Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guest Post: Author Jewel Kats on Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist

Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist by Jewel Kats (Author), Claudia Marie Lenart (Illustrator) was released this past October. Today I have two guest posts to share from the author and illustrator. This is part two, from the author. This new book is the fifth release in Kats's Fairy Ability Tales series.

From Jewel Kats:

When it comes to writing, I have to admit that I’ve been blessed by my lucky stars. I have yet to experience an idea drought. My inner dam is always wide open, and accepting to concepts anew and fresh.

Usually, the unfolding of a story – manuscript – book – whatever you want to call it, comes to me in the form of a well-plotted daydream. Everything and everyone makes an appearance. I’m talkin’ about memorable protagonists, cool settings, and every storyteller’s favorite – the coveted twists and turns of the story! Yay!

Before I pull out my party hat, I have another admission to make. I daydream A LOT. Maybe this is part and parcel of being a writer??? In any case, all this daydreaming means much cleaning and scrubbing is involved post-inner-hoopla events. However, I know I’m onto a biting idea when I’m hit by stubborn “guests” who come with stuffed, richly packed “baggage”. Before I know it, I’m playing hostess to new members in my playing field who have issues to confront. We form a bond of sorts.

This is exactly what happened with little Hansel, Gretel, their parents, the Witch, and the toad. I felt an immediate connection to this cast of characters. And, who—author or reader alike—doesn’t love a setting that includes a candy house? After being unable to leave the fictional world I inhabited via my daydream, I decided to write down what my mind’s eye saw under a tumble of jumbled notes. Next, I pulled out a large sketch book, and started connecting the story together through thought bubbles. Of course, I asked “what would happen if?...” questions with each thought bubble. Once all this occurred, it was time to wheel off to stage three.

This platform involves research, research, research! I personally like reading articles, journals, medical studies, and general interactive posts made by the public on the same health issue faced by the protagonist at hand. I also like to pour over existing fairy tales on the same board – including adaptations – to ensure my ideas are unique and in no way reflect what’s already out there in the publishing industry. I wanted this fairy tale to be fractured on my own terms. Last, but not least, I get my hands on children’s literature that explains the nature of the disability highlighted. In this case, books about Down Syndrome.

Before going on this whole journey, I knew I wanted the next hero of “Fairy Ability Tales” to be a boy. I’d heard a telecasted news report about Down Syndrome on TV, and the report must have stayed somewhere deep in my spirit. I was also drawn to a few fairy tales upon pre-writing this book. So, I think all of these factors led to “Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist”. Now, it’s one of my favorite books in the “Fairy Ability Tales” series. As an added personalized touch, at the end of this adaptation, we learn that the Witch’s real name is, Mirella. The beautiful maiden she turns into is actually named after my lovely mother-in-law who has passed away now. She even looks like her, too!

I knew I wanted the illustrations to be extra special and different. I spent many hours on the internet looking at portfolios of artists. I finally landed upon Claudia Marie Lenart’s work through her Etsy online store. I was immediately attracted to her beautiful work. So, I contacted her, and a connection was made. Her medium is definitely special, and the rich details only enhance the story by bringing it to life.

I’m honestly very proud to have written this book, and those encapsulated in the “Fairy Ability Tales” series. Kids with disabilities are at the core of my heart. My advocacy for people with disabilities comes through the swish and swash of my pen. I let the world know that anyone – regardless of ability – can be a prince or princess of their own right. This book is no different. Hansel is our everyday hero. I personally wouldn’t have it any other way!

–Jewel Kats

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