You mention on your website that given [your] own challenges as a young girl growing up, [you were] determined to do something to try to make a difference for our young girls of today. Can you say a little more about this?
One of my earliest memories, around age 4, is trying to draw a single flower on a piece of paper. In my eyes, it was never "perfect" and I kept throwing the paper out and starting again. This was despite my mother telling me that it was fine just the way it was. There is actually an interesting point here that I will get back to. I was an awkward looking pre-teen. I was "chunky" as they said back then, with wavy hair and braces. I NEVER felt pretty. I was not in the popular group, was often teased about my lack of athletic ability (always last to be picked on a team), and all of that ate away at my self-esteem.
In teenage years I had an eating disorder, and became promiscuous looking for affection and affirmation. It took a lot of heartache, therapy and 20 years of love from my husband to bring me to a point of loving myself. Getting back to my first point, I believe that there are some who are born with an innate sense of self-esteem but more often, we are not born that way. Clearly I was not and I have come to realize that for most, this needs to be cultivated and nurtured at a much earlier age then we typically start.
As parents, we tell our girls how beautiful they look but not how beautiful they are inside. We encourage princess play which is all well and good but in my opinion, we really need to focus on their inner strength more. This is how and why I created the character of Addie B. Strong. She is not perfect, not a princess, but is learning to appreciate herself for all that she IS and all that she CAN BE.
Your book encourages girls to find themselves through their own unique talents. What would you say your unique talent is?
I would say that my unique talent is being a good listener. People open up to me about the craziest things and then say, "I don't know why I just told you all of that but thank you." I like to think of myself as a good problem solver, but even when I don't have all the answers (and I often don't), I would say I have a great sense of empathy and I can often talk someone through a difficult time or situation.
Tell us about Addie B. Strong (doll + book). What has been the most rewarding thing about bringing Addie to life? Most challenging thing?
The most rewarding thing about bringing Addie B. Strong to life is watching the effect it is having on young girls and their parents and educators. I have had literally hundreds of conversations with women and men who have consistently stated that they or someone they know still needs to get the message that Addie conveys in such a simple but effective way. I have even had adults buy the book for their college-aged girls! Addie B. Strong is my way of bringing a loveable character to life and reaching out to our girls as young as possible so they connect to, absorb, and internalize Addie's sense of inner strength and self-worth.
The most challenging part is marketing and distribution. I am but one woman with an idea and a great deal to learn about business, but like Addie, I am strong and up for the challenge!
How have you used the book with your own child?
My daughter Addison, is now 4 and she has been reading Addie B. Strong with me for almost two years. It has taken a long time, but there are now definitely times when I realize the effects the book has had on her, like when she wears two different shoes and tells me she can do so because like "Addie" she is beautiful in whatever she wears. Recently we read "The Spotty Dotty Daffodil" after which she turned to me and said, "It's ok that the daffodil was different because just like Addie, you can be happy just who you are." These are some of those aha moments that make me realize it is working and bring tears of joy to my eyes.
What advice do you have for parents who are trying to foster and cultivate their girls' inner talents?
My advice to parents is to stress how wonderful their children are just being themselves and to pay attention to any situation that lends itself to reinforcing this message. Encourage them to try new things even if they are uncomfortable, lead by example, and talk about the experience. There are a lot of opportunities to do so and we must begin as early as possible. Even if you think your teachings are being lost on your kids, know that if repeated often enough it will be absorbed and the great reward is experiencing the first moment that it comes back to you. Helping someone gain a sense of strength and self-worth is the gift of a lifetime.
What's next? New book? New item for the Addie B. Strong line?
The second book in the Addie B. Strong series, "Addie B. Strong - Dream Big" will be available to market November 1. In this story, Addie has a big dream - to dance with the other ballerinas in the school recital. But Addie finds that sometimes big dreams come with big challenges. When she overhears the other girls saying she is not as good as the rest, she must search deep down inside for her forgotten strength. This second of Addie's adventures has a more detailed storyline but builds on the first book which is more of an introduction to the character and concept. The second book comes packaged with an adorable tutu similar to that which Addie wears in her recital. I give kudos to artist and illustrator Kathleen Willer whose unique and colorful drawings really bring Addie's stories to life.
Learn more about Addie B. Strong here -- and visit you favorite toy store to pick up the book and doll!