Interview with Whitney Stewart
We asked Whitney some questions so we could help spread the word about how incredibly qualified she is to write these activity cards and what a wonderful asset they would be to any teacher, parent, or professional looking to spread mindfulness to youth.
Q: How did this activity card deck come to be? What lead up to your choosing to produce activity cards?
A: I have been writing for children for over thirty years. Several of my book subjects included discussion of meditation and mindfulness, so it was natural for me to teach meditation to children during my author visits in schools and libraries.
The publisher of Barefoot Books reached out to me to write a set of mindfulness activity cards, and I developed these cards from the activities I use with my students.The team at Barefoot Books helped me shape the cards so the activities would be inclusive and accessible for a wide audience. Alexandra Strick and Beth Cox, founders of Inclusive Minds, and Child Development Specialist Stephanie Page Wieder, M. S. Ed. all provided invaluable consultation.
Q:Tell us about your history as a children's book author?
A: I wanted to be a children's book writer when I was in high school. I took a correspondence course from the Institute for Children's Literature and read anything I could about publishing children's books. At Brown University, I created an independent concentration in children's literature and child language acquisition, and I also worked part-time in a children's library to help prepare me for my profession.
I published my first children's books after I traveled to Tibet and India where I was fortunate enough to interview the Dalai Lama. We spoke about how to teach meditation to children, and he gave me suggestions. Later, I went trekking with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal and interviewed him for a young adult biography. And I traveled widely in Asia to write about Aung San Suu Kyi, Deng Xiaoping, and Mao Zedong. While there, I meditated in Tibetan monasteries, Burmese pagodas, and Japanese temples.
I have continued to write history and biography for children, but I also began to focus on meditation and mindfulness. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, I returned to our city and volunteered to teach creative writing in a public school. I realized that many of my students had high levels of anxiety, so I began to incorporate mindfulness in my writing classes. The kids loved it because it gave them ways to calm the body and focus the mind.
Q: Tell us about the other mindful books you have written?
A: I first wrote a book about Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha (Becoming Buddha), and included a suggestion from the Dalai Lama on how to teach children to meditate. In 2006, I published an ebook on mindfulness meditation, entitled Give Me A Break, and later a picture book on meditation for young children, entitled Big Sky Mind. (The U.S. title is Meditation is an Open Sky.) Mindful Kids: 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus, and Calm will be released on
October 1, 2017 (Barefoot Books) and in 2018, I will publish two more books on mindfulness for children with publisher Albert Whitman.
Q: What makes you want to write for children?
A: I have always loved being around kids. I can't explain why-it's just energizing to work and play with kids and share ideas with them. Their questions made me think. I can't imagine doing anything else!