Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview in our series. For this interview, we were able to sit down and chat with one of our MCA award-winning authors, Katie Murphy! Katie Murphy is the author of Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise!. Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! is about a little bear named Ananda that will take your child on a journey filled with charming nature illustrations and new animal friends as she explores all the places where she might find happiness! Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! is truly a lovely story that shows the true nature of happiness and peace within oneself. We all need to find a little happiness sometimes and this book is a wonderful way to show children that it is all around us as well as within us. Keep reading to find out more about Katie, including the beautiful story about how Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! came to be!
MCA: Hi Katie, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! is such a sweet story that is an absolute delight to read from start to finish. Can we first start the interview by finding out a little bit about yourself?
Katie: I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina where I am inspired daily by the beauty of my natural surroundings. Mountain living inspires my writing and creative pursuits of which I have many. I enjoy writing and creating a variety of arts and crafts, spending time with friends and family, and living amongst the trees here on the mountain.
This year I decided to create my own publishing company called The Happy Page, and with the help of my friends Rania Tulba an amazing artist from Egypt, and Kathy Meis and her team at Bublish, published my first children’s book, Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! this October.
MCA: That’s very exciting, you’ve had quite an accomplished year! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Katie: Ironically, I couldn’t read or write until I was in the sixth grade as I was extremely dyslexic as a child. I was fortunate to have a strong support system and a special teacher named Ms. Aigen who realized I had a natural love for beauty in words, despite my challenges. She taught me to read and write using a variety of poetry all throughout my elementary school experience, and I’ve not stopped writing since!
MCA: As Brad Henry once said, a good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. How was Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! “born”? Tell us about the journey of its publication!
Katie: I would like to share the first story I posted on my blog, Welcome Home to answer this question. I hope you enjoy reading it. It’s called, “Every Story Has a Beginning”.
On September 10th, 2020, my dad died from COVID-19. He was alone in the Durham County, North Carolina ICU when he died, isolated from his family and loved ones. Four days before my dad died, I tried calling his room number in the hospital, hoping that by luck a member of the medical team caring for him would be in the room at the same time, to hand my dad the telephone. He had been suffering from dementia and isolation the last ten months of his life, and he often hadn’t recognized me when I had spoken with him. I remember being very peaceful within myself while dialing the number to the hospital. I was sitting in my car on my lunch break and the impulse to connect with my dad was overwhelming. “Hello, Dad? It’s Katie, how are you?” I don’t know how, but my dad answered the telephone and could hear my voice. “Dad? It’s me, Katie.” I tried to be strong for him. “Kate!”, he said. The rest of his sentence was undecipherable but piecing together the words I could tell he was experiencing the past as he often had during the last few months of his life, when I was just a little kid. “Dad, we’re all rooting for you!” I said, as encouraging as I could be. In that moment I was thankful he couldn’t see the tears that were flowing freely down my cheeks. “Who is?” “Dad, your kids, Tom, Jen and Katie. We’re all rooting for you!” “Okay,” he said. “Okay, I’ll see you at home.” Those were the last words my dad ever said to me. Four days later, as I drove home from work, my sister phoned to let me know that my stepmom was on her way to the hospital. They had called to let her know his passing was imminent. It was a beautiful autumn day in the mountains, and I took my time driving home. As I turned onto my mountain road, I felt peaceful inside and the beauty of nature around me reflected the peace I felt within. It had rained like it so often does with the microcosm weather of the mountains. A thunderstorm passed through, and the sunlight was sparkling off leaves of the trees and little puddles in ruts on the dirt road. I took extra time driving the two miles to the top of the mountain where my home is, knowing that my dad was transitioning to his “next big adventure”. I wanted to be alone, and with him somehow at the same time. Every detail of the mountain came into being effortlessly, the rhododendron still had some blooms from late May, even while the trees were beginning to turn. The air was mild and warm, refreshed after the charge of the storm. Crows cawed in the distance. Squirrels ran through already fallen leaves in the woods. Slowly I drove up my mountain road as I had a thousand times before. Turning up the last incline to the end where my little cabin sits, I looked to my left at the distant landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain, a view that is imprinted in the fabric of my being. There are no words to describe its beauty. Dark clouds of the storm were drifting to the east. There, as I reached the top of the road and my home on the mountain, a beautiful rainbow lit up the sky. Tears, and more tears came, as I knew my dad had kept his promise. “I’ll see you at home.”
My sister and I got the call from my stepmom thirty minutes later saying my dad had passed about a half of an hour ago.
The past two years have been difficult for many of us. Struggling with a pandemic and its effects has slowed us down, forced us to pause, and reflect on what is truly important. This January I wrote a story about a little bear named Ananda who is on a search to find happiness. “Where is happiness?”, she asks her mom. “I think I’ll go find it!” And she does.
May her sweet story warm your heart and bring you closer somehow to your own happiness. That is my wish for you.
Readers can also find it here: Every Story Has A Beginning – Katie Murphy (thehappypage.net)
MCA: We are so sorry for your loss, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story with us. This pandemic has definitely shown all of us what is truly important and how precious life is. What are some of the key lessons found in Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers Big Surprise!?
Katie: There is only one lesson this sweet story points to. It is the simple truth that true, lasting, happiness can only be found within ourselves.
MCA: That is a lesson we at MCA can certainly get behind! Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! is the perfect book to read to children of all ages right before bedtime. Can you share with us why are bedtime stories so important?
Katie: Ending the day with a bedtime story with your child is an intimate way to foster togetherness, curiosity, and a shared exploration of the values you wish to instill in your child from a young age. These early years are a foundational time in which children build upon their experience as they grow. Story’s such as Where Is Happiness? provide an avenue to explore the subjective side of life which often goes unnoticed in our outward-facing world culture. This subjective side of life is where we can explore qualities such as happiness, beauty, love, peace, friendship, humor, and understanding. These experiences are not “things” in themselves, yet they are a very real, tangible, aspect of our lives. These qualities of life may even be what we call our most cherished moments.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Katie: The response I’ve received from readers has been interesting because I’ve had readers as young as three to seventy-three, and they all intuitively say, “Yes!” to the meaning of the story. True happiness can only be found within ourselves.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Katie: Do you remember the lyrics of the song, “Looking for love in all the wrong places…..?” Well, the same could be said of our search for true, lasting, happiness. Maybe the journey outward to find happiness needs only to turn within, to find the source of happiness itself. Ananda’s story is our shared story. There is only one purpose of life, and that is to find where true, lasting, happiness resides. That is the greatest journey of all!
MCA: What is next for Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise!?
Katie: Richard Rieman, Founder and CEO of Imagination Videobooks, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit in Denver, Colorado will be creating both a video version and audiobook version of “Where Is Happiness?” for blind and deaf children to enjoy. It will be available on Audible with royalties from the audiobook sales going to Imagination Videobooks. Mr. Rieman is working with Amazon to add a new category, “books with audio description” so blind and deaf children and their families have more access to these special books created for them. I’m really excited about this collaboration.
Readers can learn more about Imagination Videobooks here: Home – (imaginationvideobooks.org)
MCA: That is wonderful, we cannot wait to check it out!
You can learn more about Katie Murphy and her award-winning book, Where Is Happiness?: A Little Bear Uncovers a Big Surprise! by visiting her MCA Shop pages.