If you’re in the northern hemisphere this time of year, you’re likely seeing at least a few signs of winter …
Perhaps you envision yourself someplace else instead. Maybe a peaceful vacation on a warm, sunny beach!
While your mind may be littered with ideas of sun and surf, you don’t want the sand covered with litter, do you?
Unfortunately, this is a sad reality of many beautiful spots around the world: natural beauty cluttered with trash thanks to uncaring, unthinking people.
Now you know why Kenda Swartz Pepper created her children’s picture book, Well Earth Well Me! It is her way of reaching and inspiring younger generations to respect their surroundings and clean up trash wherever they may see it.
Kenda, a self-employed staff and management development specialist for different organizations, is motivated to helping educating others on the beauty and preservation of the environment. She loves spending her free time teaching, supporting, and encouraging children, and with her dog, Stella!
Please welcome Kenda to the Spotlight!
MCA: Welcome to the spotlight Kenda! Can you please tell us about what motivated you to create your book?
Kenda: Actually, there were several. The first one is the earth itself. Having lived here now for nearly 46 years and having traveled fairly extensively, I want the children of today to enjoy the simple pleasures on earth that I have enjoyed: clean air, clean water, healthy food, appreciation of wildlife and the beauty in nature, acceptance of personal differences, and a general care for self, others, and the planet.
Having lived many years along the central coast of California, I was fortunate enough to witness marine life thriving in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. I lived in a community that shared a mutual interest in caring for the beaches. It was never an odd occurrence to see a local picking up the trash left by visitors.
In my years, I have also, sadly, witnessed a dismal lack of respect for the earth – litter on the beaches, sea birds entangled in fishing nets or plastic six-pack wrappers, etc. Little did I know how well we had it in Santa Cruz until I began exploring other beaches of the world.
Beaches in Costa Rica, the beautiful coasts of Italy and Portugal, Mexico, even Australia and New Zealand (though to a lesser degree here) and certainly the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States are covered in plastic. Plastic bottles, straws, broken Styrofoam, fishing wire, fishing netting, fishing hooks, and bags, bags, and more bags on the beach, in the water, in the trees. Plastic EVERYWHERE.
I imagine that folks resign themselves to the fact that it would, indeed, take more than one simple effort to keep a beach clean. It’s easier to bypass and pretend it doesn’t exist than to take action. This is NOT okay. For me, it has never been okay and will never be okay. Yet, somehow, it is okay to some. Somehow it is okay to walk on a beach covered with trash and not bother to pick up one piece of litter. Surely, I’m not the only one who cares?
My prime reason for writing a children’s book is to encourage kids to take action. We must tap into the care factor of children who are the most compassionate, most motivated, most innovative, most amazing beings on earth. Educating children on taking some small steps can lead to major changes. A young, concerned citizen is the best citizen.
But I wouldn’t want to forget another important motivator: my dad. My dad, who died in 2009, was my go-to nature guy. He devoted his life to protecting and caring for Pennsylvania forest land. He knew everything about trees, vegetation, and forest animals. Any time I had a question about nature, I’d go to him first.
After his death, I was at a loss … for many reasons. I used journaling as a way to heal through this loss. The book idea came to me during a car trip about two months after he died. Once the idea came, I couldn’t focus on anything else until I had it formulated on paper. Then, the search began for an eco-friendly publisher, because I was not about to print a “take care of the earth” kind of book unless I was using sustainable resources.
After many months of research, I found Eifrig publishing. With the support of my husband, family, friends, and Eifrig, Well Earth Well Me! became a reality. I have dedicated the book to my dad, Kenneth Dale Swartz, as a way to honor him.
MCA: That is quite inspirational. Your passion speaks to all of us, not just your readers. Now that you have an award-winning book, what are your goals for this year?
Kenda: I have recently made a monumental change in my life so that I can focus on my passions – writing, painting, and photography. I have moved to a small village north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I am embarking upon my personal integration into the lovely and lively Mexican culture. I am also affording myself the time to focus on a higher quality and much simpler lifestyle -one that involves expression and creativity.
I will be immersing myself in the language (beginning with Spanish classes) and have already connected with the local elementary/middle school to discuss book readings and eco-actions to take within the community. I look forward to this new adventure as a goal in my personal development, and I hold the intention to explore my numerous ideas for future writing.
MCA: With such big changes underway, do you have any ideas on how your Mom’s Choice Award® will help you attain your goals?
Kenda: My Mom’s Choice Award® has already helped me towards attaining the original goal of adding credibility to my book. Parents and teachers want assurance that the books they purchase for their children or students add value to the lives of those children – either through sheer entertainment, gains in perspective or insight, and/or personal growth and learning. The Mom’s Choice Award®, a symbol of excellence in family friendly books, helps to offer that assurance along with purchasing peace of mind.
I also believe my Mom’s Choice Award® will help as I dedicate more time to marketing my book. Folks look at that lovely, shiny sticker and ask me questions about the award, which then draws them into my discussing the book.
The award not only builds confidence in the consumer by giving validity to the book, but it also generates curiosity and helps me pitch Well Earth Well Me!
Mostly, it is simply an honor to be recognized by a prestigious award like the Mom’s Choice Award®. I take pleasure (and some pride too) in claiming, “Winner of the Prestigious Mom’s Choice Award®”!
Seriously, overall, I continue to learn about myself. One of my life’s goals is to be on a continual path of learning and growth. The entire process from gaining clarity on my initial motivators, to brainstorming text, to taking my art and finding its place in the book, to sourcing for conscientious publishers, to marketing the book (which can be a very vulnerable experience!), to being in the presence of children has helped me gain insights about myself. I believe every little itty bitty part of this process has contributed to my learning and growth.
MCA: It sounds so good when you say that! We like hearing it, too! Can you share with us what you learned about yourself as a writer in creating your award-winning book?
Kenda: Well, I learned that I’m still a little competitive!
Mostly, however, this experience has reminded me to be grateful for the supportive people in my life. This process wasn’t completed in a vacuum. While it was my idea, I solicited the help of many friends to review text, test the rhymes and art on their children for positive reactions, and provide feedback. I received immense support from my husband, Scott, best friend, Marie, and of course Penny Eifrig at Eifrig Publishing.
MCA: Since launching your book, what has been your most rewarding experience in promoting or sharing it with the public? Do you have a favorite memory?
Kenda: My book launched at a challenging time in my life – directly after I had a serious accident and broke every bone that connects my foot to my leg. Being wheelchair bound and unable to bear weight for several months sent me into a depression. As I found my way out of that, my focus narrowed to two things: Recovering and my paid work as a consultant (the bills still had to be paid despite my circumstances).
Now, a year later, I am back on my feet. While it has been a long healing process, I can say that I’m a better and stronger person for it. I can also say that I am finally giving more attention to my book.
To date, the most rewarding experience promoting my book was at the Natural Bridges Welcome Back Monarchs Festival last Fall. I’ve been a volunteer at Natural Bridges for several years running an annual art contest for the little ones. I had the support of the leaders at Natural Bridges to launch during the festival. Being in the beautiful setting of Natural Bridges, one of my favorite places on earth, and being surrounded by equally beautiful children who were gathered, clapping and singing. – the love, the enthusiasm, the laughter; it was a moment I will always cherish.
MCA: That is quite special! As a new honoree, do you have any questions you’d like some of the “old hands” to answer for you?
Kenda: Goodness, I would be thrilled and grateful to glean any and all knowledge that the seasoned folks have and are willing to share. But my main question? I suppose it would be: What is your #1 book marketing tip? My second question: How have changes in the publishing industry impacted the way you now create?
MCA: Thanks for saying your marvelous story with us, Kenda. MCA Alumni, please let us know: what sort of marketing tips have you put into use?
Contact, Connect, and Network with Kenda
The Alumni Spotlight is a periodic feature on the official Mom’s Choice Awards® blog. It is part of our ongoing effort to “shine the spotlight” on you and your award-winning, family-friendly products, services, and media.