Interview and Giveaway: The World of the Polka Dot Bear, aka My Dad Writes a Book!

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Hello hello,

This is a very special blog post- it’s my first go at an interview, and it features my dad Steve Sandler. Many thanks go to him for being my interview guinea pig!

My dad recently published a new book, The World of the Polka Dot Bear. Years ago, I illustrated it for him. It has really been his baby. I haven’t had a whole lot to do with the process after I finished drawing and painting (I’d even forgotten what many of the pictures looked like!) so it was a great opportunity to be able to do this interview and get to hear the story behind the story.

To celebrate its release, we’re doing a giveaway of a signed copy!

Entering is easy, all you have to do is comment with your e-mail address and the answer to the following question:

Name one children’s book that you loved as a child and still find amusing, touching or meaningful as an adult.

In addition, you’ll get an extra entry for each way you share this blog entry- twitter, facebook, blog, and so on. For extra entries, just tell me in the comment where you’ve posted.

The winner will be chosen by random number generator on Sunday, March 3 at 1 pm Pennsylvania Time, so stay tuned!

polka dot bear

Can you tell me a brief summary of your new book?

The Polka Dot Bear is introduced. The camel named Ted escapes from a zoo (tired of camel hay stew) and meets the bear. Together while playing Let’s Dig for Clay they create, with the help of a perfectly aimed lightening strike, Sweet Jake the Rhino. The three discuss what they should do to pass the time. Ted and Jake think of dangerous, frivolous activities. The bear questions their suggestions and poses an alternative. Enter Rachel McWhirl, a kindly old raccoon lady who is living in squalid conditions. At the bear’s suggestion his compatriots agree to build her a new house. In return Rachel offers a lifetime of fine Sunday dinners. The story can be viewed as a silly romp or a possible answer to the existential question, ”Why are we here?”

Do you consider it more of a “learning to read” or an “adult reading aloud” type book?

I see it primarily as an adult read aloud book. My fondest memories of being a pop were reading stories that tripped nicely off the tongue, were clever, had a lightness of being and told a story in a classic way. They introduced characters you cared about, a crisis arose, the crisis resolved, a lesson learned and a laugh or two along the way.

When I write I try to meet those standards and I think of how you and your sister Hannah would have reacted to the language and the story when you were children. I intentionally use words, phrases and ideas that a 3 or 4 year old might not be familiar with, but I think given the context they should be able to figure it out in the natural way that language is learned. I try to never write down to the lowest level possible because that’s disrespectful of most children’s potential.

Is there a message your are trying to impart to children?

Yes! There are two messages.

1. That insane jackass activities are an affront to the powers of the universe. To waste time in activities that are obviously dangerous just for the rush with no regards for loved ones who will suffer or be forced to become your caretakers should you crash is selfish and thoughtless.
2. In contrast nothing in life feels better than helping another living being in hard times. Children seeing that modeled, to learn the value of that behavior, is probably a good thing.

What was the most rewarding thing about creating this book?

Seeing the story arc make its path in a smooth unforced narrative that makes clear the moral of the tale.

What was the most difficult or challenging part?

The hardest part is making the rhymes pure while regaining the integrity of the story. You can’t let the rhyme dictate the story and influence the outcome if you want to remain true to your message.

How do you incorporate creativity into your life?

Creativity to me is being thoughtful about what you do, and was something I had little appreciation for until I was about 47. Prior to that point in my life I did pretty much what came naturally to me. I played sports that came easily to me, I cooked like my mother exclusively, I behaved socially with a careless attitude. My natural inclinations were good enough. Parkinson’s disease was a wake up call. I became totally aware of my mortality and slowly became more conscious and careful of my actions. I believe this is necessary for creativity to come alive in a person. Once you realize you can control your behavior you are stuck with the reality that you can choose to do or not just about anything. That is the foundation of creativity but you must apply that perception to some medium or actions for your creativity to blossom.

When did you decide to become a writer?

On a whim one night I decided to write a story after you called home from college with news that you were going to become a an art major with an emphasis in Stained Glass. It’s a night I’ll never forget. I was in our front porch swing for 3 hours and wrote my first story, The Stained Glass Artist. Never in my life had I focused so hard for that long, with the goal of completing a ‘meaningful something’ that I could say to myself, “This is my best self. This is me being as thoughtful as I can be.”

I never did learn how to make stained glass. I was at that stage of life where you change your major every other week! It sounds like you had quite a revelation. Do you bring that sense of thoughtfulness to other areas of your life as well?

Ever since, I try to experience that sense of total commitment when I write, frequently when I cook, often when I play ping pong, and occasionally, but not often enough, with my relationships with those close to me and when I’m at my best, perfect strangers. Regardless of the skill or situation the creative aspect is the same. It’s thoughtful attention to the task at hand, trying to make life more beautiful. Living a creative life is a choice to be made and a discipline that has a short shelf life if not appreciated and nurtured.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to be a writer?

I don’t think you can want to be a writer. Writers feel compelled to write. If you’re not writing it’s probably because you know intuitively that you would not enjoy the process of sitting down and agonizing over every word, idea and punctuation mark. Only people who are compelled to do it would put up with the time consuming, anal retentive madness that it takes to finish a project. If indeed you have this profile and something else is blocking your way, remove that obstacle, and by all means write. It’s a path to immortality, or so we are deluded to think. That’s either a terrible or brilliant answer. Sadly, I doubt if I’ll ever know which it is.

What are your plans for the future? I hear there are sequels in the works.

In the first sequel the bear and his pals help build a clinic for nurse Rachel McWhirl and she hires them for her staff. Critters far and wide flock to the clinic with bizarre maladies that Nurse Rachel treats with humorous creative solutions. The Polka Dot Bear has an Aha! moment and discovers a new career path for himself.

The third book in the series revolves around learning the skills, fashion rules and etiquette one must learn to competently play the great game of golf. The story is based on 40 years of personal love and total frustration with the game named GOLF because all the other 4 letter words were taken. I’m half way through the first draft.

Just as important I plan to learn how to market myself and my books. I can’t lie. I desperately want these books to sell like crazy!

Well, best of luck! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today! Where can we find your books?

You can find The World of the Polka Dot Bear for sale here on
Amazon.com

My other projects include:

My Uncle Rob

uncle rob

My first published book is a story written as a tribute to a very good friend who was stricken with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and was forced to sell his landmark Uptown Café. Instead of letting the disease define his future he used this devastating setback to fulfill his dream of becoming a painter. The story is recommended by the National Parkinson’s Foundation as the book to choose to gently explain PD to young children. It can be purchased here

The Firehouse Café will be released by the end of March. The award winning manuscript is illustrated by Melissa Wyman.
Follow its progress here at www.ssandlersbooks.com

If you missed it in the beginning, we’re doing a giveaway of a signed copy of The World of the Polka Dot Bear! This is a perfect gift for a child, a teacher or a library.

Entering is easy, all you have to do is comment with your e-mail address and the answer to the following question:

Name one children’s book that you loved as a child and still find amusing, touching or meaningful as an adult.

In addition, you’ll get an extra entry for each way you share this blog entry- twitter, facebook, blog, and so on. For extra entries, just tell me in the comment where you’ve posted.

The winner will be chosen by random number generator on Sunday, March 3 at 1 pm Pennsylvania Time, so stay tuned!

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