Sunday, March 27, 2016

April Spotlight Interview with Charlotte Riggle

Charlotte Riggle on Luz Del Mes April Spotlight Interview by Maritza Martinez Mejia
Welcome Charlie to Spotlight Interview! Tell me:

Q 1. What makes you proud to be a writer in The United States?
Oh, my goodness, I love being a writer! I love it because I love words. I know that sounds odd to some people. You can’t touch words, or see them, or smell them. They’re not real, the way chocolate, or dogs, or sunsets at the beach are real. How can you possibly love them?
But with words, if you do it well, you can take your experience and give it to another person. You can let them know what it’s like to eat chocolate, or play with a dog, or sit and watch the sun set beyond the horizon. It’s a kind of magic.

And when I found out that it was possible to work as a writer, and make a decent living at it, I felt like Sparky Anderson felt about baseball. As the manager for the Detroit baseball team, he said, “I can't believe they pay us to play baseball - something we did for free as kids.”

That’s honestly how I feel about writing. I was blessed to find a career where I would get paid for doing something I love. Of course, my “day job” isn’t children’s books. It’s writing technical documentation for software developers. I’ve been doing that for over 30 years now. And I love it, because every day at work, I get to play with words. I get to use them to take information from one mind, and set it up to be absorbed by another mind.

So every day, I get to practice my craft. And now that my children are grown, and I have time around the edges of my work day, I can work on my children’s books. It’s truly a gift to be able to do that.

Q 2. What or who inspired you to write Catherine’s Pascha? 

I’m an Orthodox Christian, and a mom, and a lover of beautiful books. When my children were growing up, every year on St. Nicholas Day I would give them each a picture book about Christmas, or about St. Nicholas. There were so many truly beautiful books to choose from! There were books that told the story of the Nativity of Christ, and books about elves at the North Pole. There were books about families celebrating Christmas in good times and bad. There were stories of kindness and of redemption, stories that filled your heart with hope and joy.

I wanted to do the same thing at Easter (which, in the Orthodox Church, we call Pascha). Only, when I went to bookstores, the books I wanted just weren’t there. There were Easter books – but nearly all of them were about the Easter bunny, candy, and eggs. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But I wanted more!

What I wanted most of all was stories about families celebrating Pascha. Stories that showed the traditions that we keep, the customs that surround this most holy of holy days. Stories of wonder and joy and beauty – because the mystery of Pascha is wonder and joy and beauty. I wanted to watch my children open a book, and recognize themselves in the pages, as if the book were a mirror.

At some point, I decided that if I wanted that sort of book for my children, I would have to write it myself.

So, more than 20 years ago, that’s what I did.

My children loved the story, and their friends loved it, so I tried to find a publisher. At the time, there was no interest in the publishing industry for multicultural or diverse books. My book was considered “niche,” and even though publishers told me they loved the story, they didn’t publish for niche markets.

Years passed. And two years ago, I found a publisher, a micro press, that was interested in my story. The illustrator, R.J. Hughes, worked on the illustrations for a full year. It was a joy to collaborate with her on the art, to watch her create images that brought the words on the page to life.

My children were all grown up before the book came out, so I didn’t get to see them discover themselves and their faith in the pages of the book. But I hear from Orthodox Christian parents and their children from time to time, telling me how much their children love the book. And I hear from parents and children who are not Orthodox as well – because that’s one of the magical things about books. You can meet people who aren’t like you, and you can enter into their joy. You can fall in love with them.

And it makes me happy that so many people have fallen in love with Catherine.

For more about Catherine’s Pascha visit: