Mr. Kind uses an entirely unique lyrical rhyme coupled with the marvelous graphic imagery of Zacc Pollitt to weave the stories that last for generations:
With “four marbles, and a shooter quite fat,” a stranger teaches Bluff about the dangers of arrogant boasting; in A Tree in the Desert we learn how the bird came to sit on the rhino’s head; King of the Moon outlines Clyde’s otherworldly journey all for the sake of friendship; and with The Princess and The Stool it is made very clear that the greatest of hero will many times come in the smallest of packages.
Mr. Kind lives with his wife and son on Playa Pelada in Nosara, Costa Rica. Mr. Kind Stories are a YouthWide jubilation produced in association with Prove Nothing.
Hi, Mr. Kind! Thank you for joining us today on Reader Views Kids! Tell us about your latest book, “King of the Moon.”
Thank you Sheri, I’m so glad to have the opportunity to speak with you today. “King of the Moon” is my ode to friendship and sharing. The main character, Clyde is a colorfully awkward fellow indeed. His best friend is an apple tree named Sam and when he realizes he is unable to split the sandwich he brought for lunch with Sam, well because trees don’t eat sandwiches of course, Clyde begins a series of magical events that will venture him to the moon in search of something to share with his friend. Now Clyde has never been to the moon before and with all the crystals, dotted skies, and changing sun’s, the path to the moon can be very confusing. So he is helped along the way by a talking table, a few signs, a bottle printed with instructions, the all too beautiful Moon Queen, and finally the Moon King who insists on talking out of rhyme, but just might have something to share. From the beginning of the story, Sam let’s Clyde fill his bucket with apples and Clyde wants nothing more than to share back, to reciprocate. That’s what friendship is all about.
What was your inspiration for the story?
The entire story, other than when the Moon King speaks, is written in an off-metered rhythm that is more of a rap than a classical rhyme. I had recently just written “The Story of Bluff” which is also done in the off-metered rap like rhyme. I was thinking about Alice running around Wonderland and is that more intriguing or maybe something with a knight saving a princess? This makes it quite interesting for me that your reviewers mentioned “The Wizard of Oz” and not Alice, although they are both timeless classics. So I guess I started and ended the debate with myself when I blurted out the intro, in a kind of freestyle rap, and the story just followed.
“King of the Moon” is the second book in your Mr. Kind Stories series. How long have you been writing and what calls you to write books for children?
I actually wrote the first 4 stories 25 years ago, in my last year of high school, or my first year of community college depending on which transcript you are looking at. I have been writing creatively since grade school and it was in high school that I started to develop the rap-style like rhyme, but at that point in my life the stories or raps I was writing were not for children. For the second term of my senior year in high school I attended a community college as part of an early admissions program and there I met a wonderful professor. It was in her class, a public speaking class where you had to present what you wrote, that I attempted a family friendly fable I had written after a neighbor child had asked me to write him a story. That story, “A Tree in the Desert” is scheduled to be the fourth of the Mr. Kind Stories series, even though it was written first and does not follow the same rhyming scheme. It was after that presentation and continued encouragement from the professor that I used the rap-like rhyming style to put together the next three stories.
Where does the name Mr. Kind come from?
Although the first stories themselves are over two decades old, it wasn’t until early 2018 that I started getting serious about finding an illustrator and producing the books. After many moons of writing submissions and processing rejections, I had spent the two years previous familiarizing myself with the Kindle Direct Publishing system and I reached the point where I decided there was nothing holding me back other than finding the right illustrator and navigating the marketing. I had come up with the name YouthWide as a production entity to conceptualize the focus on young adults and young readers, but I needed a name and logo that would catch the eye and open the imagination; something to match the whimsical spirit of the stories. It took a few weeks of watching and wondering when the name Mr. Kind came to me one afternoon. It just sounded right. Be kind to each other, you know? Zacc would come up with the fantastic logo while finishing up “The Story of Bluff.”
Our young readers love the illustrations just as much as your stories! What’s it like working with an illustrator and how did you find one?
Now that is a story of serendipity. I put a post on Facebook explaining that I had a series of children’s stories that I was ready to publish, but that I needed an illustrator. I met with a dozen different artists, both amateurs and professionals. With each one I told the story in person and asked them to submit a cover idea. Only Zacc would end up submitting anything and we clicked from the very beginning. He saw the vision and felt inspired by the story as I told it. He is well armed with not only a unique creativity, but also the technical knowledge to produce and evolve the type of dynamic visuals I felt did the stories justice and these visuals also shape the web presence of Mr. Kind Stories via his company Prove Nothing. I like to refer to him as having visualized the stories and the image of Mr. Kind. He is not just an illustrator. He has a passion for what he does that has translated into a passion for Mr. Kind Stories and that passion is not something you can manufacture or purchase.
Did you have a vision for what you wanted the illustrations to look like or did you leave that up to the illustrator?
With “The Story of Bluff” I had no idea what the characters actually looked like. I had been telling this story for years and I remember saying to Zacc, “This is a big deal, because I don’t actually describe what Bluff looks like, only what he wears, so anyone listening to the story has had their own image and you will be creating an original character.” So, we looked at different iconic people we thought sort of reflected the character and we built from there. It was a lot of fun. We created the single character Bluff together, but the rest is all Zacc. With “King of the Moon” we had some rough concept art and my telling the story which is quite a bit more character descriptive than its predecessor, but after we finalized the cover I let him run with it. We met once to iron out details when he was all but two pages short of completion and we only had one revision before the final. Working with Zacc is an intense and surreal subjective molding that we have both recognized as something genuinely unique. The visions he gleans from the stories in and of themselves continue to be spot on.
What sets your books apart from other stories in the genre?
Mr. Kind Stories are intended to be unique, whole encompassing, multi-media experiences by first incorporating the writing with the visualizations in the book and then adding the character voices, original score, and sound effects via the audiobook. People have suggested animation to me and Zacc has constructed the graphics in such a way that allows for complex manipulation, so that may come one day. But with advancing technologies and cinematic dominance in media, Mr. Kind Stories is revisiting storytelling in a new way to try to grab the children’s attention without using a screen. The live telling matched to the audio track is a very theatrical presentation.
Tell us about the magic of live storytelling? When did you get started? Who are your audiences?
I have been involved with theater from a young age and like I explained earlier, it was in a community college speech class that I began the storytelling that is now Mr. Kind Stories. I have performed the stories at coffee houses, children’s birthday parties, public and private schools, bookstores and a music festival. At one point I ran an ad in the local paper (this was before the internet was so widespread) and had business cards made up that my father did the art for, calling myself “The Storyteller.” The audiences have been of all ages, but the children are the best to perform for. Every audience is different, but when you have a group of children completely engrossed it is the most rewarding audience reaction because it is so pure and unfiltered. The stories were put aside while I made my way through college and into the business world. Now established, with a wife and little boy, I feel as though this is the time for me to repurpose and reinvigorate what was put into motion so many years ago.
Do you prefer writing or telling stories and why?
I will have to take a moment and think about that one. The writing and creation process is such a different experience from telling the story. When writing it is an interaction with myself and the characters that are created. Even if I am writing for someone or something else specific, the creative writing process for me is a place of isolation. When telling or performing the stories, as every telling is a performance of sorts, there is an active interplay that occurs with the audience and the children are so intense with their expressions and enthusiasms, it is an elevating experience. I have performed live for adults and even the most well received performances for adults are never met with the raw joy that emanates from children getting lost in their imaginations. There are things I get from writing that I can’t reach with the experience of telling and vice versa, so it makes your initial question very difficult for me to answer. The writing, the creation of the story comes first and as the telling is an event culminating in the sharing of the creation that in turn results in a subjective exchange between the author and the readers, I would have to say I get a greater sense of completion from telling one of the stories as opposed to just finishing the writing. That being said, the absolute best is when the two occur at the same time. When I wrote “A Tree in the Desert,” which is scheduled to be the fourth of the series, it began via a conversation with a child that went something like this:
“Hey kid, would you like to hear a story?”
“Yeah, yeah mister, tell me a story. Tell me about a princess, a king, a queen, a man with a big sword, a castle, a moat,”
“And what about a monster?”
“Well where would the monster be?”
“Just on the other side of the moat.” That is when he looked up, into the air, where I had pointed my finger. He pondered for just a moment and stared. Suddenly his eyes darted back to mine as though he had seen.
“Okay, okay, tell me about the monster and the rhinoceros horn. Tell me about how the pointy end got stuck in the tree with the bird. Tell me, I’m ready.” And he crossed his legs to sit down in front of me. That’s how the story began. That’s how all the stories begin.
What is your favorite book from childhood?
I will start off with the least curious answer and admit that “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” has always been one of my favorites. But I must mention “The Phantom Tollbooth,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and “The Thief of Always.”
What do you enjoy outside of writing and storytelling?
I was born and raised on a beach, spent my whole life on or near a beach, and now live with my family on what I consider one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most recently, if I am not working or taking care of my family, you can usually find me in the water. An hour or two of sunset surf before playing with my son in the sand as the last of the light changes from yellow orange to a purple red… These are just a few of my favorite things.
So what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?
“The Story of Bluff” is fully produced for the time being. With “King of the Moon,” the ebook and print version are available now and I have recorded the performance of the story with my character voices. The score and sound effects are being put together by Patrick Cooke, who also did the audio for “The Story of Bluff.” The audiobook of “King of the Moon” should release by March or April 2020 with the first live performances scheduled for the end of the scholastic year. “The Princess and The Stool” is currently also in production and will be releasing digital and print possibly as early as October with audiobook and performance coming in early 2021. You can then expect “A Tree in the Desert” sometime in Summer 2021 and I have something very special planned for the 2021 holiday season, but that is for another conversation 😉 .
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
Find something you love to do, something you truly have a passion for, and do it. The practicalities of life, of taking care of yourself and your loved ones, of being a healthy, responsible, productive contributor to a world we want to see getting better are the givens of maintaining peace in yourself, but the imagination and following your passions is the spark that keeps the engines running.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging authors and storytellers?
Write because you feel that you must write, that you can’t keep from writing. There is no other reason worth doing it. Tell your story knowing that you are giving a part of yourself to everyone listening and in turn, those who listen are allowing you access to their imaginations, their passions. This is a profound and magical exchange that takes place. Embrace it.
Mr. Kind, thank you for joining us today on Reader Views Kids! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope you are now smiling, even a little. Try to enjoy yourself and have a wonderful day.