Chief Dreamer: An Interview

Q: So, you write children’s books?

A: kate-shannonYes, and at the same time, we’re doing so much more than that! As a stand-alone, we write and publish quality educational materials for infants and toddlers, true, but—like anything of substance and value in this world—our books are bigger than themselves.

Our work is meant to be a conduit, a vehicle for the creation of perfect moments of joy and connection between the tiniest people and the biggest ones. How often do we pause in life, really, to touch lovingly the people around us? If our little book company can help create a space for the most tender and positive interactions, moments that may also be imbued with learning and growth, then we’ve done what we set out to do.

Q: Where did you get your start?

A: At the age of five and with the help of my childhood friend, Danielle, I wrote my first children’s book. It was about the last unicorn and a lonely girl who find one another and become friends. Throughout my childhood, I mass-produced what my father referred to as “artsy fartsy” things. My parents grew up in an era when “artist” wasn’t a viable career path, and they wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor. In its simplest form, I wanted their approval and love, so I chased someone else’s dream for a long, long time.

Fast-forward through several decades of artlessness to graduate school, where I met my best friend, Shana. She convinced me to take a community art class with her. That class was the doorway through which I rediscovered my self and was reunited with my existential purpose

Mark Twain once wrote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Being at school and finding Shana: these cosmic intersections delivered me to my why—or perhaps it to me. I started painting then, and the trajectory of my life was forever changed.

Blue Dream Books was incorporated in the spring of 2009, and I’ve been writing and painting ever since. Hey, Baby, Look! is our first published work, but there are 26 books behind it—all waiting to come to life.

Q: Out of what did all of this grow?

A: In a very Florence Scovel Shinn and Marianne Williams kind of way, I’ve come to believe that each one of us is born with a unique purpose and that our most profound task in life is to figure out what that higher purpose might be. Are you meant to be a healer, a builder, a grower, a sewer, a teacher, a creative, a parent, a speaker, a writer, a protector, a leader, a guide, a dancer, a baker, a dreamer? No one else can tell you, it comes from within.

Purpose ebbs and flows with the course of a life. But do, at this moment, what you are most pulled or called or inspired to do. If the universe is guiding you from within, by all means, listen! For when we have the courage to manifest truth—to speak and act in truth—then our truest and highest path will emerge, and, in turn, our actions will help right the world.

Q: You dedicated your first book to “M and This.” What does that mean?

A: M is my daughter, the child of my dreams—literally and figuratively. I dreamt of her long before she was ever born. Inasmuch as anything else, I want my life and my work to be a story that ends in her becoming whatever she wants to become—because that’s what the world needs most. Mine will be a spark: a legacy that reaffirms itself and simultaneously gives others permission to go and manifest their own blue… and red and green and orange and yellow and purple… dreams.

Eric Nez, Connection

“This” is my humble nod to the perfect moment—the moment when you’re deep into the eyes of love, immersed in the light of the sun, communing with nature, in the midst of creativity, or overtaken with beauty. When you’re fully present in that moment, the rest of the world falls away and you’re left in a state of bliss; you’re held by a vast expanse of space and time. In that moment, you are safe and loved, cherished and free, alive and healthy, here and meant to be. We recognize the rare and sacred nature of those moments as well as the importance and the power of those moments. To promote the existence and multiply the frequency of those moments throughout time is our greatest passion and pursuit.

Q: Do you illustrate your own work?

feather-paintingA: For the most part. The only catch is that between the sixth grade and today, my formal classroom time has been limited to that community art course I took with Shana, so I don’t do anything that requires skill beyond color, basic form, or suggestion. At least, not yet. I may go back to school someday to get a formal art degree, maybe not, but in the meantime, I’m content to explore the artistic moment and developmental phase in which I currently find myself. There’s a lot of fun to be had here. For now, I’m happy to identify as “raw” and abstract, which will work great for my next series of books. Here’s one of my paintings from that series. It’s a feather.

Unlike the next series of abstraction, Hey, Baby, Look! needed the refined talents of someone like Morgan Owens. In fact, that book would not be what it is—and may not have existed at all—without him.

Q: What did you learn by self-publishing your book?

A: Oh, gosh, a ton! But that’s half the fun. In hindsight, the book feels like the easy part. The rest of it is marketing, advertising, public relations, education, research, sales, “platform” development, financial management, business planning, social media, press releases, conferences, more research… it’s crazy. If I had to boil it down to one, single thing I wish I’d known before I went to print it’s this: get the people who “matter” to review your book BEFORE it goes to print. That, and with 60% of the book market, is a necessary evil. Yes, I just said that. Out loud. So, if you’re interested in purchasing a book, perhaps consider supporting the indie movement by visiting our Hey, Baby, Look! page and cart directly.

Q: But you’ve won several major book awards. Something has to be working, right?

A: There’s a line in Paulo Coehlo’s book, The Alchemist, that reads something like, “When you’re on your right path in life, the hands of the universe open up to help you along.” Sometimes, when things are right, you can feel it the deepest parts of your being. Hey, Baby, Look! has proven true to its core: a quality concept, a quality book, and a quality tool for purposeful engagement. It’s been both an honor and infinitely rewarding to have that feeling validated by important indie communities like the IBPA and MIPA.

Q: Why not go the route of big agent and traditional publishing house?

A: Some of my favorite books of all time have come from that important and historical engine; however, what I’m seeking is to liberate our brand from pre-prescribed formulas regarding “what works” in this space. Are shelves filled with what people really want, need, and love? Or are we instead buying from shelves filled with whatever someone else decided to place there—irrespective of whether or not it sparks us?

Blue Dream Books is seeking to publish for more than just “a market”—we want to publish for meaning and with purpose. And it’s our contention that quality speaks for itself. If you build it, they will come, right? Our deepest intuition is rarely wrong, and mine tells me that something more is needed and desired from and for this baby lit space, namely: beauty.

It’s an interesting dialogue about the value of tradition vs. what I hope is a thoughtful indie movement toward more holistic or aspirational ways of being, of thinking about life, and of looking at the world—of hanging your hat in a new way on the core values of beauty and purpose, meaning and intentionality. Breaking tradition in search of a different and possibly better way can be hard and sometimes lonely, but I was built to endure; my people know how to do hard things.

Q: What is the long-range vision for Blue Dream Books?

A: We envision the ongoing and regular publication of amazing baby-lit! Eventually, I’d love to hire a team of young creatives to make the vision soar. I’d also love to take our art into museums and showcase the work publicly. Beauty is a huge driver; the aesthetics are infinitely important to me. For now, though, I’m still learning about the field, the industry, and how to navigate a whole new environment.

Q: What sets Blue Dream Books apart in the world?

A: Probably our existential outlook and the perspective we have on books as a conduit for human connection and positive change. My Master’s in Philanthropy taught me that meaning is derived from our engagement in activities that we find personally fulfilling and reciprocally useful. We at Blue Dream Books are seeking to make the world better—one connection at a time. What could be more useful and rewarding than that?

Q: So, what would be the best outcome of someone’s visit to your site today?

A: I suppose there could be many best outcomes. If someone finds a spark of encouragement to go and become the truest and highest version of themselves, then that is perfect. If they come here and find a bunch of resources on literacy and are motivated to connect with their children in a more deep, meaningful, and purposeful way, then that is perfect. If they land here and find an awesome book to buy and or a great gift to share, then that’s perfect. What ever it is meant to be, it will manifest!

Kate Shannon holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University. She lives in Minnesota with her young family and their two guinea pigs, Stewart and Mr. Nibbles. To learn more about her dual-hemisphere career path, please connect with her on LinkedIn.