Ever After – An Exclusive Interview with Author Brenda Jenkyns
Love Through A Child's Heart Files
A multitude of children's books grace scores of library shelves throughout the world—opening our imaginations to exhilarating tales of mystical dragons, daring knights, evil villains, magic mirrors, mighty kings and lavish castles from long ago. They invite us to escape on magical carpets, to those faraway places only dreamt of by its creator. Some literary works have empowered us to become the hero of our own legacies.
Ever After, by author Brenda Jenkyns and illustrator Kathy Garren, will take the reader on an inspiring journey through the life of Michael Jackson, his humble beginnings, how he longed for a simple childhood, his rise to stardom, the beauty of Neverland shared with his children, and the passion and love he showed through his talents for the world around him. This refreshing 32-page soft-cover picture book is awe-inspiring, and emulates Michael's message of love for others. It will captivate the youngest imaginations of those still young at heart. The illustrations are like a kaleidoscope of enchanting colors that might just catch one daydreaming about Neverland! Most importantly is the love letter that Michael left behind for the world through his music, dance, and creative works. The message that love is what is needed to "Heal the World."
For many years I have dreamed of being a writer, but I never actually got around to writing. When Michael Jackson was gone, I realized that he had spent his life doing what he loved and making the world a better place. I decided then that I would do my best to say yes to my heart, and do what I can to make a difference. This book is a result of that decision. Thank you, Michael, for inspiring us, and always giving us your best. - Brenda Jenkyns
I have always felt more comfortable expressing myself with my art than with words. Michael has been a life-long inspiration to me, and when the opportunity came up to illustrate this story about his life, for children, I immendiately said yes. Painting these pictures to go with Brenda's beautiful writing has been a labor of love. - Kathy (Mimi) Garren
Heather: We are honored to have you do this interview with us. Could you tell our readers something about yourself? How did you become a children's author? Have you always been a Michael Jackson fan?
Brenda: I have always been a reader and often imagined how wonderful it would be to be a writer, but I never actually made the effort to sit down and write anything until about a year-and-a-half ago. Although I am the same age as Michael, I did not follow his career or know much about him, until he was suddenly gone in 2009. Then, I didn’t know why, but I felt as though I had lost my best friend. I spent months learning everything I could about Michael, and the more I learned the more I realized what an amazing, unique, caring, talented person he was. I saw how much he was loved and how much he loved the world, and I decided that I would follow his example and say yes to my heart and follow my dreams no matter what, the way Michael always had. I did not have any idea at the time that I would write a children’s book about him.
Heather: The first thing I noticed about Ever After was the breathtaking illustrations by artist Kathy (Mimi) Garren. I read that you live in Canada and Kathy lives in the United States. So, how did you meet Kathy and what inspired you to write a children's book together about Michael Jackson?
Brenda: I wrote the story close to the end of 2009, and I had the idea that I wanted to give it to Michael’s children and mother. I thought it might be a comfort to them. I have a daughter the same age as Prince and Paris, and my heart was breaking for them. I knew the story needed pictures to make it come alive, but I had no idea where to find an illustrator. I happened to see an amazing picture of Michael with his children on someone’s Facebook wall, and I contacted the artist to ask if she might be interested in illustrating my story. Kathy liked the story and she loves Michael, so she said yes. Together, we did all our work by e-mail and have become good friends, although we have never actually met in person yet.
Heather: Ever After is a very fitting title for a children's tale. What is the inspiration [mission statement] behind the title?
Brenda: I changed the title many times during the process of writing and editing. None of them were right. I went to bed one night asking what the title should be, and in the morning I had Ever After in my mind. It is the perfect title because it comes from fairy tales which Michael loved, and matches the style of the story and the illustrations. It also represents Michael and his legacy, which will live on – Ever After.
Heather: One of my favorite quotes by Michael Jackson is, Together, let us create a symphony of hearts, marveling at the miracle of our children and basking in the beauty of love.
Michael did just that. He always thought of the welfare of the children, especially those terminally ill, inviting them often to Neverland. He would visit children hospitals and orphanages while he was on tour. In 1992, Michael created a charitable organization called Heal the World Foundation, to improve the lives of children. Through his humanitarianism, millions of dollars were donated to charities around the world. Many children were affected by his kindness and generosity. I believe Michael was teaching us how to continue his legacy for the children.
What sets your book apart from most books on the market today? Is it the fact that “20% of the selling price" of every book sold, "will be donated to a children's charity in honor of Michael Jackson." This is a perfect example of how others, like you, are carrying on Michael's legacy of love for the children. Please, share why it is so important to give, and what children's charities have received donations, thus far?
Brenda: As a way to carry on Michael’s legacy and the message of Ever After, it is important to follow his example of generosity and caring for children. In this, we are doing our part to show that all of us can make a difference in our own way. By donating 20% of the selling price, people who buy the book know they are already helping to carry on Michael’s work. I also wanted to make a clear commitment as to the amount that is being donated so that people will know exactly how much of their purchase is going to help children. The charities we have donated to so far are: Foundation for Children in Need, A Child’s Hope Foundation, MJ Children Foundation, Room to Read, Free the Children, Dream Street Foundation, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Red Cross (for Japan), and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Heather: Many articles have been written about your book on various MJ fan forums, such as the MJFC, MJJ Community, Inner Michael and PositivelyMichael, just to name a few. You have created an impressive fan base among the MJ community. So, how can our readers purchase a copy of Ever After? What countries do you ship to? If a person is not fluent in English, do you offer other translations? If so, what languages?
Brenda: Ever After is sold through our website www.MichaelJacksonEverAfter.com. All the books are sent out by me personally which I find to be so much fun and so rewarding. I love e-mailing the people who order and taking the envelopes to the post office, and imagining them going out into the world to share Michael’s message of love. I have chosen not to distribute through bookstores or Amazon, because their fees would make it difficult for me to donate the 20%, as well as pay Kathy for her beautiful work which she originally did for next to nothing. I really appreciate the help of people who have been inspired to put our information on their forums or websites. The best way for people to find out about Ever After is through someone else who has enjoyed it.
Michael has followers all over the world and I have been honored to send books to 45 different countries. Many of the people who order books do not speak English well, and I have had some wonderful people, who have bought the book and love Michael, offer to provide translations in other languages that can be printed and sent along with the English book. So far, I have translations in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Danish, French, German, Italian and Russian. It would be wonderful to someday print the books in these languages, but in the meantime, I am very fortunate to be able to offer the translations.
Heather: Are Kathy Garren's beautiful illustrations for sale? If so, where can they be purchased?
Brenda: All of the illustrations from Ever After are available for purchase through Imagekind www.mjeverafter.imagekind.com. Kathy also has a website where you can see some of her other work, www.MythmakerDesign.com. Art has always been a love of Kathy’s, but not her livelihood until we did Ever After together and she left her full-time job to work on the illustrations. Since that time, she has decided to say yes to her heart and follow her dream of earning her living being an artist.
Heather: Many fans have written stories or articles about how Michael has inspired them to discover new talents like writing. What would you say to others that might be inspired to write a book? What would you say to our youth, the next generation?
Brenda: For anyone who wants to write a book, my advice is to WRITE. Whether it is in a diary, a journal, on a bus, or in bed at night, just write. Don’t worry that it isn’t perfect or that you haven’t thought the whole thing through before you start. The important thing is to write, anything at all. You can always change it, add to it or throw it away later. It is the same if you want to sing, dance, play a sport, cook, build things, or anything else you might be inspired to try. The important part is to follow that feeling or idea that comes to you. It will lead to places you never imagined possible, but you have to take the first step. Michael was never afraid to be different, to try new things, to follow through on his ideas. Imagine if we all lived that way.
Heather: If you were presenting a speech to the children about your book, what would you say to them about following their dreams? What do you think Michael would say to encourage them?
Brenda: I think Michael would ask children of all ages to say yes to their hearts, always do their best at whatever they decide to do, and never give up, no matter what. We are not all talented and gifted in the same way, but we each have our own gift to give to the world. By sharing our gifts the best we can, as Michael did, we can help others to find theirs. This is how we can "create the symphony of hearts" that you mentioned in the quote from Michael earlier. We are each a note in the symphony. All of the notes are different and equally important, and without each of us playing our part the music isn’t complete. This is how we really can make a difference, and change the world.
Heather: On behalf of the MJTP community, I would like to thank you for your continued dedication to Michael, and creating awareness by donating a percentage of every book sold to children's charities.
Brenda: Thank you, Heather, for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you and your readers.
If you would like to purchase Ever After or learn more, please visit:www.MichaelJacksonEverAfter.com
[Links updated August 10, 2012]
Finding Love Through A Child's Heart,
- Heather, Director of Children's Awareness
© Heather Nutt, 2011, 2012 Revised. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Permission from Author(s).
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