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 all so much for joining us for another one of our interviews in our ongoing series! For today’s interview, we sat down with Jason Colpitts, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, Corrine and the Underground Province! Corrine and the Underground Province is the story of a spunky 12-year-old named Corrine who has mysterious dreams of a world unfrozen, and battles against tyrannical Madame Morticia to unite the Underground Province and save planet earth. This is such an interesting book that is sure to keep your young readers (the book is perfect for ages 9 to 12) entertained from start to finish! Keep reading to find out more about Jason Colpitts and his award-winning book, Corrine and the Underground Province!
MCA: Hi Jason, thank you so much for joining us today, and a huge congratulations on your first Mom’s Choice Award! Thank you for allowing us the chance to sit down with you to find out a little bit more about yourself and your new book, Corrine and the Underground Province!
Jason: I was raised in idyllic rural Lynn Massachusetts – if by rural you mean inner city buildings in extreme disrepair, clustered factories, dingy streets, and stacked three-deckers stuffed with welfare families struggling to make ends meet. Ironically, as a child growing up in the area with a single mom, we never viewed our circumstances as a bad thing. We played together like any other kids, climbed trees, and hopped the neighbor’s fences. We commanded quarter-to-play video games and read all the aged comic books we could scrounge from the corner store. My mom never taught us to feel lesser, despite the food stamps and basement apartments. We felt rich on the inside, and so we already had everything that everyone is striving for.
MCA: There have actually been multiple studies that show an abundance of resources may have a negative effect on creativity. There is no question about your abundance of creativity when reading Corrine and the Underground Province! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Jason: As I grew up, I had attention issues and, as a result, did poorly in English. I was flunking in fact. My astute teacher knew she had to break through to me in a different kind of way; she kept taking an interest in my creative writing. Aha! I thought. What if we can make an agreement? I asked that if I passed in worthwhile short stories, and if she would work with me on them, it could be considered extra credit to raise my grade from a D- to a D, and so forth. I passed in dozens and dozens of stories. I was able to raise my grade point with one after another. This experience was my launchpad into writing. By the end of that quarter, I had bargained my way into an A grade. In my early 20s I also took a particular liking to a pretty young girl, and my writing turn to poetry. We have been married for 23 years.
MCA: What was your reasoning behind writing Corrine and the Underground Province?
Jason: On Friday nights, I volunteer time at a local prison, the Middleton, MA ECCF. I work in rehabilitation, trying to mentor young men into setting better standards. I often hear, “I should have listened to my mom…my dad…my foster parent…my teacher…”. Two problems: One : Fight is good, but it needs to be directed in the right way. Two : These prisoners are often barely adults, and they ended up where they are, in part, because have no self-value at all. They feel they were forced into a life of drugs and gangs, and they had no choice.
Corrine and the Underground Province has a two-fold purpose. My goal in writing Corrine was instill self-worth in the next generation, if even only a few. They need to realize that when life pushes them down, shoves them into a corner, and tells them that they’re nothing, they have greater worth than they can ever realize. They’re special. No one should say that because you’re a girl or a boy or dark-skinned, or light-skinned, or anything else that you’re lesser somehow. They have the ability to rise above their circumstances and become something great.
They need to fight, but fight in the right way, fight for their future.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in Corrine and the Underground Province?
Jason: Healthy friendships are a key to success. Good friends will build you up. The wrong crowd will drag you down. Corrine, Peter, and Audrey always build each other up. Whenever Corrine feels down, the others offer warm encouragement. Corrine then feel like she can conquer the world, and she does the same for them. Those are the types of friends you want.
Linda, on the other hand, is older and in charge. She yells and punishes to get what she wants. Corrine sees how this affects others, and she watches Linda. While Linda’s bullying pushes Corrine away, it doesn’t stop Corrine from offering hard counsel. Linda listens, and the two eventually become good friends.
Also, as mentioned above, Corrine’s story has a lessons in rising above tough circumstances. In fact the Underground Province is a symbol in itself as Corrine tests the impossible, making the difficult climb up and out. She both literally and symbolically reinvents herself and rises above the cage that is her life and becomes the hero everyone needs. Ironically, outward growth requires that we dig deep into ourselves first.
MCA: Tell us the importance of writing children’s books that have an environmental message!
Jason: As Corrine’s predecessors realize far too late, our planet is delicate, and it needs to be cared for now. Earth is precious, and it can be harmed if we don’t do our part to live in harmony with nature.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Jason: A lot of great responses. One of my favorites was a friend of mine who was using the book to teach her seven-year-old how to read well. She filmed the whole thing, and I was stunned. He was nailing the reading for one, and was so excited by the story for another. Many of the bookstores I’ve placed the book in have had great responses as well.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Jason: If you’re a young one and are reading this now, I hope you take Corrine and the Underground Province under the bed covers, with a flashlight, and a set of warm fuzzy socks, and see yourself as Corrine. You too are special! You too can dare to dream! You will become something great!
MCA: What an image to leave us with, thank you, Jason! Please be sure to keep us posted as to when your next book comes out!
You can learn more about Jason Colpitts and his award-winning book, Corrine and the Underground Province by visiting his MCA Shop page.