Hello, readers! Please enjoy today’s Author Spotlight interview segment with Kelly D. Roberts the author of Shakey Quakey Jake. We talked about so many things from neurodiverse characters to representation in libraries and book banning. I couldn’t fit the full interview here, but take a look at her words and read more about her story and platform on her website here.
First, I want to ask about Shaky Quaky Jake. That’s your upcoming book, is that the first manuscript you completed or did you write anything before that?
I wrote others. That was the one I picked. I took a class and during that class I happened to meet the publisher before she was publishing children’s books. She was just publishing textbooks and things like that and she fell in love with this story. After the class was over, we stayed in touch. And so it happened. But it just happened to be the manuscript that I pulled up. I had worked on a number of other manuscripts.
Were they all picture books or were there any of them in different genres?
One of them is a middle grade book that has a bipolar protagonist. I took a class and wrote the whole book, the whole novel–50,000 words. I was pretty proud of myself but after I sent it through editorial review I realized I had to do a bunch of work. Revise revise revise.
So, you write in middle grade and picture book. Are there any other genres you’re working in or are those pretty much what you focus on?
I like to write for the kiddos. I believe that each child is special and unique as they are. The word in the Latin ‘unique’ means not just one of a kind but it’s the only kind.
We need to pass that on to the kids that it’s okay that they are as they are. There’s a lot of kids that have neurodiverse situations. They might be ADHD or like me they had bipolar disorder or they could just struggle with reading or something and they need to know that’s okay.
I have chosen to use my website as a platform for that. I really believe each child is special and they’re precious just the way they are. There’s a lot of discussion about how much medication kids should have and things like that. And if we’re gonna be not just including kids that have disabilities or other things in classes, they need to feel like they belong. That they are one of a kind and that that’s a good thing and diversity is a good thing.
I love that because I write in a similar vein. I write about neurodiverse characters. I am also neurodiverse in different ways with anxiety and depression, so I really identified with that on your website. I like to write picture books too about facing those things because children have anxiety sometimes and you need to find ways to continue to be a person with it.
They need to know that other people feel the same way. When I was a child, nobody talked about that kind of stuff. I just knew I was different and got picked on for my differences and bullied. You think nobody else is like you, that there are not other people out there. Even though you’re one of a kind, there are other people that struggle with the same things.
Not only that, but in Jake we show that Jake struggles and towards the beginning of the book he has a really bad day at school with the shaky quakies. He comes home and he’s really frustrated and expresses it to his grandma and has the love and acceptance to express that frustration. A lot of books that have kids in them with disabilities, they don’t let them be real. It’s okay that you get frustrated about it and it’s okay that you deal with the emotions and you label them and you go on and you keep trying. Like Jake’s Grandma tells him, you just keep trying.
And by the end of the book, he has to solve–and I can’t give away the ending–but he has to solve a tricky problem at school and he does it. And it turns out that it’s an okay thing that he’s different and he figures out how to plug himself into the system, so to say. He is accepted for who he is as he is. I just want the kids to be. Each child deserves it.
Sometimes parents forget because we’re in a society where screens rule everything, but the kids are saturated with more knowledge than we ever were exposed to. That’s just the way society is, but they’re still kids. They still need adult interaction. I think it’s really important that as you read, and I would say this to any moms that are listening, you will not, because I don’t, regret any second that I spent with my kids reading and helping them. As a matter of fact, I wish I had spent more. And I didn’t have to compete with screens!
Any time you put in with your child is going to build that relationship and make it so when you do talk about tough subjects–and we have a lot of books coming out with tough subjects we have some books that they’re saying are not appropriate for kids. A lot of those books, if the parents sat down with the child and read it with them or at least discussed it they’d find out that a lot of their fears are unfounded. Their child is just exploring and needs the parameters of the parents. I just want that for the kiddos.
I worked with preschoolers and the little light would go off when they would figure out how to read or how to do some little activity and I just love seeing that light go off. I hope that the light goes off with Jake that both the kids that struggle with visible challenges and the more typical child will be able to see themselves in Jake and change because sometimes the typical children don’t realize what their struggle is even though they have one. But they need to be empathetic towards the other person and a lot of it is fear that drives.
I was thinking about this yesterday and a lot of it is fear. We as adults–when we have, you said you’re neurodiverse and you have issues that you deal with, we don’t talk about them. And that’s not fair to the kids because then they’re like, well my mom doesn’t have any problems so I better not have any problems, or I’m not normal.
We want all the kids to be empathetic toward each other because even the disabled kids or the kids that are neurodiverse or are missing a leg or living in a wheelchair situation or something like that, they can teach the other kids so much about how to adapt how to be different and we need that diversity with the kids.
With your writing, I know you came to it after you retired, that’s when you started to really write more. What keeps you going when you hit an obstacle whether that’s in life or in the publication process?
One thing is the iron sharpens iron and the other people that are in my life that write, my critique partners and, well, I’m in 12×12 and The Author’s Guild and SCBWI. There is so much material that is free to increase your knowledge of the craft. So, if I hit a dead end somewhere, I usually take a break and start, well like ‘what is the problem with this manuscript?’ I’ll run it by the critique partners and they’re like, ‘yeah such and such doesn’t make sense.’ Okay, so I need to work on that. I’ll put the manuscript aside for a while and then take a class or watch a webinar or something. Read what comes out monthly from Julie Hedlund in 12×12 and pick it back up. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.
I had, and I don’t know if this has happened to you, but I woke up at three o’clock in the morning. I have a Shorkie, a little Shorkie, and she had to go potty. So I got up to take her potty and I was awake then because we went outside and the wind was blowing. And I was like, ‘oh okay I’m awake now.’ And the ending for one of my stories came to me that I had been struggling for a long time with.
Where can we find you online to connect?
@kdrobertswrites on Instagram and Twitter and just under my name on Facebook. We will have pre-orders that we’ll be taking at the end of the year in addition to having the book available at different distributors. You can get a personalized book through Adventures Underground which is a local independent bookstore that is here in the Tri-Cities.
When we have the pre-orders all set up which won’t happen for a few months, then they will be happy to take your order and fill that order and it will also be available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Ingram, and Target.
Any final thoughts?
Think about how you read to your kids when you read out loud. I have a sticker that I got from Jen Jones at Hello Literacy and it says “Hold the book. Make the faces. Do the voices. Feel the feels. Share the joy. Talk the stories.” And we need to talk the stories.Those might be stories that you had as a child with something you struggled with that you can be vulnerable to your child and let them know everybody struggles with something.