Episode 141: Rebecca J. Gomez Interview and “Read, Discuss, Do!”

In this episode, we talk with Rebecca Gomez about her fun picture books and her “Read, Discuss, Do!” plans on her website. These are excellent tools to use with your children as you read books together.

Our Guest: Rebecca J. Gomez

Rebecca J. Gomez enjoys writing stories as much as she enjoys reading them. When she isn’t reading or writing, her favorite things to do are baking, creating art, and hiking through the woods with her husband and three grown children. She lives in Nebraska, where she grows a salsa garden every summer!

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today we have a very special guest with us. It’s our first time on our program and I’m sure it won’t be her last, and her name is Rebecca J. Gomez. Thank you, Rebecca, for joining us today.

Rebecca:

I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Terrie:

Well, I’ve been looking forward to talking with you. You have several books out and I think they are so fun. So I want to talk about as many of them as we can, but I also want to talk about your heart because I know you are a believer, you’re a Christian, and yet you’ve chosen to write books that are for the general market. So why did you choose to do that? Can you share a little bit about that?

Rebecca:

Well, in part it has to do with the person that I’ve been writing with for a long time, Corey Rosen Schwartz. We met in a critique group like in 2005. She is Jewish, not a Christian, but we work really well together, so our books naturally just have a secular or mainstream appeal. So that’s a big part of why I started writing those kinds of stories. I think as an author, I really like to write stories that will have really broad appeal and I hope to write and publish Christian books eventually, but for now I think it’s a good place to be.

Terrie:

That’s great. Yeah, the books certainly do not contradict a Judeo-Christian worldview. They’re not going to be troublesome for Christians to read, but they are really cute, cute stories.

Rebecca:

Yeah, that’s definitely part of my goal as a writer is everything that I write, whether it’s for the Christian market or the mainstream market, is just to honor God in every story that I tell. So…

Terrie:

That’s wonderful. Well, I want to start with What About Moose? I just love that book.

Rebecca:

Thank you.

Terrie:

So tell us a little bit about What About Moose?

Rebecca:

Oh, I have a big place in my heart for What About Moose? Partly because it’s my first published book, but also it was just so much fun to write. I mean, Corey and I have so much fun coming up with all of these rhymes and scenarios and things. We wrote that story basically because she had this little girl who, she’s not little anymore, but was kind of bossy and she was like, how can we take this bossy theme and write a fun story about it? And we don’t like to write preachy stories, so even though we might come at a story from a certain thematic angle, we try to make the stories just fun. So she had this daughter who was kind of bossy with her younger brother, so we brainstormed scenarios in which a bossy character might kind of throw a wrench in the works and make things difficult for everybody. And so that’s what we came up with, with this story about these group of friends trying to build something together, and this one character gets over eager, and just starts kind of taking over, and it turned out really fun.

Terrie:

Yeah, it’s just a really cute story. I really like it. And then you’ve retold some traditional stories in new ways, Federico and The Wolf, and then, how do you say, Hensel and Gretel?

Rebecca:

Yes. Hensel & Gretel Ninja Chicks.

Terrie:

So tell us about those

Rebecca:

Hensel & Gretel Ninja Chicks is the third in a ninja series that Corey started. Her publisher wanted a third book, and she was kind of at a loss as to what to write, and so since we were working together, she came to me and said, “Hey, what do you think about writing a third ninja book with me?” And I was like, isn’t that kind of weird since you wrote the first two by yourself? But she was like, “No, this is totally fine.” And so it was actually my idea to write Hansel and Gretel because I just thought it was the perfect story to include a ninja in, and put the Three Ninja Pigs and Ninja Red Riding Hood. Those stories are both about characters that are going to get eaten, and so I was like, let’s carry on this theme using ninja skills to avoid becoming the feast for the day. So it was really tricky to write that story though, because it doesn’t have the same kind of formula as those other two. Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs both have very formulaic stories, and so they were kind of easy just to change out. Well, I say easy. I didn’t write Three Ninja Pigs, but it’s simpler to retell those stories. So Hensel & Gretel took a lot more work to figure out what to include and how to simplify the story, but still make it recognizable and fun. We had a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work.

Terrie:

It’s really cute, and then it’s illustrated by Dan Santat. He’s one of my favorite illustrators, he’s amazing.

Rebecca:

He is amazing.

Terrie:

And then how about Federico?

Rebecca:

Federico and the Wolf. That’s a funny one because I was doing Picture Book Idea Month, which later became Story Storm, and one of the ideas on my list was to write a boy version of Little Red Riding Hood, and that was all I had down. I didn’t really know what the premise was going to be besides a new take on the classic fairytale. My original draft had to do with the little boy making his way to his grandfather’s house and his grandpa was going to be kind of this hippie guy who likes to use organic ingredients, and I wrote a draft of that story and I don’t know, I just didn’t like it. So I started brainstorming alternate names for the boy character, and I came up with Federico and I realized that Federico rhymes with pico, which is short for pico de gallo. After that, the story just all kind of fell together. It just seemed like it was meant to be. So…

Terrie:

Yeah, it’s really cute.

Rebecca:

Thank you. I really like it a lot.

Terrie:

And then you have another little series Two Tough Trucks? So tell us about those.

Rebecca:

Two Tough Trucks. That was another really fun couple of stories to write. We actually wrote the second book first, which is kind of funny. I think a lot of people are like, “Really? That’s so weird.” So it was based on a story that Corey had written herself a long time ago, about two friends who get separated and try to find each other again. So we took that story, we made it into a truck story because we both were like, truck stories are kind of hot, you know, kids love them, so let’s do this. So we wrote that story and it got some attention, but some editors wanted something simpler. We got all this different feedback, so we decided to write a story about how the two trucks met, and we made it a first day of school story. So there you have the school, and the trucks, and there’s two big hooks there. So we ended up selling them as a two book package, so that worked out really nicely. They’re a lot of fun, my grandson really likes them.

Terrie:

Yeah. They’re just adorable, yeah. Oh, and I also wanted to talk about your Read, Discuss, Do! that you are a part of. Can you share with us about that?

Rebecca:

Yeah. It was originally sort of just a way to kind of bring more attention to some of my books, especially What About Moose? I was like, “Hey, what is the good way to get people to start thinking about story time a little bit differently when you read the story?” And I was like, “Well, here are some questions you can ask,” and then what are some activities you can do? So I threw together a few graphics for What About Moose?, and then I started doing the same thing for other stories, and then some people that I knew online, some authors were like, “Hey, would you want to do one of these for me?” Like, Laura Sassi was one of those, and I eventually did one for Mindy Baker too, and several others. And then I started to think maybe I should do more with this, so I started writing a few blog posts on my own personal blog, and those posts about craft activities for stories along with discussion ideas, they were the most popular posts on my blog, so I thought it would be fun to kind of make Read, Discuss, Do! its own thing. So I got the domain and I went to Laura Sassi and said, “Hey, would you like to help me get this started?” Because she was always really a big fan of Read, Discuss, Do! from its inception, I guess. So yeah, we got together when we got Mindy Baker to join us. Now we have Marci Whitehurst, who is another writer who’s not published yet, but I’m sure she will be eventually. So we are all working together just to kind of create simple ideas for people to, I like to say, extend the magic of story time beyond the last page, just to get people talking about what they’re reading and doing something that’s just going to help continue that discussion and make it relatable to everyday life. And I know that the more you talk about a story that you’ve read or the more you do to kind of help that story relate to your life, the more powerful it is, I guess. And it’s also about kind of creating connections between readers, like parents with their children or even teachers or grandparents or caregivers with the kids that they’re reading with, it helps strengthen bonds, I think, as reading does anyway. So, that all make sense?

Terrie:

Yeah, it does. And I love that because one of the things we talk about here on this podcast is, you know, sparking important conversations with our kids, and if we just read a book and that’s it and don’t have any conversation, we’re missing such a great opportunity, and it also, I think, promotes critical thinking to think beyond just what we’d read, but what does that mean? You know, why did the character do this or that, or whatever we can talk about to just spark our kids’ imagination, to open up doors of conversation and really get to pour into our kids’ lives. I mean, I think it’s part of discipleship to do these things and to really see where our kids are as they start to talk with us.

Rebecca:

I totally agree.

Terrie:

Yes, I just love that.

Rebecca:

Yeah. And with Read, Discuss, Do!, another thing I want to say about it is, I remember just looking on Pinterest and online just to look up story time ideas, and it could be kind of overwhelming. So another thing about Read, Discuss, Do! is just to kind of simplify it, you don’t have to get so complicated with things. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking a question and doing a coloring page or drawing a picture. So, let’s try to just make it a little bit simpler or more accessible for people, especially people who don’t have a background in early childhood education or something.

Terrie:

Yeah, true, I love that. So, I wanted to look at the Moose one and just talk about it for a second to kind of give the listeners an idea of what you’re talking about. Okay, so your discussion is why were Moose’s friends getting upset with him?, and so it’s such a simple little question, but I think it would really spark a fun conversation, especially if you have more than one child interacting and then it says, play a game of moose says, taking turns being the boss. That’s good, I just think it’s so cute and I can just see having so much fun with that.

Rebecca:

When I visit with kids at schools, I like to ask them, how many of you have ever had to work with someone who was being bossy? And everybody raises their hand and then I’m like, how many of you have ever been bossy? Fewer kids raise their hand, but I’m like, oh, I bet you most of you have been. So yeah, just to get them thinking about have they ever been that way or dealt with that in their own lives.

Terrie:

Yeah.

Rebecca:

Which we all have, especially if they have siblings.

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s true. In our family, the younger daughter was the bossy one and the older two would just be like, she’s my little sister. Why is she trying to tell me what to do all the time?

Rebecca:

Yeah.

Terrie:

It was upside down. Well, Rebecca, I have so enjoyed talking with you and like I said, all your books are so cute, so fun, and just a joy to read. I think everyone should check them out.

Rebecca:

I appreciate that.

Terrie:

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today, and I look forward to talking with you more in the future. As you have more books come out, please let me know so we can have you back on the show.

Rebecca:

Oh, I definitely will. And thank you so much for having me today. It’s been fun.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out every day discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share, we truly appreciate you and appreciate you letting others know that we’re here. If you would like to connect with Rebecca, you can find her on her website, which is RebeccaJGomez.com. There you can also find the links to the Read, Discuss, Do! program that we were talking about for the several different picture books, and that’s available on her website. You can also contact her for school visits or church visits to talk about her books and her work that she’s doing. If you would like to connect with me, you can comment or join my mailing list on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. And remember, when you sign up for the mailing list, you have access to all kinds of free items, including a list of over 100 books and board books that I vetted for you to start your child’s library. You also have access to a free phoning book and also some table talk topics to share with your children and have fun with your family. We have also an email that comes out for a few weeks when you sign up that is just to encourage you, it’s written for you to encourage you in your walk with God. We pray that you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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