Writing a Second Act: How Children’s Author Kathy Brodksy Turned Experience into Eight Books for Kids

by Pamme Boutselis

Kathy Brodsky is a psychotherapist, an award-winning author and poet living in New Hampshire. Her first book, “Moments in Our Lives: A Women’s Eye View,” is a collection of vignettes told in verse about life’s turning points from birth through old age. She is also the author of eight children’s picture books, including “My Bent Tree” (a Green Book Festival honorable mention winner), “The Inside Story” (also the recipient of a Green Book Festival honorable mention), “Just Sniffing Around,” “The Winner Is. . .” (2011 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award winner in the Book-Character Building category), “Stover” (2011 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award winner in the Health/Fitness Storybook category) and “A Horse Named Special” (2012 Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year). Her latest book, “A CatFish Tale,” debuted in September 2012. Brodsky regularly visits bookstores, schools and nonprofit organizations to share her books and love of reading as a guest author, speaker and writer-in-residence.

Children’s Picture Book Author Kathy Brodsky

You have been a psychotherapist for over 40 years, and published your first book, a collection of verse, “Moments in Our Lives: A Women’s Eye View,” in 2004. Since that time, you’ve published eight children’s picture books. How did this all come about?
My mom had a birthday 11 years ago. I put a poem in with the invitation to the family, and realized that writing was fun. You have to write what you know, so my next few poems were about swimming and how bathing suits fade and get saggy. Everyone encouraged me, and being a therapist for so many years, I’ve heard thousands of stories. “Moments in Our Lives,” a book for adults, was the result.

I thought I was done, but then a few years later while walking my dog, I saw a crooked pine tree. That discovery led to the poem “My Bent Tree,” my first children’s picture book. At first, I really had no idea how to find an illustrator or how to proceed. What’s really neat today is that, in addition to the actual book version, “My Bent Tree” will soon be available as an animated app for the iPad. How exciting is that?

How did you find an illustrator for your books?
Luckily, I was taking Argentine Tango lessons and the instructor, Cameron Bennett, told me he was an artist. We’ve been collaborating on every one of the eight picture books. He has an incredible talent. Each story page in every one of my books was hand-painted by Cameron.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing?
I wish I had known that there are organizations that help you promote, collaborate, etc. When I first started out, I had no idea of any organizations or groups that existed. I kind of “muddled through.” I’m currently a member of the Independent Publishers of New England, The Independent Book Publishers Association, Children’s Literacy Foundation and the Children’s Book Council.

What’s the most challenging part of writing a book for you?
Marketing, marketing, marketing!

How have your books changed your life?
Being an author is really fun, but apart from that, I’ve grown personally. Before I wrote a book, I would have been extremely nervous presenting to a group. After I wrote “Moments In Our Lives” and presented it for the first time at a Barnes and Noble event, I realized I wasn’t nervous. I certainly knew the material and there was no reason to be nervous. Now, when I give talks, I’m not nervous – just excited. Again, because of my books, I was asked to give the keynote address for Child Health Services’ annual fundraising breakfast in 2011. Almost 300 people attended the event. It was really exciting.

In addition, I’ve met many wonderful people I would never have met if it weren’t for my books. I visit schools, sometimes for a few hours and at times, for several days. I’ve been a writer-in-residence a couple of times, and I’m slowly finding that my books and stories have actually changed people’s lives.

Recently, I received an email from a woman in Mexico who runs a horse therapy center. She had gotten my book “A Horse Named Special” to read to the children before they rode. One 10-year-old boy with neurological problems liked the book so much that he carried it wherever he went. Around the same time, an abandoned horse was dropped off at the riding center. The horse used to jump, but the rider had fallen off and then had nothing to do with the horse. The 10-year-old befriended the horse, fed it, comforted it and even named it “Special.” This little boy, who had been frequently losing consciousness while riding, is now able to gallop, even jump unassisted and both horse and rider are doing fine. The boy’s neurologist is amazed!

I’m so happy that my story changed someone’s life! All of my books contain discussion questions and because I’m a clinical social worker, I feel that my books bring an extra dimension to a picture book that isn’t usually part of the package.