In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy interview Kara-Glenn Bolger, who unexpectedly wrote a children’s book on the Trinity during lockdown. Kara-Glenn is a life coach, meditation practitioner and poet who always hoped she’d write epic fiction… but God had other plans.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
- Kara-Glenn Bolger who you can find on Instagram and Kara-Glenn’s book Come, Little Love on Amazon
Topics covered in this episode:
- How Kara-Glenn’s book arrived on the page.
- How she found an illustrator and worked through the phases of self-publishing.
- Kara-Glenn’s thoughts on the value of Gracewriting.
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Find us on your favourite podcast player and at Gracewriters.com.
Welcome to today’s podcast with our special guest, Kara-Glenn Bolger who unexpectedly wrote a children’s book about the Trinity in the middle of the pandemic.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my blogs, books, and courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I have four adult children and I’m a former early childhood educator. I’m a romance writer under the pen name Alison Joy and you can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy and for the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to inform my teaching and preaching and more recently, my writing and blogging. You can find out more at donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Our guest today is Kara-Glenn Bolger. She’s a qualified life coach, holistic counsellor, and meditation practitioner. She’s also an author and a choreographer. As a mum of one and with another one on the way, Kara didn’t set out to write a children’s story but God had other ideas. So, we invited Kara to talk about how her book: Come, Little Love, came into being.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the podcast, Kara-Glenn. As we begin, let’s hit you with the rapid fire five which is just to help other writers identify with where you are coming from as a writer. What’s your favourite place to write?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: My favourite place to write would definitely be just in my loungeroom; my most comfortable space. I don’t really have any writing nook because I have a four-year-old daughter, so every space is her space! So, wherever I can find space in my loungeroom that is where I write.
Belinda Pollard: Fantastic. And what is your favourite time to write?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: So, I would say between 10am and 2pm. But again, I have to have quite a degree of flexibility with that because with my daughter at home, most of the time, I’m just writing in pockets whenever I can get the time.
Belinda Pollard: And your favourite genre?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: My favourite genre is poetry.
Belinda Pollard: Lovely. And who is your target audience?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: With my poetry I would say my target audience would be people who have an interest in intentional living, prayerful living, Christocentric living and that real holistic way of inviting Christ into the day-to-days of life. And I try to translate that into my children’s writing, as well. Although that was a little unintentional!
Belinda Pollard: Yes. That’s a lovely goal. Just very briefly, how did you get into writing?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: So, I’ve always loved words ever since I was a young child. My mother used to staple pieces of paper together to create these little makeshift books for me and as a young child I would write strange little stories and draw, with my poor drawing skills, little illustrations to go with it. But I’ve always had a love of words and a love of reading and I was an avid reader as a child. So, that just really carried on into adulthood. And my background is in marketing so, I worked in copywriting for quite a while. Yes. But I think I have a real love for that more poised and elegant style of writing and that really translated into pursuing creative writing as opposed to technical writing.
Belinda Pollard: That’s lovely.
Alison Joy: Now, a couple of years ago, Kara, you wouldn’t have described yourself as a children’s author, but you ended up writing a children’s book. So, how did that come about?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes, that was a very unexpected surprise. So, yes, I never wanted to be a children’s book author. I suppose people would describe me as quite a childlike person and I’m a very joyful person in my nature and I love children, as well.
But, one day during the pandemic when we were on lockdown, I had just been pursuing creative writing. As I said, most of the time it’s poetry. But I sat down, this one day, and I felt this unction on my heart, this urge, to what I felt to journal. And I’m not a big journaler. I’m a lot more of an intrinsic processor or a verbal processor, sometimes, but I’m not really a pen processor. I don’t write it down very often. But I really felt the urge to do that and so I actually took out my computer and I just started writing the first thing that came upon my heart.
And the first words were, Come, Little Love. And this piece just started to come out and it felt very poetic and as I just kept writing I let it all come out and by the end I looked at it and I thought, “Wow. It’s a poem that God’s actually speaking to me!” But then I felt really strongly, the Holy Spirit, impress on my heart. He said, “It’s not a poem. It’s a children’s book.” And that was both exciting and also very challenging for me because, I think, even though I had a lofty idea that one day I would write a book, the type of book that I thought I would write was more of a C.S. Lewis epic saga or a poetry book that’s known around the world and taken very seriously and uses all of my wonderful crafty way of putting words together and was really well thought out.
And as I read this back over, I was a little bit like, “Wow! This is very simple and straightforward and very raw, unedited, but I knew it was right.” So, I just took the next step of faith, really there, and started pushing on doors and seeing if this could come to life and it did. So, it was a 15-minute adventure with God that turned into an adventure that’s still going.
Belinda Pollard: Isn’t that interesting that it was the simplicity of communication.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes, yes.
Belinda Pollard: How often do we, as writers, I totally empathised with you when you were saying that you had wanted to write the ‘great novel’ and here you are writing a children’s book. I always wanted to write the great Australian novel or something, and I write commercial crime novels. So, they are quite fun though!
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: But you want to win the Booker Prize, or something, and instead you’re doing this other much more simple thing.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes, yes.
Belinda Pollard: Sometimes God is so much more simple than we make Him. Simplicity of communication and open heartedness.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes, yes. I agree. And it was definitely humbling for me too. Because I think in that moment I didn’t realise how much pride, maybe, I’d attached to my way of wording things or my way of writing and communicating because when this simple 15-minute download happened, the reluctance that came up in me to pursue it, even though I felt confident that I had heard a word from the Holy Spirit saying, “It’s a children’s book.” And I felt like there was grace to pursue that.
I really had to get over myself, in that moment, and that was honestly the hardest thing in pursuing this whole journey was just letting go of the idea of what I thought my writing journey would be and then trusting that again to God.
Donita Bundy: You were saying that …
Belinda Pollard: Getting over yourself. Yes, isn’t that a good thing for all of us to do. Sorry, to speak over the top of you, Donita. Please go ahead.
Donita Bundy: I just wanted to drop in there that those of us who have attempted and tried to write children’s books I just want to applaud you because I know that it might seem simple but writing children’s books is not easy. And it’s a powerful tool and you’re impressing an incredible audience, so I just want to really encourage you in that. And all the other children’s book writers out there the fact that you were gifted with that is such a blessing because it’s not necessarily as easy and simple because it is a powerful thing. So, well done you. And praise God that he gave it to you and you’re using it because that’s awesome.
Belinda Pollard: Yes, I can identify with that a bit too, Donita. I remember years ago I was working with one of the publishers that I edit for and we were trying to edit a children’s book and the in-house editor and I were saying, “Why is this so hard!” And it was just a children’s picture book. And if you think about it, let’s say a story has to carry 500 kilograms. If you’ve got 90,000 words to carry 500 kilograms how much weight does each word have to carry? If you’ve got a children’s picture book with a 150 words in it, how much weight does each word carry have to carry?
Kara-Glenn, what did you do next to make your book come about?
Alison Joy: You had to have illustrations, didn’t you?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes! Well, I figured that would be a pretty key part of the children’s book genre. However, the problem is I am not a skilled visual artist so I thought, “Oh no, this is going to be a little bit of a hiccup,” but the way that I operate is very much if I feel an unction from God, the way I say it is, I will push on doors and just see what opens. And then I follow those pathways. The ones that have a lot of grace on it. The ones that have a lot of ease on it. And so, the first thing I thought to do was to jump on my Instagram and just put a call out to see if any of my friends even were illustrators or knew of illustrators.
I knew of a lot of graphic designers more for that corporate world that I had a background in. But I popped something up on Instagram and a beautiful, who is a now friend, and the woman who illustrated the children’s book, Lori, sent me a message and she was following me on Instagram but I hadn’t met her in person. So, we had a lot of mutual friends. She messaged and said, “I would love to hear more about this.” I was quite vague in the Instagram post. I said something along the lines of, “Do any of my friends know anyone or are able to draw?” That was, literally, the extent of it! And so we agreed to meet up. And when I caught up with Lori, I basically presented her with exactly what I had gotten. The download that I had received. And I showed it to her and I said, “I really want to make this into a children’s book but I can’t illustrate.”
And she got very overwhelmed because what she had said to me is – I can’t remember if it was six months or a year prior, but she had been sitting in the car and the Holy Spirit had spoken to her and said, “You’ll be a part of writing a children’s book.” And her first thought was, “I don’t have the words to write a children’s book.” But she’d gone and she’d actually illustrated the three characters who are in Come, Little Love, in the book.
Donita Bundy: Wow!
Kara-Glenn Bolger: So, she had drawn the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit by her interpretation that she felt led. And this was prior to me ever having received the words to write it. And in that moment we just knew. She showed the illustrations and we just knew that this was the pathway to follow. And basically, she took my words from there and had full creative control and brought the words to life through those pictures that she had received, as well. Yes.
Belinda Pollard: That’s amazing.
Donita Bundy: So, Kara, you decided to go down the self-publishing route because you had very specific ideas on how you wanted the finished product to look. So, can you tell us a little of the process involved in that and how the sales are going presently.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes. So, we decided to self-publish for a number of reasons. The first one being that when I was doing a lot of research because, obviously, that’s the next thing is getting this book out there. A lot of the places that I had looked at didn’t require the work to be illustrated. So, the publishers had their own illustrators and just because of how God ordained that collaboration was between Lori and I, I really didn’t want to compromise that in any way and I really wanted to pursue a publishing process that included those illustrations because I feel like they are as much, if not, the shining element in this children’s book and in the story. That was really the first thing that made me consider self-publishing.
The other thing is I’ve done dance teaching. My husband works in community services and something that’s really important to me, especially with children, is inclusivity. And my husband works a lot with children with autism spectrum disorders and sensory disorders and I really wanted a lot of creative control in the texture of the book. The finish of the actual hard cover. The inside pages and how they felt because I wanted this book to be accessible and experiential and really be able to speak to a diverse group of children in the way that they would experience it most organically.
So, that was another big point was the paper and the finish. And I spent a lot of time getting all of that right. And then, again, I’m one of these creative people who just wears a lot of hats and decides to be creative in a lot of different ways. But as I said, I have a real heart for intentional living and our home is quite minimalist. It’s quite considered. Everything we own is considered. And I wanted the book to be something that I would have in my home. Not just shoved in my daughter’s cupboard but something that could have pride of place in a home.
So, its design on the exterior is very simple. It’s an olive-green colour. It’s very neutral and warm and I wanted it to be something that people would be happy to have as pride of place even though maybe children’s books aren’t the thing that you keep on your coffee table. I wanted it to be something that could be on the coffee table. Or could be left around the family loungeroom as a decorative piece so that children could pick it up and read it whenever they wanted to.
So, the design element, the illustrations, and the paper finish, particularly, was a big one. Aside from all of that to just on a cost level I wanted to honour Lori with royalties that I felt, and she felt, that we agreed upon, that reflected the quality and the contribution of her work. And I knew that the profit that we would be able to make with a self-published option was obviously a higher margin than going with the traditional publishing.
And so, yes, all of those things really factored in to coming to this conclusion to step out and learn to self-publish though I didn’t really know what that was going to look like but I figured we’d gotten that far in the journey that I would just be able to work it out to that. And yes, the book, it’s going really well. We have done a lot of pre-order sales. That’s how I prefer to do it. We always have excess stock as well. But the reason I try and use pre-orders is just for sustainable printing.
We went with IngramSpark to print the book and that gives us access to their distribution network which is international so we can actually sell the book internationally which is great. And we print on demand. So, basically, each time I do a print run we will get a pre-order and then I’ll add on a bunch of extra books on top of that but I like to keep our stock supplies quite minimal, as well. Just, again, to contribute to sustainable printing.
Belinda Pollard: The Gracewriters’ slogan, Kara-Glenn, is Christian writers changing popular culture. What do you see as the possibilities of publishing for influencing lives and growing God’s kingdom.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Well, I think that we’re living in an age and a society that is largely consumeristic. We’re consuming media all the time. So, I think that, first of all, keeping the art of the print media alive is something that I think, in and of itself, is valid. But I think that having Christian writers and voices and Spirit-led people putting pen to paper and infiltrating a world where maybe we’re getting, as a society I mean, more and more deviated from values of intimacy with God or values that invite God into the norm and into part of life.
Even books that aren’t overtly Christian or overtly preaching or anything like that. I think that having Christian writers in that space is bringing that value and that Kingdom life into a realm where it’s needed, to be really honest. And I think, particularly for children’s books which obviously that’s the only experience that I have with that realm, raising children is tricky in this age that we live in. And there’s so many things that are vying for their attention. And so many things that are catchy and shiny, I suppose, in the way that they’re drawn to these different elements of culture.
And I think having a book in that space that’s teaching children about who God is as a person. As the three persons of God and allowing them to be invited into that space of intimacy with Him. I find that, as a parent, even if I didn’t write this, if somebody else wrote something that had the same message it would be something that was deeply encouraging for me.
I just think that the validity is that wherever we go the Holy Spirit comes with us and so if we’re in that space then He’s in that space and He’s able to transform and transfigure and liberate just through our participation with him. So, I think it’s extremely valid and important in this age more than ever, perhaps, and with the generation that’s coming through.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting that you continue to get more orders for a book that’s been quite quietly published.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes
Belinda Pollard: And I’m interested to know what sort of feedback you might have had.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes. So, at first, when we first sold it I honestly was terrified to even hear what people would say back. Because the only people who had read it were my family and friends and my husband and my daughter who was not interested in it at all because she didn’t want other people to read Mummy’s story. So, yes, I think I had low expectations even though I really believed in the book.
But a lot of people have just said that they’ve had these experiences, or their children have had these experiences in opening the book and feeling the presence of God as they open the book and as they participate in it. And there’s young children who their parents will tell me know who the Holy Spirit is and what His role is just by the way it’s described in the book. Or know that the Father loves them and that they’re safe with God just because of the way that it’s worded in the book and I think that, to me, that’s such an encouragement and beyond what I could have hoped for. Because I honestly think, yes, that’s something that stays with you forever to know that.
So, the feedback has been really great and I was really pleased, as well, we have had some parents of children with sensory disorders come back and say that they loved the texture and all of those things. So having that feedback when that was something that was really important to me, as well, was deeply encouraging.
Belinda Pollard: That’s wonderful. That’s very special sort of feedback to be getting, isn’t it. Do you have a favourite page or two from the book that you might like to read for us?
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Yes, I do. I’ll just open it up. My favourites are always the Holy Spirit pages! So, I’ll read a couple of those ones.
Hear now His secrets that speak to your heart.
They come from His Spirit who will never depart.
You can walk with His Spirit. The Spirit of love.
Who teaches you all things that come from above.
He is Father and Spirit but He’s a King too.
A King with a crown that’s been gifted to you.
There is sureness and safety in the place by His side.
Where love will not fail you and goodness resides.
So those are probably my favourite and they’re right in the middle of the book.
Belinda Pollard: That’s beautiful. That’s lovely.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you, so much, Kara-Glenn. How about we pray for you and for all the other Gracewriters out there who are perhaps working on similar types of projects.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Absolutely, I would love that.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Kara-Glenn and this beautiful story that you’ve given her. A surprising story. An unexpected story. And yet, one that you are using for your glory and your purposes. We pray that you will continue to bless Kara’s book and her writing. That you will bless those who read it. That you will minister to them. And we pray for all the Gracewriters out there who are working on unexpected stories, children’s books, various types of different things. We pray that you will empower them and encourage them and give them hope and possibility. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Kara-Glenn Bolger: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you for joining us Kara-Glenn Bolger and thank you, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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