Susan Verde is the author of I Am Yoga and I Am Peace, feature books in our October boxes. She lives in East Hampton, New York with her 3 children and a dog named Gizmo. In addition to being an award-winning author, Susan teaches yoga and mindfulness to children and is a frequent contributor to online yoga magazines.
MARMALADE BOOKS (MB): You are a wonderful storyteller and I love how you can really tap into the mind of a child. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
SUSAN VERDE (SD): Thank you so much for the compliment! I think I have always known I wanted to be writer. I wrote poems and stories as early as I can remember and continued all though college. I always loved picture books and knew that was my favorite genre when I became an elementary school teacher. I didn’t know I would become a published author but I knew how writing made me feel and filled my soul.
MB: Your collaboration with illustrator Peter H. Reynolds is brilliant. Normally, authors write and it is the publisher that matches the stories up with an illustrator. That wasn't the case with you and Peter. How did your partnership happen?
SV: Yes, Peter and I had an unusual beginning. I was taking a class he was teaching at the Southampton Children’s Literature Conference and I was a huge fan! One of the perks of taking his workshop was being able to show him my writing. Peter came across my poem The Museum and said, “this is a book and I want to illustrate it!” Of course I said YES!! And from there we spent the next few months creating a dummy and sent it off to his agent (who became my agent) and the rest is history. Our publisher asked us to write more together but we had already begun collaborating on many projects. It is pure joy writing for Peter!
MB: You were an elementary school teacher with a Master's in Reading Remediation. What advice do you give parents when their children are struggling to learn to read?
SV: My advice is always to pick books that interest your child. Don’t worry about difficulty level or whether it’s a comic or a novel. If your child has a passion start there. When he/she feels engaged and valued it is more likely he will take a chance with more advanced reading in the long run. Let them see success and take the pressure off of both of you. Also, if you feel there is an issue than reach out for help. There is no stigma. Let that go and just find the support you need.
MB: When did you begin your yoga journey and at what point did you start teaching children?
SV: I have been practicing yoga on and off since college. At various stressful points in my life I turned to my practice to get me through. After my own children were over 3 I decided I wanted to work with kids again but not full time in the classroom. I wanted to make a difference and help them cope with the stresses I knew they experienced. Because my practice helped me so much I thought it would be a wonderful tool for children so I began teaching kid’s and am always learning and studying more effective ways to bring them the practice of yoga and mindfulness.
MB: I personally started practicing yoga about eight years ago and am surprised and amazed at what I come away with every time I unroll my mat. Your books I am Peace and I am Yoga have really got me thinking about the benefits to children learning yoga and mindfulness at an early age. Our world might be a very different place. What are your feelings about this?
SV: I often say that I wish I had these practices when I was a child. If I had known how to manage my emotions and treat myself with kindness it would have made such a difference. When we can reach children we can effect the world in a positive way. Imagine if we all knew how to be compassionate and empathetic and love ourselves. What a place this world has the potential to be. Kids are our best hope.
My thanks to Susan for this interview. Her writing and teaching to children is such an inspiration. – Pat Oldroyd