Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ever since I was young, I always had a strong interest in manatees and I always enjoyed learning. Especially learning about anything living. At 7, my parents bought me a microscope. And when I saw my first single-cell amoeba, I was fascinated! I quickly gravitated toward insect and animal books, butterflies and moths, reptiles and mammals. All along the way, I always had such a keen interest in manatees. Then as I grew older, I also became very interested in weather and the oceans.
So for me, the natural progression in the series was to have the first title, Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida, teach children all about manatees. Then the second title, which is my current release, Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure, I continue entertaining and teaching children by having my protagonist, a friendly manatee wearing a purple cap and a yellow jersey, introduce different cloud types and weather events, which take place along Kobee Manatee’s adventure from Key West, Florida to Nassau in the Bahamas.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre?
I’ve always had a passion for manatees. And I also enjoy wearing a cap as part of my own outfit. With that said, I wanted to reflect this in my protagonist. So I created a manatee wearing a purple cap and a yellow jersey. And while I always enjoyed learning, I decided to incorporate this concept into my manatee by giving him anthropomorphic traits. Clearly, the logical genre choice for me would be writing children’s picture books. I wanted my books to be fun, entertaining, and educational so learning would seem incidental.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I’ve always enjoyed Dr. Seuss because they were such fun reads. What can be more fun for a child than reading Green Eggs and Ham? And also the wonderful Curious George series by Margret and Hans Augusto Rey. As for other favorites, I enjoy any title on science, living things, weather, and the oceans.
What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
A typical working day for me can vary greatly, except for my mornings. I’ll research new ideas and create an outline for one of my upcoming Kobee Manatee blogs. I also may review and edit a blog that’s almost ready to post. I’ll check with both Google analytics and my distributor’s sales reports to see how my marketing is performing.
As for my writing, I find mornings are best. It’s quiet and I usually have no interruptions. I’ll write with my laptop and sit at the same couch spot during each session. Much like Sheldon Cooper’s favorite sitting spot! As for my daily writing goal – it’s important for me just to progress with some new words each time. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the zone and a whole bunch of stuff flies off the keyboard, or if I’m struggling and finding it difficult to get that next word down. As long as I write something, I’m happy.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I write children’s educational picture books, where I’ll create a fictitious story and then weave in “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” which mirror the story’s subject. The hardest part of writing in this genre for me is keeping my word count in the narrative arc manageable for my target audience, children 4 to 8. However, I’m finding the “Kobee’s Fun Facts” embedded in each story can draw in readers who are older.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I get such a great feeling when I learn children love one of my titles. And especially when I do an author visit at a school. There’s nothing better for me than being in that live environment, where I personally see how much fun the children are having when I read them a Kobee Manatee story and then sing them a Kobee Manatee song!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my third series release, Kobee Manatee: Shipwreck Sea Friends. This title is another adventure tale were Kobee and his pals are busy searching for the historic shipwreck, the SS Antonio Lopez, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Children will be able to identify popular reef fish and they’ll also learn our beautiful coral reefs are now being seriously threatened and dying from increasing Ocean Acidification.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Stick with it! We all have those unwanted days where nothing in the writing department seems to make sense. You just can’t get one new word on the page. When that happens to me, I just write anything down … anything! This can definitely help dissolve that stubborn mental jam, and those thoughts can start flowing again.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
The question I’d like to be asked in an interview is…
Why is it important to teach young children about manatees and other threatened animals?
It’s very important because not only manatees, but also all sea life, including our precious coral reefs and plankton are now threatened from increasing Ocean Acidification [OA]. OA is a condition caused from carbon dioxide [CO2] in the air dissolving in the ocean. This creates carbonic acid in seawater. Carbonic acid can destroy coral reefs. CO2 levels are the result of human activities, which include the burning of fossil fuels; oil, coal and natural gas. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]…
“Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, they are biodiversity hot spots. On some tropical coral reefs, for example, there can be 1,000 species per square meter². Their decline affects tourism, food security, shoreline protection and biodiversity. Ocean acidity has increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”
How is Ocean Acidification a Threat to Coral Reefs and Marine Life?
Ocean acidity results in an increase in the amount of energy needed by small ocean organisms in making their carbonate shells. In some areas of the oceans, the increasing seawater acidity will make it impossible for these organisms to live. This will have a drastic effect on ocean ecosystems. As a result, tropical oceans will not be able to sustain coral reefs. Here is what UNESCO is saying about the increasing threat of CO2 and increasing ocean acidification, “Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, they are biodiversity hot spots. On some tropical coral reefs, for example, there can be 1,000 species per m². Their decline affects tourism, food security, shoreline protection and biodiversity.”
“Ocean acidification may have a strong negative impact on many plankton and zooplankton species that form the base of the marine food chain. Plankton is key to the survival of larger fish, and their decline may trigger a chain reaction through the marine food web. This will affect the multi-billion dollar commercial fisheries and shellfish industries, as well as threatening the food security for millions of the world’s poorest people. Ocean acidification, along with warming surface waters, may reduce the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2, leaving more CO2 in the atmosphere and worsening its impact on the climate.”