Natalee Creech is a children’s author who is equally at home in Canada, (where she grew up) in the U.S., (where she studied education) and in South Korea (where she taught for many years). Regardless of where she lives, she is probably sneaking more children’s books into the house, much to the delight of her children and the dismay of her husband. Oreo, the family cat, remains indifferent.
Having worked as a teacher and librarian, was it an easy transition to becoming an author and writing your own books?
In both of those jobs I had the pleasure of reading many children’s books. Because of this I knew what I enjoyed reading aloud and the kinds of books children enjoyed hearing. When I worked at the library it was easy to keep up with what was being published, which is also important. On the other hand, there is nothing easy about writing your own books and becoming a published author, no matter your profession. Some of my writer friends have been diligently working toward the goal of publication for years!
What inspired you to write Nothing? Was there a felt need that you saw?
At the time that I wrote Nothing I was teaching first grade at a Christian school in South Korea. I was getting serious about writing but didn’t want to retell a Bible story or write about a Bible hero since I felt there were many books like that already. Romans 8: 38-39 is one of my favorite verses because it’s such a powerful promise, so I played around with it to see what I could do.
How were you able to introduce such an important topic to young children in a way that they could understand?
I think the question-and-answer format helps convey important information in a natural way. Little children ask a lot of questions! The rhyme and repetition of the chorus make it easy for children to remember. During revisions Peggy Schaefer, my editor for Nothing, pointed out places I needed to make Nothing more child-friendly. In the end, rather than aiming to incorporate every aspect of the verses (life, death, things present, things to come etc.) I realized I had to distill what I wanted children to know from those verses and communicate that: that no matter where they go or what they do, God will always love them.
What was the writing process like for you? What it what you expected?
Writing in rhyme is always like piecing together a puzzle. And while some parts are easier to see and fit together, others can take a long time to finish. (Blue sky, jigsaw aficionados?) With this manuscript I really wrestled with the chorus. The chorus is one of the most critical parts since it is repeated several times, but no matter how I rearranged my words I couldn’t get it to work to my satisfaction, mostly because of the word separate! Over several years I repeatedly pulled the manuscript out and tried to fix it, but without success. I kept going back to it, though, because I love the verses from Romans so much. During revisions (after signing the publishing contract) I rewrote the chorus for the thousandth time and finally managed to avoid using the word separate or any synonym. In all, I probably spent three years working on Nothing on and off, but I think it was worth it!
The rhyming scheme of this book is an aspect that I think helps young children connect with the book easily. Why did you choose this mode of writing?
Writing in rhyme is something that I always gravitate toward. I love the rhythm of metered verse, and I love the challenge of working with words to fit them into the meter in a way that is natural and pleasing. Perhaps I heard too many nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss stories as a child, or perhaps it’s because I enjoy music, but for whatever reason, rhyme is usually my first instinct. Sometimes I have to talk myself out of writing in rhyme depending on the manuscript and the desired tone. For Nothing, though, the bouncy meter and rhyme combine with the humorous illustrations to make a book that is as joyful as the promise itself: God loves us! And not just loves us, but loves us no matter what!
As a teacher, do you have any advice on how to introduce these topics to kids?
It always helps to have something concrete. For example, if you are talking with children about how nothing can separate them from God’s love, I like to take a glass of milk (representing us) and then mix in some chocolate syrup representing God’s love. The chocolate goes all through the milk and we can’t separate it. Then enjoy the chocolate milk while reading Nothing!
What do you hope people take away from this book?
Romans 8:38 & 39 is such an amazing promise! I hope those who hear or read this book will know how much their heavenly father loves them – not just when they have everything together, but even in the midst of their sin. I hope readers aspire to love others with a love that’s high and deep and long!
What do you have going on now? Anything fun in the works?
Well, there might be SOMETHING! Something is a companion book to Nothing, based on Matthew 25: 36-36 that encourages children to “keep your kindness radar working” because there is always something we can do to help others.
Where can people find you?
You can find out more about me and my books on my website: nataleecreech.com