Meet Magination Press Authors: Sara Williams and Scott Stoll!

Sara is a child psychologist, and Scott is an author and graphic designer. Together, they wrote Dream It: A Playbook to Spark Your Awesomeness. Scott drew all of the illustrations by hand. They both love traveling and inspiring others to take adventures — they believe that encouraging children to dream is the best adventure of all!

Please join us in welcoming Sara and Scott to Magination!

What books have you written?

Sara: I have written one other book, a professional book for psychologists called Treating Somatic Symptoms in Children and Adolescents. This is my first children’s book, and it’s a dream come true for me! As a child, I loved writing stories in school and always wanted to write a children’s book. I did win a prize in 4th grade for my original story, “Fluffy Bunny.”

Scott: I’ve written a series of educational and inspirational books with schools as the author-in-residence. The latest book, Mirabella the Monarch, is about how it takes a monarch butterfly four generations to migrate to Mexico and back to the Midwest. I worked with over 500 students as my co-authors and co-illustrators to create the story, including a character naming contest and much more. With the help of the PTO, we were able to give every child a free book plus a packet of native flower seeds so that everyone could grow their own butterfly gardens at home.

What’s your writing process? How do you decide what topics to write on?

Our writing process is the same process we describe in Dream It! to discover a dream. We started by imagining a lot of possibilities, then we zeroed in on the ones we were most passionate about, and then we waited for inspiration to strike to get the right words and activities on the page. Then there were years of testing, edits, and changes after that, of course! One of the most fun parts of writing the book was watching it take on a life of its own, as you will see in our favorite story below.

Sara and Scott both like to work visually and spent a lot of time rearranging thumbnails and drawing pictures on sticky notes. Also pictured are three of their editors.

[Caption to picture: Sara and Scott both like to work visually and spent a lot of time rearranging thumbnails and drawing pictures on sticky notes. Also pictured are three of our editors.]

What do you do when you’re not writing books?

Sara practices as a child psychologist at a children’s hospital where she helps kids with chronic illnesses learn how to cope with their challenges to do anything they want to do in their lives. Scott is an author and graphic designer. And they both enjoy traveling!

What children’s book made the most of an impact on you growing up?

Sara: My favorite book as a child was The BFG by Roald Dahl. I loved the fantasy elements of the story and how he caught good dreams to give to the children — how funny that many years later, I wrote a book about dreams, too, but teaching kids how to catch their own dreams!!

Scott: Two perennial favorites are “Aesop’s Fables” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.” (I even own several translations.) As a kid, I loved the sense of adventure and how each story made me question what I would do in that situation. As a young adult, another influential book helped explain the first two: The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. All these books together helped form my own character, and eventually led me to my own coming-of-age journey around the world on a bicycle.

Any advice for new authors?

We aren’t sure that we are qualified to give advice per se, but we can share our writing philosophy. We sought to be authors because we wanted to share our real-life experiences to create an evidence-based book that can positively affect this generation and future generations as well. We wanted to create something tangible and lasting in the world and something that opened the door to a world of possibilities and the hope that goes along with that. So, for other authors, we’d also encourage them to write from their experiences, make sure that they enjoy the work, and test it on their target audience!

What is the topic of your newest book about?

Dream It! is a workbook — or as we like to call it, a playbook — dedicated to teaching kids how to dream and how to turn those dreams into reality. To do that, we use traditional pencil-and-paper games and activities that teach important concepts and put them into action right away — because we all know that kids learn by doing. Our book is the result of original evidence-based research combined with our unique dream theory and is proven in a classroom setting to increase optimistic thinking.

Who is the book’s audience?

The book is for children ages 8-12 that want to learn how to dream and how to turn those dreams into reality. It’s also for anyone who simply wants to feel more motivated and inspired in their everyday lives. That’s what a dream does — it gives you a sense of purpose and of hope, and we’ve proven that the more children learn about how this process works, the more confident and optimistic they become.

And, of course, dreams aren’t just for kids — in fact, every adult who has read the book has loved it, learned something new and said that they wish they had it when they were a kid. So, we hope that even the parents, teachers, and caregivers will also find a new dream and become an even better role model.

What inspired you to write this book?

We like to think of ourselves as the psychologist and cycle-ologist dream team because we love to inspire people and see the sparkle in their eyes when they discover their wondrous dreams. However, we realized that though a lot of kids were inspired by Sara’s profession and Scott’s bicycle trip, they didn’t know how to effectively channel that inspiration into their own dream; so, our goal was to create a measurable way for people of all ages to develop hope, curiosity, and inspiration in their lives, and then focus that into a new dream and potentially a new reality — thus the Dream It! Playbook was born.

What’s your favorite story from making this book?

The most amazing part of writing this book was testing the games and activities with school children in a classroom setting. It was so exciting and rewarding to see the kids light up when they developed their dream and watching the dreaming process unfold in real life. For example, one girl discovered that her dream was to use her talent for drawing to become a comic book illustrator. This inspired her to create an after-school club with other kids in her class who also enjoyed drawing, and together they created their very own comic book! Her dream to be a comic book illustrator was born, and she even inspired other kids along the way. This was a great example to us of how dreams can be contagious. It even inspired us to keep the book going through four years of testing and revisions.

What made you want to publish with Magination?

Magination Press was an ideal publisher for Dream It! because of their expertise and commitment to social-emotional learning topics for children. Having worked with Magination Press, they proved this to be true. We were impressed with their passion and commitment to their work and helping children. Their team took the time and effort to help raise Dream It! to the next level — this has been unique in our publishing experience! And now we look forward to their comprehensive marketing strategy and brand recognition to help our book reach critical mass. Our wish is for it to be easily accessible to every kid that wishes for a dream or needs a little hope.

How did you draw the pictures?

Scott: These days most people do digital illustrations, but it makes me feel disconnected. I still love the feel of a pencil in my hand. So I sketch everything out on paper. I also love watching a marker soak into the paper. (I haven’t yet mastered a sable brush like Bill Watterson, author and illustrator of Calvin and Hobbes — another favorite.) However, I do retouch everything on the computer and add color. Another one of my oddities is that I prefer to hand-letter everything. For example, the cover is completely hand drawn and hand-lettered. I love to integrate they words with the pictures and I want everything to be unique. Perhaps this is just an extension of how I work because once Sara gives me a great idea I automatically start sketching it out and use pictures like I would use words. Often, I read children’s books where if the pictures were subtracted — as beautiful as they might be — the story would be unaffected. In other words, I think if you read Dream It! you will notice that the pictures help tell the story and create a unique symbolism of our lessons.

One thought on “Meet Magination Press Authors: Sara Williams and Scott Stoll!

  1. Scott Stoll

    Thanks for this interview. Sara and I can’t express how impressed we were with Magination Press’ passion and commitment to making the world a better place starting with our newest generation. You are creating a library of awesomeness.

    Reply

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