The first time I watched the “Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands” video, as it was referred to me by my good online friend David , I thought: “What an amazing message this book has for children!” I immediately contacted Tamara for an interview the next day. Poised, professional and very kind, Tamara took a fair amount of her time to answer my questions. I am very pleased today, to introduce you to a very inspiring woman.
Don’t forget to visit the Kickstarter page when you are done reading this fabulous interview 🙂 Only 4 days left in the campaign!
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember – Be it through music or stories, it’s always been a way for me to help navigate this roller coaster of a world that we live in. Life is tricky. Expressing myself through music or on paper have been ways to express and make sense of it all.
Tell us about the ‘Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands’ campaign:
I’ll quickly describe the premise of the book first: Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands is a modern day story about the search for happiness, and one girl’s discovery that even in the face of failure, peace can be found.
The story is about a girl named Leela who has a dream to do a headstand. So she tries and she tries, but no matter how hard she tries… she just can’t do it. Distraught, Leela concludes that happiness is out of reach. But what she discovers is quite the opposite. It’s a story about patience, friendship, and developing resilience while working towards a goal. But at the heart, it tells a story in which a little girl learns that the journey is more important than the goal itself.
Launching a Kickstarter campaign has been an amazing way to bring awareness to this project and raise funds to bring it to fruition. Kickstarter.com is a new, digital crowdfunding website where creators raise money to launch creative projects, offering the public the opportunity to donate and support projects they believe in.
It’s been a terrific experience so far. A great deal of work, but incredibly rewarding.
If you cannot see or view this video please click here.
“If you are a fan of children’s books…if you think children could benefit from learning about compassion, then this may be a project to consider backing.” ~ Ariel Joseph Towne
What or Who Inspired you to write Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands?
Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands was inspired by my own experience with failure. As an artist and entrepreneur, I know failure well – it kind of goes with the territory. But familiarity with failure doesn’t make it easy. One experience in particular that I had was extraordinarily crushing.
Several years ago, I developed a children’s television series. I did the rounds at festivals, I flew across the country to meet with producers, I negotiated an option, and even developed the series with a few companies. But ultimately, it never came to fruition. I had a ton of “almosts” but no victory.
So after 6 years of investing all of my time, energy and personal savings into this one project, I walked away.
Defeat can be incredibly difficult to rise from.
Because the project was a failure, it meant that I was a failure. This is what we learn: to equate achievement with self-worth. I felt that I had failed everyone including myself.
Eventually, I gained perspective and found the strength in which to create again, and in that space, Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands evolved. It’s a lovely thing when something good can come from something painful.
How did you come up with such a brilliant title?
Well… Headstands are hard! Lol… As a self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist” and a yogi, headstands have always been challenging for me. I would persistently try to achieve this pose, and twice I was injured. Eventually, I had a yoga teacher who suggested we ask ourselves one of the most important questions I’ve ever contemplated in yoga class.
“What is the need to do each pose?” If we couldn’t answer this question we shouldn’t be doing the pose. And so I stopped. I realized it was beyond my abilities (for now), honoring my own limitations. This I when I truly began to do yoga properly.
What message are you trying to pass onto children in this book?
We’re living in a time when children are experiencing more stress, anxiety and pressure than ever before and the pressure to succeed is often overwhelming. Children are learning to equate their self-worth with achievement and developing a deep fear of failure (and even trying). So it’s more important than ever before to empower children by teaching them that failure is okay, through enhancing their self-acceptance and self-compassion.
Most children are familiar with “The Little Engine that Could” message, that practice makes perfect, and that if we just keep trying, eventually we’ll reach a goal. But the reality is, no matter how hard we try, we’re sometimes still faced with defeat. By teaching children to accept and learn from failure, ultimately, they’ll achieve the success and happiness we so want for them in the first place.
The illustrations I have seen so far are amazing and very attractive. Who drew them?
Thank you! I illustrated the book the very “old school way” of penciling on paper, tracing it, and scanning into photoshop. That’s why this book took 2.5 years to make, lol. (It’s an endeavor I won’t be repeating in the same way as I look forward to purchasing a tablet once this is done!) This is the first book I’ve illustrated. I was fortunate to find a brilliant colorist name José Gascon who has been an absolute pleasure to work with. It took a great deal of time to find him as I had a very clear vision of what I wanted and it took working with four colorists before I found the right fit.
Who is the main character in this book was she inspired by someone?
The main character is partially based on me. This was a story I wrote as a reminder to myself in times of challenge.
It serves me daily to practice the very same lessons Leela learns in Happiness Doesn’t Come From Headstands. I try and practice acceptance and self-compassion. I strive to let go of comparison and remind myself that our achievements do not dictate our self-worth. I try and appreciate the process equally to the goal. And remember that happiness is often closer than it seems.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The Secret to Clara’s Calm is a playful story for children 4-8 that introduces the value of meditation to children. It’s a fantastical tale of a girl who learns to deal with her anger by trading butter tarts for wisdom
What is your favorite children’s author and why?
Yikes, just one? I’m not sure this will count as Antoine De Saint-Exupéry didn’t write “The Little Prince” just for children, but I’ve never read a kids book that has moved me in the same way. So he’s my pick today.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes, Ironically, I learned one of the themes of the book – How to accept where one is with compassion. I was doing the job of 40 people on a very low budget and as per usual was going for 100%. What I learned was the 90% rule and when to stop and say something was “good enough”. I’d still be working on the text now if I hadn’t learned that, lol.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers of children’s books?
Read, write, take courses, write some more, and have fellow writers and editors offer feedback… But ultimately, stick to your gut. If you have to tell a story in a certain way, then tell it. You will never be able to please everyone. Know your audience, but the most important person to please is you. Write for yourself.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Well, there is a quote I keep close to my heart in times of uncertainty that I think is both profound and beautiful:
“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart & try to love the questions themselves… “~Rainer Maria Rilke
To pre-order a copy of Tamara’s book Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands and view her Kickstarter campaign please click here!
Tamara Levitt a writer, artist, teacher and founder of Begin Within Productions. At her company Begin Within, she creates and produces multimedia entertainment content designed to foster self-awareness, emotional intelligence and interpersonal development.
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