Hampton native Lisa Mack-Finn always knew she wanted to write a children’s book. She had a way of putting together words to teach a lesson without it feeling like a lesson – an important technique when your target audience is children.
A former substitute teacher who currently works as the business coordinator for the Pine-Richland Youth Center, Ms. Mack-Finn understands how children think. She knows if you want children to listen, you must speak in a way that makes them feel valued and respected.
She had a great idea for a story, which sat in bits and pieces on her computer for a while. It was when she was strolling down the beach in Florida that she proclaimed she would finally finish and publish her book.
“Tom, my fiancé, had no idea it was even in the works,” she said. “He loved the idea and from there I began the process of gathering all of those fragments, bits, and pieces to put together.” Those bits and pieces formed the recently released “Hey, Hey! What’d You Say?” a thoughtful book about coping with the mean kid.
The book’s characters – a bear, a family of bunnies, and a turtle with glasses – come together to try and figure out why the snake is so mean to everyone. They decide to treat the snake with kindness to get to the bottom of his behavior. It is a different approach than some kids may take with bullies or mean kids, but it is one Ms. Mack-Finn said should be explored more often.
“As parents, when we are at home and we hear our child say that there is a mean kid at school, I think our first instinct is to say, ‘Stay away from them! Just walk the other way! Tell a teacher!’ I think we need to try to change that rhetoric a bit.”
Although it may be difficult, teaching children to instead show kindness toward a mean kid may make all the difference for that child. “We need to say things like, ‘Have you asked them if they are OK? Have you tried to offer them a place at the table? Could you try once to see if they are tired or having a bad day?’”
Ms. Mack-Finn said she realizes that not all kids are going to be friends with each other. “But we should teach them to rule a few things out before just walking away. There is so much healing in words no matter the age.”
The hardest part about publishing the story was the layout and design. Using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform was confusing and frustrating. “It would be so much easier with a publisher,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe someday a publisher will find me and scoop me up.”
She credits her illustrator, Alicia Georgie, who came up with an amazing cover and illustrations to perfectly match her words. Her editors, Janet Leo and Annie Kirby were crucial in preserving her creativity. Annie is a pro at punctuation and Janet will tell me when something is just off. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
“Hey, Hey! What’d You Say?” is not Ms. Mack-Finn’s first book. She is the author of “Unknown,” a memoir recounting her recovery from an accidental blow to the head that left her with a severe concussion. It was written to inspire anyone going through a tough time, especially those suffering from brain injuries. “They are life-changing,” she said. “I like to be real in my writing, so you will really see who I am in that book. It’s unedited because I wanted to leave it in the state in which my thoughts streamed.”
For her next book, she plans to publish an unfinished fiction novel. “But I have had many ask me to continue writing for children,” she said. “Honestly, I kind of go where the wind takes me and something really needs to strike me creatively to present it for everyone to see.”
“Hey, Hey! What’d You Say?” is now available on Amazon.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.