In today’s episode, I speak with author Jalissa Pollard. You’ll hear about:
- An exciting SERIES announcement for Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
- How Jalissa’s Grandmother inspires her faith, life, and writing
- Finding community in a Catholic lay movement
- Representation in Catholic kidlit
- How family stories can be as important to share as saint stories
- Inspiring takeaways from the author: You are not alone!
- A giveaway of her book, My Grandma Is a Lady
- And more!
**Affiliate disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links where I earn a little money from your purchase at no cost to you. Thanks for helping an author out! 🙂
Congratulations to Our Winners!
Huge congratulations to our 2 winners of Ascension’s giveaway for My First Interactive Mass Book. Stick around today for another book giveaway from our guest, author Jalissa Pollard.
My Catholic Kidlit Christmas Gift Round-Up
I have finished my kids gift shopping and am super excited about my finds:
- An affordable Mass kit by Wee Believers. My young son loves to carry around and swing the thurible, so I bought one for my godsons as well. Wee Believers also has a nice magnetic Mass set that I’m waiting for my son to grow into.
- I did end up getting Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times, which I LOVE. It deserves all its wonderful reviews.
- Some Christmas books: The Night the Saints Saved Christmas and The Light of Christmas Morning for our Christmas season gift-wrapping.
- Not Catholic, but I purchased some graphic novel versions of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet for some older kids in my life, which inspired another younger-kid gift: The Action Storybook Bible, which is not a “Catholic” adaptation but seems like a worthwhile book.
- Then there’s the middle grade Catholic chapter book, Olivia and the Little Way, which has very nice reviews. So I’m hoping all these children enjoy their books.
The book buying is so much fun, but even better when the kids enjoy the gift you picked out. I’d love to hear what books YOU have bought for your beloved little ones this year!
Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server ANNOUNCEMENT!
As for Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server, I have laid eyes on the cover!! It is very cute, and I’m looking forward to sharing that with you soon.
And even more so, because it is now OFFICIAL that Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server is going to be a SERIES!
The first book, simply called, Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server, is coming out in early summer 2022. It’s a book about serving God, finding your way to serve God when maybe you don’t feel that you’re up to the task.
The SECOND book in the series is all about the Real Presence of the Eucharist, and should come out in 2023. That one is tentatively titled Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server Rings the Bells. So to say I am excited about this boy’s adventures in faith is an understatement. His stories have been in the works a long time, and now they’ll be able to be shared with kids, which is the whole. entire. point.
I am so grateful to be where I am in this writing and publishing journey, and am looking forward to helping my fellow writers in our Catholic Kidlit Writers Club this coming year in 2022. If you haven’t signed up yet, this is a great time to do so, so that you’ll have the benefit of our behind-the-scenes talks and community for the duration of 2022.
All the fun starts January 1, so sign up now. Our group is small and mighty, which I’m anticipating to mean that we will have a fierce level of connection with and support for each other. You can unlock exclusive webinars, interviews, community, and information in the writers club at Catholic Kidlit.com.
New Book from Author Jalissa Pollard
Our guest today has a family story to share, and has also shared with me that since our interview, her second book The Faithfulness of Daniel, in the Black Bible Series for Children, has also been released.
The Faithfulness of Daniel is a story about the excellent spirit of Daniel, whose love and trust in God surpassed all, even in the face of lions. Daniel teaches us that getting in the presence of God sets one apart for the best.
So my huge congratulations to Jalissa on her second book! Again, Jalissa Pollard is offering YOU a chance to WIN a copy of My Grandma is a Lady through our giveaway. So without further ado, here’s our interview!
Interview: Sharing the Faith through Family Stories
Theresa Kiser: Welcome Jalissa to the Catholic Kidlit podcast. Thank you for joining us today.
Jalissa Pollard: Good afternoon! Absolutely. I’m so excited to be part of this podcast. It is so refreshing to be a part of a mission that is set on nourishing children’s souls. So I’m just so glad to be in that number. How are you, how are you today, Theresa?
Theresa Kiser: Great. I’m excited. This book is really cool. So tell us a little bit about the book and then we want to hear about you also.
Jalissa Pollard: Absolutely. Well, My Grandma Is a Lady was published in 2019, so we were we just had our second birthday. And this was an ode to my grandmother who raised me as a child, and my sister and my brother and just a testament to her Catholic faith and what I witnessed and what I’ve observed through the eyes of a child.
She was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Klaver, and so I wanted to share that story that I figured would be familiar to others as well.
Theresa Kiser: I love grandma appreciation. My grandma was crucial to me in teaching me the faith and she’s somebody that I just have a strong relationship with.
And now that she’s passed, you know, it’s so special to carry on her memory. So tell us about your grandma. Like tell us about what, what mattered to you, what impacted you about her.
Her Inspiration…Her Grandmother!
Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So absolutely. My grandmother, Mildred Charles, actually just celebrated her 91st birthday. And when I say she is still like kicking, like last weekend, we went to an event and she was dancing, like she got on the dance floor.
So my grandmother is just the most perfect lady to me. And I always looked up to her and always appreciated. At a very young age, I was able to discern that our life wasn’t quite like everyone else. Her daughter–her first daughter, my mother–had passed and my sister and I were three and four years old.
So I knew that I was being raised differently. So it was very strict, it was very you know… we had to dot our I’s and cross our T’s. And so with that, we definitely attended to church every Sunday. We were very integral to our faith community, St. Anne’s and Diocese of Lafayette.
And I just loved it. It was the life that I knew. And so I wanted to share that testament and appreciation as I grew older and moved away. When I would look back and reflect on my life, I was like, “Oh my goodness, my grandma just did all of these wonderful things that has molded me to the person who I am today.”
And I wanted to thank her.
Theresa Kiser: Has she read the book?
Jalissa Pollard: She’s read the book. When I told her that… she’s read the book, people have come up to her and like at the local post office and told her about the book and at church. And she’s like a local celebrity at home now. I absolutely love that she’s basking in the glow of her story, her history.
Now funny story: when I showed her the cover of the book, the first thing she said was, “You know, I don’t really wear red lipstick.” I was like, “okay, grandma, I’m sorry.” She’s that type of lady where she’s like I said, she’s still kicking, attends Mass every Sunday. You know, just a wonderful person.
Grandma’s Life Lessons
Theresa Kiser: So what kind of lessons from her life do you hope that the children reading your book pick up on?
Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So absolutely. So the lessons that I would like for them to pick up on are that family is very crucial and very important.
It may not look like everyone else’s family, but it’s still valid. It’s still genuine and authentic. And no matter who is in the house with you, those who celebrate God and praise God and serve God are the people who are going to lead you in the right direction. Also lessons in that it’s okay to be with your family.
It’s okay to embrace that. T his is something that is forever. And so celebrating it, praising it, cultivating it…That’s something that we should continue to do, in today’s age, especially.
Theresa Kiser: That’s one thing that I really like about this book from a Catholic standpoint. We are so used to telling the stories of the saints who have done great things and served God and in great ways. But there are a lot of people who serve God, who haven’t been canonized and maybe never will be because they’re just one of the many people serving God.
So I’ve really liked this connection to your family history, that you’re recognizing the people in your family and passing on the family stories so that they can feed others.
Community in a Lay Movement
One of the things that stands out to me about your book is this lay movement that your grandmother was a part of. A lot of Catholics aren’t aware of the lay movements and, and this one in particular, tell us a little bit about maybe what drew her to it and what it’s meant for her life.
Jalissa Pollard: Okay. So Ooh, interesting question. So she’s a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver. And she hasn’t said this openly, but I don’t know if at one point, if they could have joined, you know, Knights of Columbus. So I’m thinking it was something like that. Like we had our own lay organization, fraternal organization for African-American Catholics.
So that’s probably, it may have been her only pathway at that point. But it was, but I love it because this was her professional organization. My grandmother, she was a custodian at USL for 30 years. She was the manager of the entire building, but she stopped going to school –91 years old–at sixth grade and she had to stay at home and work.
Even though she didn’t have the formal education, I saw her as probably one of the most polite, well-mannered sophisticated women that I knew. And so I wanted to like embody that and you didn’t have to…you know, maybe your brother and sisters were able to go to school, but you turned out to be a lady just like them, you know, without that at all.
Theresa Kiser: So she found in this lay movement, that community, and that place for her to thrive in her faith and be herself.
Jalissa Pollard: Absolutely.
Theresa Kiser: That’s great. Yeah. There, there are a number of lay communities maybe listeners don’t know… there’s the two that you mentioned.
But there are plenty of others with devotions to particular saints or that kind of follow in the steps of different charisms of the church that are all Catholic. So that’s really great that she found that and that was at her local parish. Is that right? Okay. That’s awesome. So when you kind of went through to tell the story, what was that process?
This was telling this is a biography of someone who is living and close to you. So how did you do the research for that? Or was it more kind of thinking through your background? Tell us a little bit about that process.
Telling Her Grandmother’s Story
Jalissa Pollard: I really was interested in I would see the garb that she would wear: the all white and they would have the merchandise, if you will.
And so I would see her necklace here, this here…
So I was researching that and which led me to a rabbit hole. I didn’t even realize… I’m 33, but I didn’t realize that there were so many black Catholics! We were in Youngsville and there was like, you know, maybe 12.
And then I go online to research for my book and it’s nationwide. And so that’s the message that I wanted to leave to black Catholic children that, “Hey, it’s not just your church and your grandmother. It’s like California, east coast, west coast across, you know…across the world! Like it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s you know, the Church. Realizing that it’s not just, you know, in, you know, in your, in your town,
Theresa Kiser: so where you grew up and where your grandmother was, it was a minority in the parish, and you found that there’s this whole…
Jalissa Pollard: You know, I didn’t even realize that it existed. So, so affirming. So: yes, this is who I’m meant to be. Absolutely. So, and then now on this journey: researching, speaking, I’m seeking pastoral wisdom… I felt like I was back in grad school, like, “Oh, you know, this is wonderful!”
But that yes, you do belong. Like, yes, actually you’ve been here. Like where have you been like, sorry that we didn’t get the message out. Let’s get the message out.
Representation in Catholic Children’s Books
Theresa Kiser: So that’s another thing that kind of has been, is beautiful about this book. In the Catholic market of books, there’s not a lot of representation. It’s really nice to see that branching out. I think that’s something that is happening, that a lot of publishers are starting to see the need for it. There was just a bunch of board books that came out that were showing saints from different cultures and backgrounds. And so is that something that you thought about when you were putting this book together? Did you see the need or would you have put this out kind of regardless?
Jalissa Pollard: I definitely saw the need because as a lover of reading and writing, I loved reading books about myself. And so I wanted to share a story about my faith as well. Faith is like integral to my everyday life.
And so I want to create the story to demonstrate how woven through our daily life from when we wake up in the morning, when we say the rosary, whenever we bless ourselves before we eat… and just how it’s so ingrained into our lives and just showing all the different ways that God shows his face.
Theresa Kiser: In the beginning of your book, you have the quote, “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.” Why did you choose that quote? What does it mean to you and to this book?
Jalissa Pollard: Okay, so after sitting many years in the pew at St. Anne’s Catholic church… Whenever we go to receive communion, that is the song that they would play, like all the time.
It’s actually a lyric of a song. I will go, Lord, if you leave me, I will hold your people in my heart. And so that always… the music lately has just been cracking me like an egg. Like every time, I think about Pope Francis and when he says “the gift of tears.” For the past 10 years, every time I go to Mass, every time I hear a Christian song, the tears are flowing. And so that’s like my testament, that song, like, “I will hold your people in your heart.” Every single time I even hear a song it’s like, it’s taking over me.
So I’m definitely holding his people in my heart. Definitely holding his people in my heart.
Theresa Kiser: So, what has been the most rewarding part of this book publishing process for you and telling the story?
Jalissa Pollard: The most rewarding process of My Grandma’s A Lady is validation. Validation as a Catholic, validation as an educator, validation as a sister… My grandmother herself just that she is such a wonderful woman and I felt that she needed to be celebrated.
The woman who–in hard times–took over her a set of raising her daughter who passed, their children and was still able to instill that faith and our religion. And we wanted to keep continuing to keep that going.
Theresa Kiser: Wow. I mean, it sounds like you guys have been through so much together and that she’s shared the most important thing with you.
And for you to share that with the world is a real gift. Your enthusiasm for the faith and for writing and books just really comes through. So I’m excited for any children that are able to read this book. What message do you want listeners to come away with today?
You are Not Alone!
Jalissa Pollard: So absolutely.
Absolutely: share your story. Original stories are often, you know, the vest and because someone else is going to be share your story because there’s going to be someone who needs to know that they aren’t alone. That it’s not just their church building. That there’s a whole world that has the same rules, the same Scriptures as you every Sunday… We’re all one Body.
Theresa Kiser: I think there’s nothing more important than knowing that you’re not alone. And I love the way that you’re getting that across and have your spirit that’s such a part of what you’re doing. So where can listeners connect with you and find you?
Jalissa Pollard: Oh, awesome. Listeners can definitely follow me on on Instagram at @Jayybouquet. And I’ll drop the links for that, but they can also find my books at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and on our publisher’s website.
Theresa Kiser: Well, Jalissa has been so kind as to offer a free copy of her book, My Grandma Is a Lady, to a winner of our giveaway. So if you are interested in reading this book take a look in the show notes for instructions on how to enter that giveaway and get your copy of this book which is just sharing. Jalissa’s lessons from her grandma and the life that her grandma shared with her…and faith, of course!
So head on over to the show notes, to see that, and we will continue talking. This has been a big journey of self-publication, writing, editing, revision. I’m sure that you have a lot of lessons learned to share with us.
Jalissa Pollard: Yes.
Theresa Kiser: So so to hear more about those come and join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.
And we’ll be able to kind of unlock some of the hard won experiences and lessons learned and takeaways from, from this experience so that you can write your story as Jalissa is encouraging you to do, to, to share with others. So join us there for that. And I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jalissa for joining us. This has been a pleasure. And we’ll see you in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.
Jalissa Pollard: Awesome. Thank you so much. So wonderful.
Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast.
The best way to support the Catholic kidlit creator you heard from today is to buy their books, leave reviews, and spread the word on social media and in person.
If you want to write meaningful children’s books with a Catholic heart, check out the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club at CatholicKidlit.com.
Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.
Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!
What family story has inspired YOUR faith? And what Christmas books have you bought this year?
Let me know in the comments!
About Theresa Kiser
I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. On a rare moment when I’m not writing or changing diapers, I might indulge in fruity teas, dark chocolate, and a good book.