“We were reading a lot of children’s books with our daughter and there was always a traditional family structure. She wasn’t being exposed to diversity in her books or seeing her own family structure.” When my former colleagues, Kendra and Claire-Voe Ocampo, Marketing professionals turned Authors, realized how little representation there was for same-gender couples in books for kids, they decided to do something about it.
We live and breathe busy. Our calendars are so full that we prioritize what’s pressing. And relegate our brilliant ideas to ‘someday.’ But the journey is more joyful when we honor our creativity. Yes, even while parenting little ones. Learn how one couple with two kids under the age of three and a third on the way, worked as a team to launch a passion project in one year.
Find The Idea
Kendra and Claire-Voe started with research, “So, we basically bought every single book that we could find that was LGBTQ. We gained a huge appreciation for the founding authors in this category and how their stories showed some of the struggles children experience feeling different. However, we felt there should be even more books celebrating LGBTQ families with everyday stories and we didn’t want our daughter to think that all stories with same-gender parents means there is a struggle involved.” Yes! The idea stayed in the background as life happened. “We came up with that thought 2 years ago then we had our second child and didn’t do anything right away.” Caring for a newborn and lack of sleep is pretty inconsistent with launching a big project. But they kept thinking about it, “We wanted to have this book with same gender parents that shows their lives are special and that when the kid goes through her own things, the Moms are part of a supportive family.” This is where many ideas stall, yet, they found a way to begin.
Set an Intention and Start
Claire-Voe and Kendra explained, “We saw that one or two more LGBTQ books had come out, so we decided, we have to do this now or we’re never going to do it. And we’re going to be mad at ourselves if some book comes out that’s exactly like what we had thought about!” Kendra was working full time and Claire-Voe was part time then. Kendra shared, “At the beginning, it was me working through what the script would look like, the tone of voice and the story. On the bus home from the city, I came up with a lot of the storyline of about May (the main character.) And how she goes through this day with ups and downs and she feels like she needs to cry but she doesn’t. We both felt strongly about the crying topic. I’m quite sensitive and I feel that we don’t properly recognize the importance of crying and even as adults, we don’t teach that to our children.” Like all Moms, she and Claire-Voe found strategic ways to use pockets of time for the project.
Make The Space
They incorporated their oldest into the research process. Kendra said, “We were at the bookstore or the library 3 or 4 times a week, just pouring through books. Our oldest loves to read and loved to do the trips with us.” They made use of the nap and after-bedtime windows for writing, editing and later in the process, calls with their editor and illustrator. Kendra said, “I would go to a quiet space without distractions and spend that hour and a half really writing.” When Claire-Voe wrote scenes, they worked through the edits together to maintain the flow.
They organized the work plan around their respective strengths. “The quantity of things that have to get done writing a book is where most of the stress lies. In the last six months more has fallen on Claire-Voe because it’s a lot of marketing, project management, print and vendor management, website design and event planning. It worked out really well because when we had our second, she didn’t continue working. Now, when she does have small breaks, I mean very small, we’re talking about an hour when the baby is sleeping in the morning or the afternoon, she makes that her ‘work on the book time’ and has every day for the last year.” Brilliant!
Enlist Your Team
In our culture of individualism, we often avoid seeking help. But it’s key to learn a new field or launch big initiatives. Kendra said, “When we had the close to final script, we asked a few of our friends for constructive feedback. One of my college friends, who is in the target demographic, was fantastic. Her feedback was very concrete and helped us refine things at that critical point.” They also invested in professional expertise. “We hired an editor who had done children’s books for many years because we felt it was important. Then after that, is where the writing ends. The script has to be final when the illustrator begins the book layout.” Working all hours, even on a meaningful project, becomes wearing. How did they make time to recharge?
Fit in Self-Care
Kendra and Claire-Voe shared that they’ve had to adapt how self-care works at each stage of their family’s growth. Kendra said, “We had our second last year, so there was almost an expectation that you don’t get to take care of yourself when you have a newborn. There’s no time!” I laughed in agreement. She added, “I need to get outside and get sun. When our second was born I’d take our first out for a walk every day for an hour. I’d put on an audiobook and that was my exercise. I’m also a video gamer and it’s my biggest form of self-care. When I was putting the baby to sleep, it was easy to rock the baby and play the game. I used to love hot yoga and stuff like that but it’s tough to get away with the kids. So, now self-care is incorporated with the kids.” Claire-Voe said, “Mine is totally different! I was never the exercise type of person. I did a little bit of Zumba but it wasn’t my thing. I do a lot of cooking, which I really enjoy doing on my own when Kendra has the kids. I’m away from everybody and that’s my creative thing. I’m also more of an extrovert so I need to be with or talk to my friends and have some adult time.” Coronavirus has altered their childcare and launch plans but they’ve been able to adjust.
Pivot for the Pandemic
“We had planned to do a lot of big events, LGBTQ and children’s book events. All of those have canceled and we had to pivot to do things more virtually, particularly when it comes to getting the word out about the book! We had 300 backers on Kickstarter and we are getting those sent out now too. We had our babysitter and my Mom set up to support all of this production and it’s going to be more of a bootstrap situation now. When the kids are eating or doing something else, we’ll be packing books.” Sigh. Yes, COVID has changed childcare plans for most and it makes work and self-care even more challenging. She said, “I am thankful that the weather is picking up because for everyone’s sanity, going outside really helps!” I nodded in agreement.
Bring New Skills Into Your Day Job
I asked Kendra, who works in Market Research for a global company, how publishing the book has influenced her career. She said, “I notice feedback differently now because with the book, at certain point, it has to be done. There is a finality about it that’s actually liberating. At work, I try to say, ‘look guys of course this could be 50% better and can keep getting better but let’s run with it.’” YES! She added, “Seeing how things come to life through illustration has been really helpful too because in my current role, I give feedback to graphic designers and have learned to consolidate it. I also now look out for a number of things to get inspiration in my work because I saw how helpful it was to pour through a large quantity of ideas when starting the book.” Beautiful!
The productivity tomb, Getting Things Done describes how ‘open loops’ from unfinished ideas crowd our brain space and distract us. Although it requires some scheduling magic and process, when we make space to pursue dreams the it enhances the quality of our work and lives. Motherhood doesn’t mean retiring your gifts and contributions to the world.
Many thanks to the talented Claire-Voe and Kendra Metzger Ocampo!
Register for the virtual book launch party for their amazing new children’s book, Mighty May Won’t Cry Today (tomorrow, Sunday June 28th at 3:00 pm ET.) Also, visit their online store and continue to follow their great adventures on Facebook, Instagram and their Website.
Claire-Voe and Kendra Ocampo have cried many tears together since falling in love in Boston and getting married in 2014 in New Jersey, just months after same-sex marriage became legal in the state. They’re two moms to two mighty daughters, Xiomara and Violet, who cry often (and that’s okay!) about spilled milk, a wet diaper, or going to school. When they’re not writing, you might find Kendra and Claire-Voe eating Spanish tapas, video gaming, or watching sappy rom-coms which often brings them to tears.