t understanding what the parent is going through and how the child can deal with that as important as going through what they were going through themselves?
Kristen: Yeah and I actually have an interesting kind of story rather … one of his best friends who was an adult unfortunately was diagnosed with a stage four cancer and she had some little ones at home and she was like “How am I going to tell my children about my diagnosis?” And so he asked me, he said “Is this a good book, right, to provide education kind on both ends whether it’s the child or the adult that has the cancer? And I said “Definitely.” And what we did in that scenario was she instead of Bugsy being a little bee, story of Bugsy being herself and she said at the end going through this with her family which meant a lot to me. I mean she wrote back to me and said that was one of the best tools that she had while she was going through this with her family. And so but left on that end that I was able to provide her a tool but yes, I believe that this book can be utilized both from an adult unfortunately going through cancer and a child.
Neal: You did mention that you knew from the outset that this was going to be not a one stop, one hit wonder – there were more books that were going to be needed. Can you give us some insight into maybe the next book in the series? What should we expect?
Kristen: Yeah. And so just so you know, we kind of we go through like a whole process when we’re trying to decide kind of what is our next topic. So of course we always look at are there topics near and dear to our hearts as a team? So for me for instance, I had mentioned before with the adoption of our daughter and then the illustrator of these books, her family is a military family and so she said moving is pretty typical so we have a book on moving. But the other thing that we look at, so we kind of look at those topics first then we also look at what are some of the topics that are trending out in the marketplace. And unfortunately right now, topics such as bullying, you hear a lot in the news and so bullying and then the other question that I get a lot and we want to look at of course what are some of those topics that are also important to our readers and a big one that I’ve heard is losing a pet and so that’s kind of our process. We look at directly impacts us, what’s out there in the media and then of course hearing from our readers. And so with that said, the next book that we’re looking to focus on is that book around bullying.
Neal: Where can our listeners get a copy of the book The Bug Who Thought He Lost His Buzz? And direct us to a website that we can go to as well.
Kristen: Yeah. So currently, you can buy the book both on Amazon and our direct website which is wattsbuggingyou.com
Neal: Great. Well I appreciate you coming in and speaking with us this morning Kristen.
Kristen: Yeah, thank you. And just really quick Neal, one of the questions I get pretty often is ‘How can I be involved?’ And so as you mentioned, it’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and so there’s two big things that we’re doing this month that readers can definitely be engaged in. And one is we’re doing ‘Donate a Book to a Child,’ so even if you’re personally and luckily not having a child having to go through this, you can buy a book and you can personalize it and we will deliver that book to a child in the hospital – that’s cool. And then we also have a program that all books that we’re selling that are sold both in September and October, we will provide a percentage of proceeds back to organizations that are focused on childhood awareness, research and managing unfortunately people going through cancer day-to-day and so organizations such as St. Jude, some of the hospital’s like Children’s Hospital Colorado that we’re going to provide money back to them. So those are two great things happening both this month and next month.
Neal: Great. Well I appreciate the insight and the opportunity for us to get involved, thanks so much.
Kristen: Thank you and you have a great day.
Neal: You do the same. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this podcast are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.