Today's guest is children's book author Alinka Rutkowska. Alinka is a “Reader’s Favorite” Five Star Picture Book Author. She writes the “Maya & Filippo” Book Series for Children – travel books for kids with a positive attitude. She takes inspiration from her own travels while cruising with her husband and daughter around the world. She is positive, appreciative and happy 95% of the time and during the miserable 5% she thinks to herself quickly: “things always work out for me” and they do.
Alinka’s doesn’t really have a “to do” list but she does have a “fun things to do” list. It usually consists of writing, reading, reading her writing, writing in her diary, blogging, reading other blogs, commenting, breathing deeply, meditating, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin, closing her eyes, breathing some more and thinking what a wonderful world she lives in.
Sometimes she takes a few minutes to pause and instead of doing something from her “fun things to do” list she just daydreams a little. She thinks of all the great things that she wants for her to happen and imagines how wonderful it will feel to be interviewed about them in the future. She’s already preparing the answers to those interview questions in her mind. She especially loves the part, in which she says that she achieved all these things because she spent a considerable amount of time visualizing them first.
Alinka loves to ski while listening to music at the same time, she enjoys an occasional glass (or bottle) of Barolo with dark chocolate, she loves cuddling with her husband and daughter. Alinka really likes tea, especially that last sip which is usually the tastiest.
You can visit Alinka’s website at www.mayafilippo.com, where she blogs daily for parents, travelers and authors.
Thank you for this interview, Alinka. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Thank you for having me. I was born a writer but made a business woman. As a school girl I used to keep a notebook with me and write poems in it when I felt inspired. I think I still have it somewhere :) I was also founder and editor of the school newspaper. I loved typing. My mother insisted that I learn to type using all 10 fingers and this really paid off big time. I loved the keyboard and what I could do with it. I put articles together - both written by myself and by my peers, created the layout and printed the newspapers. It was a huge thrill for me to see the words that were initially in my head - available on paper for everybody to read. This excitement for the written word has stayed with me even though I studied business and worked in big corporations for several years, forgetting about my love for writing.
At a certain point my enthusiasm for the written word surfaced. I wrote my first book while still doing my 9-5 job and I was shocked and delighted when the sales took off rapidly after launch. I managed to double my corporate salary and this pushed me to finally step out of my comfort zone and do some traveling combined with searching for my life’s purpose. My first stop on what was going to be a one year trip around the world was Auckland.
Where is Auckland?
On the other side of the planet! It’s the capital of New Zealand and since I had never been to either Australia or New Zealand I was certain that I wanted to go there. Auckland is also where I stepped on board a cruise ship for the very first time. I took a cruise from Auckland to Sydney. At the time I didn’t realize that single people don’t usually cruise! I only found that out when I got on! That however didn’t turn out to be a bad thing - I met my husband on that cruise :)
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
About that. Since I was traveling alone I had plenty of time to observe and reflect. I noticed that the better my attitude was, the better my experiences. Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland is a children’s travel book that brings that philosophy to life. The two main characters - Maya and Filippo - live on board the Fun Princess and the wake up to a rough start of the day. Then they go and visit Auckland and they notice a funny thing: when they complain, they meet other complainers. They decide to check if the opposite would also be true. They change their outlook by changing the thoughts they think. Before the sun sets they manage to turn their luck and come back on board to share a very exciting discovery with their mother.
Why did you decide to write children's books?
Because I’m a mother now and I want to convey the philosophy of a positive outlook and the love for traveling to my daughter and to other children. I think it’s a huge honor to be able to write books for the little ones. Children in their formative years soak up knowledge extremely fast. If they internalize the concepts that they can dream big, that life is supposed to feel good to them, that they have control over their thoughts and lives now, they will grow up to be centered, mature, warm human beings.
That’s why I am delighted that the first two books of the series, Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland and Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea have already received a five star distinction for their excellence from Readers’ Favorite. This way parents can know for sure that these titles are a great fit for their little ones.
What's the greatest challenge writing for children in your opinion?
This question reminds me of a question a little girl asked me not so long ago: “is it easy to write a children’s book?” Her mom responded before I could saying: “It depends for whom. Some people find it easy to write books, others to do maths.” I think there is a lot of truth in this statement. I find it very easy to write. A children’s book is only about 1000 words, that’s fewer than this interview, so I write it in one go. I first carry the idea of the book in my mind for a few days (or weeks!). I always know which city the story will take place in and what the children will learn. When the perfect moment presents itself I make sure that I’m relaxed, centered and have a clear mind and I write. I type like crazy, sometimes some unexpected things happen in the plot but the main concept remains the same. That’s how the first draft is born.
Then that is edited several times by myself and by the copyeditor. Then the illustrations are made, then colored by another person and then the book is prepared for printing. And that is the biggest challenge - to gather a team who will prepare the book so that the result is excellent. Children like fun, colorful, pretty things and they will notice instantly if the book did not receive enough attention. They will simply dismiss it. That’s why quality control is very important in my writing and publishing process.
As a children’s book author, how can we get more children to fall in love with reading?
First of all we should give them great books, which they can related to. Siblings will love to read about other siblings’ adventures. Travelers will want to check out travel books. The books should provide both elements that children know and new ones, so that they can expand their horizons. These books have to be beautifully illustrated. Little children fall in love with the drawings before they can truly appreciate the text.
Secondly, we should start reading to them when they are small - really small. I started reading to my daughter when she was still in my belly. I have a picture when she is 5 days old and I am reading a book to her. The little ones love the tone of our voice (so do make funny noises!), they love cuddling and they will associate all these pleasant feelings to reading.
Thirdly, just be patient. Start with one book a day but if your child loses interest after a few pages, that’s OK. Little kids have very short attention spans and forcing them to read will be counterproductive.
Finally, set the right example. All children want to do what their parents are doing. If they see you reading books, they will want to do the same.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a whole series of Maya & Filippo books. The first batch will be books from my travels in New Zealand:
Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea
Maya & Filippo Look for Happiness in Tauranga
Maya & Filippo See Impossible Things in the Garden City
Maya & Filippo Learn about Careers in Dunedin
Maya & Filippo Talk Business in Seattle
Maya & Filippo Look for Whales in Ketchikan
Maya & Filippo Visit a Glacier
Maya & Filippo See Things Differently in Skagway
I’ve already written these and the artwork for the covers is also complete, so they will all have been published by mid 2015.
I am now going to Hawaii and I will definitely not come back empty-handed. I think I will also include a few European ports in my future books. We are talking about 2015-2016 here.
Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
I blog daily at www.mayafilippo.com for parents, travelers and authors. I love to connect with like-minded individuals on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mayafilippo), Twitter (https://twitter.com/AlinkaRutkowska) and Linked-In (http://www.linkedin.com/in/alinkarutkowska).
My books are available through my Amazon Author’s page at http://amzn.to/1eQNlcZ.