How a Tough Time Changed My Understanding of Advent Hope

How a Tough Time Changed My Understanding of Advent Hope

“Hope. I thought I knew what the word meant. And I’ve practiced that ‘hope,’ or what I thought hope was, since childhood:

‘I hope I get an American Girl Doll for Christmas,’ ‘I hope I’m not late to school,’ ‘I hope I can find someone else in class who loved ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ as much as I did…”

Hoping “for” is not the same as hoping “in”

To me, hope meant positive thinking that a desired outcome may come to pass…

But when the illness dragged on day after day, month after month, it became clear: hoping ‘for’ is not what hope is all about. At any rate, it’s not enough to keep me going…” Read the rest

What do you hope “for” or hope “in this Advent?

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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!

New Podcast Episode: Hands-On Faith with OSV Kids Magazine and editor Lindsey Riesen

In today’s episode, I speak with OSV Kids’ Presentation Editor, Lindsey Riesen. You’ll hear about:

  • A (bookish!) tradition to celebrate the ENTIRE Christmas Season
  • Writing question answered: Do I need an agent?
  • How the OSV Kids Magazine came to be
  • How to help kids get hands-on with their faith
  • How OSV Kids can help busy parents
  • Inspiration for the magazine
  • And more!

**Sorry about the sound quality; my mic glitched during the interview. Doh!**

Book Shopping Time!

I love shopping for books right now. This is my favorite book buying season, coming into Christmas. I love picking out books for people, especially for the children in my life and giving those at Christmas time. Books are my favorite gift to give. So right now I have a massive order of books from Our Sunday Visitor coming up.

They are the publisher of my upcoming book, Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server coming out in spring of 2022, I’m very excited. And for this order, I’ll be ordering a few books I’ve been eyeing for a long time. One of those is Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times, and then the new book God the Father and the Best Day Ever, it looks really good. And The Mass Book for Children.

And so while I am putting this order together, I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Our Sunday Visitor books? I would love to hear your recommendations. Send me, you know, an email or put something in the comments because I would love to hear your favorite books.

New Christmas Season (Book!) Tradition

Last Christmas, we started a new tradition in our house for giving books. Most people who are not Catholic end Christmas on midnight of December 25th. But books are actually a great way to keep celebrating the Christmas season all the way to Epiphany. So what we did is we wrapped one Christmas-themed book or DVD for each day of Christmas, not Advent, where you have the Advent calendar and the Jesse tree. This is for the Christmas season. So we wrapped one Christmas-themed book for each day of the Christmas season in special paper. So it was clear: that is not what we were going to open on Christmas day. Everything in that paper would be saved. And we numbered the wrapping paper.

So one all the way up to the number of days of Christmas. So on the Christmas day we opened #1 and that had the first book that we’re going to read together as a family to celebrate the Christmas season. So some of those were books we already owned, some were library books, and some are new books.

You can always take library books back after you and wrap them and read them. And if you’re worried about due dates and just put the library books on the first few days of Christmas and you’ll unwrap them and then can return them. So this was a really fun way to take time to celebrate Christmas throughout the entire season and to spread the excitement of unwrapping packages for multiple days.

So if you’re looking for some Christmas ideas, keep that in mind. It was really fun for us. It’s also a great time during Advent and Christmas to introduce the idea of the liturgical colors and what they mean to children. This is the official start of the liturgical year during Advent, and the colors are changing fast for the first several weeks.

You know, you have purple, excuse me, violet, technically violet and rose during Advent, then you have white during Christmas. And then you switch to Ordinary Time after Christmas. So it’s a lot of changing of the colors, but what do they actually mean? And how does it relate to your relationship with God?

Liturgical Colors with some other materials for Catholic souls!

This is a great time to introduce that. My board book, Liturgical Colors published with Holy Heroes explains the meaning of the liturgical colors in the context of God’s love for the child. It is a cozy read for parents with little ones, perfect for bringing to church or wrapping and placing under the Christmas tree.

And it makes a wonderful gift for a niece, nephew, or a grandchild. You can find A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors at my website, TheresaKiser.com or at the publisher’s website, Holyheroes.net

Today’s Writing Question: Do I need an agent?

Today’s writing question is: do I need an agent? So for Catholic books, for the Catholic market, you generally don’t need an agent.

If you are submitting to specifically Catholic publishers, you don’t need an agent. If you are writing for the broader Christian or general market, then you will most likely need an agent to submit to some of the larger publishing houses. Either way, you definitely need to know what you’re doing. If you submit a query, you need to know how to write a professional query, how much to include in your query, how often you can submit and so on, you will also want to study the publishers to figure out who will be the best fit for your books, so you have better chances of getting a match. 

There are so many resources to help you figure out all these things. I particularly like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It has been a great help to me. And also for a Catholic approach, we have the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club, which is the whole point of starting it so that we can talk specifically about Catholic books, no matter which market they’re for, and how to write them, make them excellent, and get them into children’s hands.

So for more personal guidance on your writing? I do offer book coaching through my website, Theresa Kiser.com. And I will answer a question on writing and publishing every podcast, I’ll include a question going forward. So for now let’s head over to our interview with Our Sunday Visitor, all about their magazine for kids!

Interview with OSV’s Lindsey Riesen

Welcome to the Catholic Kidlit podcast. This is Theresa Kiser here with Lindsey Riesen who is the Presentation Editor of the OSV Kids magazine. Lindsey is here today to talk with me about the OSV Kids magazine, which is new this year.

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. Thanks so much for having me on. 

Theresa Kiser: Oh, absolutely. I’m so excited.

So tell us a little bit about this new magazine who it’s for. Because not everybody knows about it yet. And I hope that everybody can learn about it because it’s such a fun offering for kids. 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, sure. So OSV Kids magazine was launched back in January of this year and we’ve spent a long time researching what people wanted and coming up with the design and the format.

So it’s been a long time in the making but we’re coming up on our first full year of issues and it’s been received really great. People really like it. The magazine is primarily for kids ages two to six, and we’re envisioning it as something that comes in the mail that’s addressed to the kid.

They can get really excited about it and then they could consume it with their family. So we really want it to be a hands-on parents, families reading it together. And we know that some kids on the spectrum of our age group will be able to read it themselves, but we really want that to be consumed as a family.

OSV Kids Magazine, January 2022 Issue

For Families with Multiple Children

Theresa Kiser: Well, that’s great. I was going to ask that if a family has multiple children, what do you recommend? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. Yeah, we do have some families that have multiple subscriptions but it definitely can be used together. 

The only thing that we do have in there is a craft and you can print extra copies of that online, so that should help with any sibling quarrels that might occur when they get the magazine.

Theresa Kiser: That’s awesome. I didn’t even know that. So I’ve been a subscriber throughout the year. And one of the things I really love is the craft, which like is kind of a heavier paper so that it will hold up after the kids make it. But I didn’t know that you could find an extra printable copy online.

Where would parents go to print? 

Lindsey Riesen: Sure. There’s some right in the magazine, it tells you the website that you can visit. And then there’s just a code that you enter as a subscriber. So it’s actually on our Teaching Catholic Kids website right now. And it’s a Bitly/TCK activity and the password is kidsmore.

Self-Contained Magazine (No prep!)

We wanted the magazine to be self-contained. We didn’t want a lot of extra steps for families. So that’s why we have that insert card with the heavier paper because you can just tear it out and do it right then and there. 

I’m not a huge fan of crafts because I have three little boys and it’s like, things just explode and it’s a huge mess.

So Jenna has worked her crafts work perfectly because all you need is a scissors, some glue, some crayons…stuff you’re already going to have on hand. And then it’s just easy to clean up. Working with Jenna has been fantastic. She has so many ideas and I think they just fit so perfectly in the magazine for this age group for people.

Yeah. So Jenna Heinz you can find her online at Lazy Liturgical and she has so many great crafts for kids. Just simple, simple ideas that for basically, you know, you pick a feast day or a Saint and she’s got an activity for it. So yeah. I encourage you guys to check her out on Instagram, just Lazy Liturgical.

So it’s been great working with her. 

Theresa Kiser: These are great tips and resources in addition to this magazine. So each issue, it comes once a month. 

Lindsey Riesen: Yes. 

Theresa Kiser: Inside, there’s a theme. So this October was the Rosary and this December is the Light of Christ. So besides the craft, what can families expect? It’s addressed to their child, the child gets it in the mail, opens it up… What will they see and what can the family do together with the magazine? 

Inside Spread from OSV Kids Magazine

Activities for Kids

Lindsey Riesen: Sure. So one of the things we’ve worked really hard to try and do is provide some simple “activity” is not really the right word, maybe “game.” 

Things like Can You Find or Spot the Difference–stuff that you would see in maybe like the Highlights magazine 

Yeah, I think people will notice, like, that’s definitely an inspiration for this…a faith-based Highlights.

But we worked hard to provide, you know, two to three of those kinds of activities in each issue. And then we also. I thought it was important to include “In the Bible” section. So typically this is based off of one of the Gospels of the month and something that would be relevant to kids or easy for them to apply to their lives. 

Learning the Saints

Theresa Kiser: I like that Scripture tie-in. And the Scripture, the craft, there’s a Saint section… is there always the Saint section? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah. So every month we’ve got a Saint story and actually for next year, we’re going to mix that up a little bit and we’re going to be working with Megan Bausch, who, if you don’t know wrote a book called Saintly Rhymes for OSV Kids’ book line. And it’s just, they’re just really fun, catchy rhymes about saints that just give you a little taste of the saint’s life, but are fun. A fun prose to read to your kids. 

So we’re working with her next year. So the Saint story won’t be quite as long. It’ll just be these rhymes. And some of the rhymes will be from her first book and some will be from her new book that will be coming out in 2023. So it’s just another wonderful partnership. You know, the book has been so well received. We’re so excited that she’s going to be in the magazine.

And again, it just hits our age group perfectly. Just cute little rhymes. You don’t have to slug through a Saint bio because little kids don’t have the attention span for that, but the rhymes are just perfect. So, that’s what we’ll be doing starting next January. 

“Can You Spot?”

And then another favorite section people love is the Can You Spot, which is a beautiful illustration. That’s usually original artwork that we commission and we have a list of things to find in the artwork and we try to make sure the things that you find are relevant to whatever we’re talking about. So for December it’s a manger scene.

So, you know: find baby Jesus, find Mary find Joseph, find the angels… So it’s just a really nice addition in the magazine. 

Peek inside OSV Kids Magazine!

Theresa Kiser: I really liked that part as well. And and the book that you mentioned Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times is a book that I’ve heard so much about. And I have it in my cart now.

So I’m really looking forward to reading that. It’s one that has been on my list for a while.

 It’s also great to have rhymes because sometimes that can stick with Some people feel different ways about reading books that rhyme. But I love a well-written rhyme that’s good for your soul and good for your heart because it can just stay with you for so long. 

So, so that’s great. I mean, this magazine is jam-packed. There are also little call-out boxes with various definitions of things and little facts that relate to the month.

Reader Feedback

It’s all really well thought out and I used to love getting the highlights magazine. I think I would’ve been super stoked to get this. So what, what kind of feedback? You said you’re getting positive feedback. What are people saying about the magazine? What did their kids what speaks to their kids most? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, we, we did a big reader survey and we had a lot of response. And people pretty much loved it. A couple of things here and there that we’re gonna tweak for next year, but the games and the Can You Find are obviously really high on the list. 

You know, I think having that beautiful piece of artwork that kids can really sit there and look at for a while. You know, they just gravitate towards that. And then it’s a fun game on top of that, where they have to search and find things. It’s just like a win-win. 

They also love the craft. I mean, the craft is just blown everybody out of the water, so it’s just, it’s great.

Yeah. People love the artwork. 

Oh, we also have the saint card, which I forgot to mention, which tears out and it’s sort of a collectible that you could keep around. And I’m hoping that eventually we’ll be able to offer the collection of the year for sale so you could buy additional cards.

They’d be on a little heavier card stock. So you can keep around and almost like trading cards. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s a great idea. And it’s already on heavy paper. It’s on the same heavier weight paper as the craft. And I can see, if you really wanted to keep it, you could laminate it like other Saint cards are laminated. 

Reasonable Price

That’s exciting. So the price is reasonable for this magazine, which I really appreciate. And next year there are some other changes too. So we’ll be getting more in the magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah. So the magazine is only $19.95 for the year.

So that’s 12 issues. And we’re actually going from 20 pages, which it is currently, to 24 pages. And it’s going to have all the same great content and we’ll have the activity, the craft, the saint card, multiple game activities… 

And then we’re also bringing back, which if you were a subscriber at the very beginning, we had included a calendar of the year as an overview to help parents wrap their mind around what’s going on that month.

And we’re bringing that back in. We’ll have the month laid out for you. And then we’ll also collaborate with Nancy from Catholic Sprouts and she’s going to provide some hands-on ways to celebrate the faith that month. So for January, for instance, you know, talk about your Baptism, bring out the photos, bring out your candle and just have a concrete way to explore the faith with your kids.

What else should parents know?

Theresa Kiser: Is there anything else that you want parents to know about this magazine and about what their kids can gain from OSV Kids magazine? 

Lindsey Riesen: Yeah, I think it’s just important that in today’s world, parents are busy…The whole magazine started because I was thinking about my own kids and how excited they got getting other magazines.

And, you know, there really wasn’t anything else like OSV Kids magazine out there; there’s nothing like truly Catholic that they could get. 

And this is presented in a fun, casual way. You know, it’s not a textbook. It’s not necessarily curriculum. I mean, it’s based off the Catechism and it’s very, very faithful to the church, but it’s, it’s fun and it’s modern art. It has illustration styles that they might see elsewhere here. Now they’re seeing it in a Catholic- based publication. 

So I want parents to know that it’s inexpensive, it’s easy, it’s a beautiful, and your kids will love it. 

Theresa Kiser: Thank you so much, Lindsey.

I’m really glad that OSV Kids is making this magazine and offering it. It is unlike anything else that’s out there and it provides so much variety and connection for the kids with the liturgical year. So thank you so much for sharing about the magazine with us today. 

More in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club

We are going to continue speaking with Lindsey about the magazine over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.

This magazine does not take submissions, as you can probably tell from our conversation. So far, OSV has connections with various authors and illustrators that they reach out to. But we are going to talk about the difference between writing for a magazine versus writing for a book and, and hear the publisher’s inside-look into how they source all this material for the magazine. 

And so if that’s something that is interesting to you, come and join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. And for now, I just want to say a huge thank you to Lindsey for joining us here. And thank you to all of our listeners!

What are your favorite OSV children’s book? Have you read the OSV Kids magazine yet?

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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


New Podcast Episode: Teaching Kids Scripture Through Story with author Madeleine Carroll

In today’s episode, I speak with author Madeleine Carroll about Ephraim’s Gladness, an Advent/Christmas story with message from the parable of the lost sheep. You’ll hear about:

  • An update on my new contract for a book for adults (details to come)
  • Illustration progress for upcoming book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server – in color!!
  • Timing updates for Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, 2022)
  • Insight into one-on-one manuscript critiques and personal book coaching
  • Writing question answered: What is back matter?
  • How God inspired Madeleine Carroll during a time of grief
  • How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd teaches Scripture
  • How to WIN a copy of Ephraim’s Gladness
  • Where to find Ephraim’s Gladness
  • And more!

New Book Contract!

I have recently signed a contract for a book for adults on a personal topic I’m not ready to share yet. Unlike fiction, where you generally write the entire book upfront, this is a nonfiction book, which you query with a book proposal. Which means I have a lot of writing to do. I’m excited that this book is going to be out there (I definitely could have used it previously in my life), and but now I’m a little nervous for the writing part because it will mean some kind of raw sessions at the keyboard.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway


So as the manuscript comes together, I plan to share a little more about it. You can always sign up for my email list at theresakiser.com to make sure you don’t miss any announcements when the publisher finalizes the title, picks a publication date, and so on.

Picture Book Illustration Updates!

As far as kidlit goes, a lot of writers (and readers) sometimes wonder about the behind-the-scenes illustration/publishing process, so I’ll share some updates on my upcoming picture books:

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server illustrations are now in color! I gave my feedback to the publisher, and now the next time I will see them will be the proof, so I am just so jittery about what it will look like.

I’ve gotten an update from Holy Heroes, the publisher of my upcoming board book, Seven Gifts of Baptism. They’re expecting Seven Gifts to come out around Lent/Easter of 2022. I haven’t seen ANYTHING on this book yet, and can’t wait to see how it’s done because this manuscript had a lot of illustration notes. The illustrations are half the story for Seven Gifts of Baptism, so I’m kind of just waiting to see how the story will be told and I know they’re going to do an amazing job like they did with A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors.

Help for Writers

If you are a writing a picture book, you will be able to unlock a ton of resources and support in the Catholic Kidlit Writers’ Club, which is currently open for enrollment at a super-discounted rate, which will increase at the end of November.

What some people don’t know is that I also offer one-on-one picture book critiques via email and writing/book coaching via Zoom. I love love love reading the work of my fellow Catholic kidlit writers and helping to strengthen these big-hearted manuscripts for submission. It just makes me so happy inside to read these stories that I would never think of and are so well needed for Catholic kids.

I encourage any of you out there writing picture books to keep going and to listen to your heart. You’re writing a story that someone else may really need to read. So anyway, if you’d like some extra guidance, hop over to theresakiser.com to connect for book coaching or a critique.

Today’s Kidlit Question: What is Back Matter?

Finally, I’d like to answer a picture book question. Today’s question is: What is back matter? Back matter is the informational text/fun activity that is not part of the main text of the picture book, and is included in the back of the book for supplemental information.

You can find an example of back matter in my board book, Liturgical Colors, which includes facts on liturgical feasts and colors on the final spread. An example in a secular board book is in one that I love, Alaska Lullaby, which features facts about Alaska on its final spread. PBs for older children can include back matter as well.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server will have back matter, as does the general market PB Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert, which includes lots of information about the various backyard bird species featured in the book.

If you are writing a picture book, be sure to write and polish your back matter before submission to a publisher, as you should include it with your main text. All that said, many books do NOT include back matter, and that’s wonderful too. It completely depends on your vision for the final book on whether to include back matter or not.

An Interview with Madeline Carroll

Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce today’s interview with Madeleine Carroll, author and owner of Isaiah Books. Be sure to listen to the end for information on how to win a copy of her new Advent/Christmas book, Ephraim’s Gladness.

Theresa Kiser: Hello and welcome to the show. Madeleine we are so excited to have you here today. I’m here talking with Madeleine Carroll. She is the author of the upcoming book, Ephraim’s Gladness as well as several other beautiful children’s books. She lives in the UK, and and is here to talk about this Advent/Christmas adventure that you have for kids. 

So before we get into the book, Madeleine, tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to writing for children. 

Madeleine Carroll: Oh, thank you. Well, thank you very much for inviting me. It’s very exciting to be here. I’m very grateful. So yeah, I always loved writing stories when I was a child, and when I was being homeschooled, I always loved like English, essay, composition writing. 

Author Madeleine Carroll with her book Gifts

And then I wrote something when I was a young adult about the Resurrection and I just left it and then I trained as a Montessori teacher and a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, all around children’s formation. And then I was a nanny as well. And then I got married and I’ve got six children now, quite young. 

And one of my favorite things, being a nanny and also being one of six kids and having younger brothers was reading aloud. I loved reading aloud and my dad used to read aloud to me in the evenings, but also make up these hilarious stories.

So it’s kind of in my blood, storytelling. And, and when I’d been married for a few years and had a few children, I just decided that I’d love to actually do something with the writing and I can’t draw to save my life. So I was sort of searching out friends who were artists, and that’s how it sort of progressed from there. It was baby steps, and quite basic at the beginning, but it was a really fun journey.

Theresa Kiser: The reading aloud… with your experience, working with kids in so many different atmospheres, tell us about the impact that that has on the children. 

Impact of Reading on Children

Madeleine Carroll: I have a very chaotic household…quite loud! But it’s the thing that calms us down. In America, I don’t know if you know this author called Shirley Hughes.

She’s just a spectacular author and illustrator of children’s stories. And I grew up with her stories. It’s day-to-day normal living, fun times with the family. Ordinary events, but she just such a beautiful way of writing it. And then also her images are amazing.

So I always found when I read those stories, especially when I was a nanny…it just really calmed us all down. We’d just snuggle on the sofa and, and it was just a really beautiful experience. 

And even now I have these six children, but my fifth one has a few struggles. She has a very severe speech delay and we’re getting her assessed, but. Books! She’s just discovered that actually she can sit still for books. She loves books about whales. And it’s kind of really opened up an avenue, which I thought developmentally delayed as she, as she couldn’t find, but it’s quite worked a miracle as well.

It’s so beautiful to see how it touches hearts of everybody. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s beautiful. That’s a great gift to be able to have that. 

How Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Teaches Scripture

You were inspired, then, to create these books. What led you to this particular story of Ephraim’s Gladness? 

Madeleine Carroll: Yes. So I’m a catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is a really beautiful formation for children.

And one of its main themes is developing this relationship with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. And we are his sheep.

I trained for a while and then I taught in a little atrium near our house where my children go. But at the moment I’m not teaching. It’s busy at home, but a lot of my children go and my little girl, the three-year-old has got these struggles.

She went to the toddler atrium and for a while, and it really helped. It was just peaceful. And she loves the Bible. She holds it up. 

So the big thing in atrium is actually that you direct the children’s straight to the Scripture, straight to the authenticity of God’s word. So storybooks are not used so much in like the level one, two, and three atrium. 

But this whole idea of the Good Shepherd, wanting our children to see Jesus as loving. And there are so many beautiful images of the sheep over Jesus’s shoulders. 

Message of the Lost Sheep at Christmas

When earlier in the year just gone, I lost a friend unfortunately. She died, and I was working out in my head. I was just working through the whole process in my head and Ephraim’s Gladness is sort of this whole take on the Good Shepherd. Sorry, the shepherds that would go to the Nativity and find Jesus, but also the story of the lost sheep. 

So the shepherd who lost his sheep, he had a hundred, he lost one. He went off to find it. Then he wanted to go and celebrate with his friends.

Okay. So he takes a sheep back home. He puts it in the pen. He’s calling them all by name, you know. So it’s all this take on Scripture, but in my own words. And then he finds it, puts it in his pen, and he’s like, “I’m going to have a party now with my friends.” And he can’t find his friends.

He sees shepherds a way ahead of him, heading off to Bethlehem because of what’s going on.

So he follows them and then he finds the baby Jesus and all his friends are all there. Baby Jesus is in a cradle, a manger. 

But at the very beginning of the book, the shepherd Ephraim. He struggles sometimes with his prayer life. Like sometimes he’s just dry like I was, sort of in this struggle time, and he’s just dry, and it said he persevered in his prayer come rain or shine.

And so one of the images in the book shows the struggle on his face. So I was in my head thinking, “I’m just going to keep persevering through this stage, which is a bit dark.” And then you keep on praying, keep on persevering, no matter what you feel. And then at the end you have this amazing joy finding this Baby who is the King of the Universe.

And Ephraim was glad. So that’s how it kind of came to be in my head. 

Virtue of Perseverence

Theresa Kiser: That’s a beautiful virtue to teach: the perseverance. I’ve been told that: you make your plan for desolation while you’re in consolation, so that when you’re in desolation, you continue on doing what you planned to do while you were consoled.

And just that “keeping on, keeping on” is so important. And instilling that in children’s hearts! I’m glad that you’re doing that. And combining the lost sheep imagery with Christmas. I haven’t seen that done, but it makes a lot of sense. So that’s exciting. 

And I was saying it wrong. It’s Ephraim’s Gladness. How did you say it?

Madeleine Carroll: I called him “Ephraim.” I didn’t even know how you would say in Hebrew, really. But I just call him Ephraim and I don’t know, might be right. You might be right. 

Theresa Kiser: Who knows? The parent reading it to the child is pronouncing it correctly however they do it. Well, that’s beautiful.

And I loved hearing what you said about the Scripture, how in the atrium, you’re going directly to Scripture and at home, this book, it’s pointing them to Scripture too, just through more of an adaptation sort of way.

What age is this book for? 

Madeleine Carroll: I always wonder about that.

At the back of the book, we have the Scripture for the Nativity story and the lost sheep Scripture as well at the back, so that parents can then after the story, they can direct it and read the Word of God straight to the children. 

So the pictures are very suitable for a young age: three, four…because they’re quite endearing, gorgeous sheep. And you’ve got these pens and this really beautiful imagery of the stars and stuff. 

So even if you paraphrase the story, you can read it to the younger ones, but I often aim it around three to eight years. 

Like that whole sort of section. That’s what I do with most of my stories. I sort of say in that age bracket, but then you’ve obviously got the Scripture in the back so it’s kind of good for that older age group too, because then they can read what it actually says in the Bible. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s really useful to include it right there. You don’t even have to go look it up. I love that. So what message do you want our listeners to take away from our conversation today? 

What’s Your Message for Listeners? Joy!

Madeleine Carroll: So I suppose: just the joy of books and the joy of storytelling! Also just the joy of making up your own stories. And this is just a credit to my dad. He passed away a few years ago, but I was one of these six kids and I was in the younger age bracket and my mom and my older siblings would go off some evenings to these. meetings in the parish. 

And I was never old enough to go, sulking at home. But my dad and I would just lie in the bed and he would make up these absolutely amazing stories that had me in fits of laughter. And I suppose that’s what got me through, you know, that grumpy stage. So I don’t know. If you have a storytelling bone in your body, go with it, I’d say.

And also read lots and lots of picture books to children! I just love picture books, but seriously. I just think they’re great.

Theresa Kiser: I completely agree. And you are helping parents do that because Ephraim’s Gladness is not your first book. You have several other books on your website. And what is that website? How can listeners find those other books, which are beautiful by the way? 

Where to Find the Book

The covers… there’s a lot of nature that I can see on the covers of your books. I love the aesthetic that you have. And I think that, I honestly think this is just a personal opinion, but I just I think that the art is just as important in the story. 

And that’s what makes picture books so powerful is they team up the beautiful texts and the beautiful art together.

It can just have such a strong impact on a heart and can just stay with you. So I really liked the, the aesthetic that your books have and the heart that you write with. So where can listeners find more of that?

Madeleine Carroll: So my website is www.IsaiahBooks.co.uk. And I am a storyteller; I’m not very tech savvy at all. The website currently is that some of my books have been published by other publishers. And then I set up my publishing company, myself and I have been printing them myself as well. So what the website does at the moment, I’m sort of branching out as well. At the moment, it directs you to the distributors for the particular books. So they’re all the books are there. And then you get directed to where you can buy them. 

But yes, the art is brilliant. And I find when I find an art that…I love just going through artists work actually on Instagram and stuff. And when you find art that fits your words, it’s like so much joy!

Theresa Kiser: It’s like in Ratatouille when the two flavors come together!

So check out Madeleine’s books over on her website and she has been so generous as to offer a copy of her book to a listener. So check out the show notes for some information on how to join that giveaway and get an early copy of Ephraim’s Gladness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

And if you have been struck by the heart with which Madeleine’s writing. She has a lot more to share with us about her publishing. She has experienced traditional publishing, self-publishing, has created her own publishing house, and has written a number of books for children. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club, where we will be diving a little deeper into her experience, where she has some tips that she can share with you from working with children, writing for them, and publishing in a variety of different ways. 

So there’s a lot of knowledge that she has, and we’ll be able to learn a bit from her there. So join us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club and check out the giveaway to get your hands on a copy of her book.

Thank you so much for joining us. Madeleine, this has been a blessing. 

Madeleine Carroll: Thank you so much. It’s been great fun. 

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

What strikes you most about Madeleine’s story? How has the message of the lost sheep touched your life?

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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


New Episode: Engaging Kids with the Mass with Jennifer Sharpe, author of My First Interactive Mass Book

Thank you for joining me on this new adventure!

Engaging Kids with the Holy Mass with author Jennifer Sharpe

In today’s episode, I speak with author Jennifer Sharpe about My Interactive Mass Book, published with Ascension Kids. You’ll hear about:

  • Last episode’s giveaway winner, and this week’s giveaway
  • Illustration progress for upcoming book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
  • Jennifer’s inspiration from a neighbor in church to publish her work
  • Her unique publication path
  • Why interactive features of a Mass book matter
  • Where to find My First Interactive Mass Book!

Engaging Kids with the Mass with Jennifer Sharpe, author of My First Interactive Mass Book

First, Thank You!

First off, I want to express a HUGE thank you to all of you who have joined me in this new podcast and website journey.

This is a passion project, and the podcasting is new to me. So I’ve been incredibly touched by those of you who have expressed your enthusiasm on social media, on my website, and with me in person.

Thank you to those who have listened to the trailer or episode 1 with Kristina Lahr last time, and special thanks to those who have taken the time to rate or review the podcast as it gets going. That means a lot, and I really appreciate it.

Fellow Writers

To me, the most exciting part about all this is meeting my fellow Catholic children’s book writers. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again that this space is for those who write for the Catholic market, but also for Catholic writers whose books are for the general market as well. 

We are just getting started here on the podcast but it has been a real blessing meeting other Catholic writers, and I’m talking about both the guests on my show as well as listeners and those who have enrolled for 2022 in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. It’s a small market, and there hasn’t always been a chance to meet, connect with, and support each other, but now there is, and I’m really enjoying it. So thank you to everyone who has been a part of that so far.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server Update!

Every once in a while, I might share something about my own projects as well, and I’m super excited right now about my upcoming picture book Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server which is coming out in 2022 with Our Sunday Visitor. My editor just recently gave me sneak-peek at some of the illustrations, and I can’t even tell you how exciting it is to see my picture book text brought to life by the illustrator. 

I don’t have final say on the illustrations, so it’s a bit nerve-wracking, but I’ve been very pleased with how the publisher has taken my thoughts seriously and with how the illustrator is bring Arthur to the page. 

So I am looking forward to the day early next year, when your kids might to able to meet this clumsy and lovable little boy who just wants to serve God on the altar, but whose clumsiness continues to block his path. This is a book for all of us who want to serve God but have that *one thing* that seems to keep us from doing that well. So Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server comes face-to-face with that challenge in this book and we’ll see how it turns out, if he gets what he wants so badly, or if this flaw which is part of himself separates him from God.

So that book is underway with OSV Kids coming out Spring 2022!

Giveaway Tips and Tricks

And speaking of books going forth into the world, congratulations to our last giveaway winner who has won a signed copy of Kristina Lahr’s Candle Great Feast. We have another giveaway at the end of this episode so tuned for that, and in general, if you like free children’s books, just keep tabs on this podcast because I expect giveaways to be a regular thing, and this being a new podcast, there’s not a ton of competition yet. So keep up with the episodes and do your friends a favor and tell them about this opportunity, because I don’t know about you, but free and discounted books are my kryptonite. I love them, and I want your families to be able to experience the stories of the guests we have on this show.

Interview with Jennifer Sharpe

So this episode is about a book I’ve been watching for a while. It’s been on my wishlist, and now this last year, Ascension Kids picked it up, and it’s awesome. So I’m going to welcome Jennifer Sharpe onto the show, and learn about this unique and helpful Mass book for kids.

Theresa Kiser: Hello, Jennifer. And welcome to the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. I’m so excited to talk about My First Interactive Mass Book with you today. This is such a cool book that you’ve made and I would love to hear about it. But first, before we dive into the book, What about you and what led you to this book?

What led you to put it all together? Because you envisioned the activities, the wheel, the lift the flap. So how did this all come to be? 

Jennifer Sharpe: That’s a great question. Well, first thank you for having me on your podcast and super excited to talk with you about the book today. Um, Yeah, so a little bit about myself.

Conversion to Mass Book

 I think my background is kind of relevant to my whole story with this book. I am a convert. I actually grew up a devout Protestant and we, my family, we didn’t convert until 2017. So relatively recent convert. And it was just shortly after we converted that I started thinking about writing some books for kids. Basically the reason for that is because I wanted to share with my own kids that profound love and understanding that I had figured out from my conversion, with the Eucharist. You know, realizing that Jesus really is present in the Eucharist. 

And so I decided, well, what if I could write some books that would help my own kids to understand these things? And from there, it just kind of blossomed into writing books that are for all children, all Catholic children.

So, yeah, that’s kind of what led me to write the book. And then as far as the flaps and the wheels and stuff, that’s just the kind of style of book that I tend to like to buy for my kids. I feel like it’s very interactive and it’s engaging. 

Request from a Neighbor

I knew for one of my daughters in particular that it would really help her in the Mass. She was the one of my kids that was struggling a little bit to pay attention and understand what was going on. So I made her a file folder with the little– I laminated some stuff and the priest vestments and stuff and all of that, and put it on there and I gave it to her at Mass and a lady behind me was like, “What if you made that into a book that all of us moms could use?” 

And I was like, I don’t know how I could do that. That seems hard. But I told her I’d give it a try. And so that’s kind of how things got started. 

Theresa Kiser: Wow. That is amazing. So really, so I’m surprised how recently this was that you had that conversion and then you just kind of jumped into seeing what your children needed to understand what was happening and to participate. And you made it with such creativity.

That’s really striking, and I’m really moved by that. So once your neighbor at Mass suggested to make it available to more children, how did you think about making that happen?

Jennifer Sharpe: Basically, I made it for my daughter. So I literally took a Manila file folder and I cut it up. I printed out the basic parts of the Mass, and got some clip art and threw it on there with some glue. And that’s what my friend had seen that had sat behind me in Mass. And then at that time, I had already started publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing, which at the time was called Createspace.

Limits of Self-Publishing

So she knew that I had some familiarity with publishing, but this particular book, My First Interactive Mass Book, because it does have the flaps and the wheel and all of that stuff, it didn’t seem possible for me to make even as a self-published book, just because it had so many movable parts. And with self-publishing, there’s a limitation of your creativity and what you can do.

So I had to think about it, not in terms of what this book could be. Cause I mean, I had big dreams and that’s what I have now is what I knew it could be. But I had to think about how can I make this available to people because I could see that people wanted it, but within the limitations of Kindle Direct Publishing.

So that’s just kind of what I did is I played around with it on my computer and then I would get copies sent me and try it out with my kids and see like what worked and what didn’t work…just trial and error. 

Theresa Kiser: I love your dedication to making the tool with excellence in, in spite of the limitations that you had as far as what was available through KDP or Createspace.

So once you created the book, what does it actually contain? What is in it for parents who don’t know? What is My First Interactive Mass Book all about? 

My First Interactive Mass Book

Jennifer Sharpe: Okay. So that’s a great question. So it’s basically a book that is meant to help your child to encounter Jesus at the Mass. Oftentimes we bring our kids to Mass, especially little ones, you know, the toddler/preschool years can struggle to understand what’s happening there.

They may start to memorize the prayers. They know when to sit, stand and kneel, but they’re not understanding that we actually are meeting Jesus, you know, the God of the universe in the Mass. And so that’s something I wanted to bring out in the book. And so basically it has two ways that it’s interactive.

1. In the physical sense, it’s interactive. It has flaps that they can lift to see the symbolism in the Mass. It has a wheel they can turn to change the priest’s vestments to the correct liturgical color. It has tracks they can trace and it has “can you spot?” So in that sense, it draws the child in. Some want to use the book. It gets them excited about going to Mass. So that’s the first way. 

2. But the most important way I feel is that it’s also helping them to understand that symbolism and the encounter that they’re actually having with Jesus in the Eucharist. During the liturgy of the Eucharist, the book–I’m hoping–really brings out and down to the child’s level the idea that bread and wine is being changed into God. I mean, I think it’s mind blowing. And when I converted, I had these kinds of profound moments where I was in the Mass because as a Protestant, I had no experience with that kind of liturgy or with any kind of idea about it being anything more than a memorial. And bread and grape juice was what we had.

But when I saw what Catholics believed, and I saw it in action, seeing everyone process up and receive Jesus, I thought “This is mindblowing. This is insane. People need to know about this, that God comes from Heaven to visit us.” It’s just insane [read: wonderful] to me. And that’s what I wanted for my kids is to be able to understand that.

And so the second way I feel like the book is interactive is that through the flaps, through the words that are being said, with what’s written and the prayers and all the things together come together to help the child really have an encounter with Jesus. So that what the book is about.

Who should read this book?

It’s geared toward– I say ages three and up, mainly because I know littler kids sometimes might rip the flaps and I don’t want parents to be disappointed. It is very sturdy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very sturdy book, but little kids, sometimes they’re just, they’re going to rip it. But if you have a kiddo who’s mature, I think you can definitely use it with younger.

And I’ve seen on the reviews. People have said they use it with younger kids too. 

Theresa Kiser: I think that my favorite flap in the book has to be the flap that you open at the Transubstantiation, where it shows, you know, the bread and wine and you lift the flap and it’s Christ on the cross. That just makes it so clear what’s happening.

And you know, I haven’t seen anything like that before, but it makes so much sense to do to present it that way. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah, I think it’s incredibly powerful for kids. And there is research done about how actually lifting flaps and movable parts like that actually help the children to absorb the information.

Also available in Spanish!

So I just think I’m so blessed to have been able to work with Ascension, to make my product into what I dreamed that it could be from that first little paperback, which was only just a fraction of what I knew the book could be, but at least it was out there, you know, and getting started.

Changing Lives

It’s just such a blessing to be able to have made it into what it is. And that I know I get a feedback, a lot that parents are saying that it’s really changing the lives of their kids. 

Theresa Kiser: So yeah, it’s hard for kids, especially who are just more wiggly who need some kind of physical motion outlet… and in the middle of a pew, it can be difficult to get that.

But with the interactive features of this book, I can see how that little bit is like, okay, “I’m doing something physical, I’m moving this wheel, I’m lifting the flap” and it gets out that energy and allows the mind to participate. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah, absolutely. 

A Remarkable Story

Theresa Kiser: How did it get picked up by Ascension? 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah. I don’t know if this happens for other people. 

I know it doesn’t happen in general in the publishing world. I don’t know if it’s more common among the Catholic community, because the Catholic market is relatively small. There’s a limited amount of publishers and within the children’s market, it’s even smaller.

So maybe it does happen more often. So I can tell you what happened to me, but I don’t know if it’s repeatable. 

First I made it on Kindle Direct Publishing. I made a paperback copy and it had removable pieces for the different interactive elements.

So there were definitely flaws with that copy. It was popular, but there were things that were not the best about it, just because of the limitations of using self- publishing. They only allow certain books sizes. At that time, you could only do paperback. And if you wanted to spend a lot of money and have a lot of inventory, then you could maybe do something in a board book.

But for me, in what my budget was limited. So I made the first version and I asked 30 of my friends if they would start to promote it on social media. And I would just send out little blurbs and ask them to share, and I would share in different groups on Facebook and things like that.

And I did a couple of speaking engagements, basically just trying to market the book on my own. I didn’t really know what I was doing. So that’s why I’m saying, like, I don’t know if I have a lot of good advice about it. But basically after doing that, the book had around 50 reviews on Amazon.

And from there, once you get to about 50 reviews, Amazon’s algorithm likes your book more. And so it’ll start raising it up on the searches. And then the more copies you sell the higher it goes on the searches. So as it got onto those first couple of pages on Amazon, Ascension took notice.

They decided they were going to start a kid’s line. Cause if you remember, a couple of years ago, essentially they didn’t even sell children’s books. They decided they were going to start a children’s line and they wanted to do a second edition of the book and they wanted that to be part of their launching of their children’s line.

Too Good to Be True?

But when I got the email, I have to say, I was kind of like, is this a fake email? I actually went to the website and looked up the person who had emailed me to see if he was actually an employee there. Cause I was so surprised by it, but yeah, so they ended up just asking me if I would do a second edition.

Theresa Kiser: It had to feel like amazing. Once you realized it wasn’t a scam. 

Jennifer Sharpe: It was very odd. And I guess my story is a little unique because like I said, I wrote the book because someone asked me to. And that’s kind of how my journey as a writer has been. It hasn’t really been about because I want to.write so many books or that I want to get my name out there, build my brand, and all of that. It’s like I wrote it because somebody asked me to do it. And then so many more people were saying how much they liked it, but I thought I should get this out to more people. And so it was exciting. Like I came upstairs and I said to my teens–I have two teens. They were probably like 13 and 14 at the time– And I said, I just got an email from Ascension. And they’re like, what? 

For me, it was also hard in some ways, because I knew that by going with traditional publishing, I would be letting go of a lot of control and I was afraid like, would the content be what I wanted to be in the end?

Because I had no idea really what it would be like to work with a publisher. So, but it was, it was definitely exciting. Yeah. 

Mass-Bag Durable

Theresa Kiser: And how do you feel now that it’s out the way that they did it? It’s beautiful. It’s the colors are great. It’s sturdy, like you said. The wheel… This is Mass-bag durable.

And so how does it feel now being able to see that people can take this to Mass with them? Children can use it and it’s gonna hold up and it doesn’t require prep work. How do you feel now?

Jennifer Sharpe: Oh, I’m completely happy with the choice that I made working with Ascension. And they wonderful listening to me and my ideas, and making sure that it was exactly what I had envisioned.

So yeah, it was good.

Giveaway — enter here

Theresa Kiser: That is awesome. Well, we’re going to hear more from Jennifer about writing and publishing in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club. So if you want to hear more from her about that and her very unique path to publication with a traditional publisher, then head over to the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.

Ascension Kids is giving away two copies of My First Interactive Mass Book to some listeners. So go ahead and check out the giveaway information in the show notes. So you can join us and try to get your copy for a child in your life. 

And so I want to say thank you so much, Jennifer, for talking with us today and sharing about this really cool book that you’ve created and it has now come out with Ascension.

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Thank you so much. 

Jennifer Sharpe: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me Theresa.

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!

How do you keep your kids engaged in the Holy Mass? Have you tried Jennifer Sharpe’s book?

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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


Just 6 Days Left to Win a FREE Book!

Just 6 days left to enter to win a free copy of Kristina Lahr’s book for Catholic children, Candle’s Great Feast!

You can gain multiple entries by participating in the giveaway here!

This picture book for ages 4-8 is all about the love of the Eucharist! Join an altar candle as he discovers Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass.

Enter the giveaway here!

Want to hear more about Candle’s Great Feast? Listen to an interview with Kristina Lahr on the Catholic Kidlit podcast!

Are you interested in writing Catholic children’s books? Join the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club to connect with peers and published authors and to unlock exclusive access to interviews and information about getting your book written, published, marketed, and sold!

Learn more about Candle’s Great Feast on the Catholic Kidlit podcast!

Have you entered the giveaway?

Let me know in the comments!


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0288.jpg

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.Sign up for emails

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


First Full Podcast Interview is UP! (with a Giveaway!)

I am honored to share with you an interview with Kristina Lahr, the author of Candle’s Great Feast, which Kristina self-published in March of this year, 2021. We cover:

  • Her inspiration in Adoration
  • A message of trusting in God’s love for children
  • The heartwarming story behind Candle’s Great Feast
  • Her self-publishing vs. traditional publishing decision process
  • How she found her illustrator
  • Where to find Kristina Lahr and her picture book!
  • Giveaway for a free copy!

Igniting Love for the Mass and the Eucharist with Kristina Lahr, author of Candle’s Great Feast 

Enter the giveaway here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/90f1334e1/?

Theresa Kiser: Welcome Kristina. Thank you for joining us on the Catholic Kidlit Podcast! We are so excited to have you here. So I can’t wait to hear about Candle’s Great Feast and hear about what prompted this book about the Mass and the Eucharist for kids. So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to write Candle’s Great Feast. What inspired you and who this book is for?

What inspired the book?

Kristina Lahr: Sure. Yeah. Excuse me. Um, yeah, my name is Kristina Lahr. I live in Fargo, North Dakota. I work for the diocese of Fargo in the communications office. So: Candle’s Great Feast. You had asked me where I got the idea from. Yeah, so I was actually in Adoration back in 2017.

There’s an adoration chapel in Fargo that is by the cathedral. It’s just really, it’s beautiful. It’s huge. I just, I love going in there. It’s so spacious and very peaceful. And so I went there pretty often. 

Kristina Lahr got her book idea in Adoration.

At that point in my life, I was very discouraged about a lot of things. And so I like, should I stay with this job? Should I continue on with my writing? I just didn’t feel like I was getting a whole lot of success and the things that I was writing. I was writing, working on a novel and some short stories and a couple of kids books. 

And I was like, I don’t, I don’t know if this is really going anywhere. And I just, I don’t want to waste my time if it’s not any good, all those sorts of stuff.

And so, I went in that particular day of adoration and I was very frustrated because I just really wanted to see the fruits of my work. Finally, at some point, I mean, I knew I needed to be patient, but like how patient do I need to be? And so, I was just reflecting on that and looking at the monstrance and there’s these four candles that are around monstrance and I had just thought like, oh wow, those candles they’re there. They’re just there with Jesus all the time. And that’s so great.

And even though I noticed for the first time that all the candles that you see at Mass are on the altar are all just very plain. They’re just white. You know, they’re not, there’s nothing really special about them, but they point to Jesus.

And I just thought how, how excellent that was. And so really I wrote the first draft of Candle’s Great Feast just there, because the candles kind of like, what, what is their story really? How did they get to where they are? So, it was all in adoration and I’m just very thankful that Jesus spoke to me in that way.

I want to hear more about…what then?

After you had this idea for the candles, which is so clever…I feel like it is difficult to pull off inanimate objects or animals in Mass/religious book settings, because those kind of characters are so popular in secular books and they’re fun. They’re really fun, but it’s just hard to do. And I think you’ve found just such a beautiful way to accomplish that. 

So tell us about the candle’s journey in the book. 

Kristina Lahr: Sure. Yeah. You know, you, you’d mentioned about, it’s difficult to pull off those characters that aren’t human and I honestly never even thought about that.

Like to me, the candle was human in his own way. The general journey of the candle is that he’s in a candle shop and there’s all these fancy candles that are around him. And so he’s part of the bottom-shelf candles essentially. Cause he’s just the plain candles.

And so him and all of the candles around him see all the other candles being purchased and being praised by the people who come in and all the candles that are around him. The bottom shelf candles are very hopeless situation like, oh, you know, we’re not good enough. We’re never going to be purchased. We’re just going to be on this bottom shelf. 

But this one candle is very hopeful. “I know one day we’re going to light a great feast is going to be for Kings and Queens and servants alike. And you know, it’s going to be great.” And you know, all the other candles are like, “Nah, you’re crazy.”

So lo and behold, one day a priest comes and he’s looking for candles and he buys candles on the bottom shelf. The candles are all very happy that they got purchased, but then they get put in a closet for awhile and the candles are all upset about it again, like, “oh, this is even worse now we’re just in a box and you know, we’re stuck here now.”

And so the candle’s, like, “no, just wait, it’ll be okay.” But he’s also at the same time, like, “is this it?” too. And eventually he does get chosen to go onto the altar. And so he experiences being lit for the first time. 

I always imagined that this would be very special for a candle. Especially if he’s on the bottom shelf. He’s in the dark and then he’s in the box, he’s in the dark, but his purpose is for a light.

We are made for light!
Photo by Jill Burrow on Pexels.com

And so for that one moment where he’s finally gets to, you know, be what he was made for would be a big moment. So then he’s at Mass and he sees what goes on at Mass. He sees the priest proclaiming the Gospel and the homily. And then finally, during the Eucharistic prayer, he sees Jesus in the Real Presence and has this experience with Jesus too.

Theresa Kiser: I love that. I never thought I would relate so much to a candle. That’s touching hearing your summary of it and of course that isn’t even the words that you decided to put with it and the illustrations, which tell the story. So that’s really beautiful.

The Little Flower

It reminds me of the little flower analogy of St. Therese, which is a dear analogy to my heart because I love Saint Therese. I’m Theresa. And it also reminds me a little bit of The Legend of the Three Trees that are used. And I love this because it relates it to the Mass. I love so much about this.

I’m so glad that you made this book. And you had to, not only… I’m really inspired by the fact that not only did it start at a point of frustration and God said, “No, here’s this inspiration,” but also you ran with it. Because it is a huge undertaking, not only to write a picture book, but also to self-publish it and launch it into the world with you as the spearhead, without editors and ateam of people in the traditional route.

Let’s talk about self-publishing

So tell a little bit about how you decided to do that and what gave you the daring… What gave you that confidence and what made you know that this was so important for children to read? 

Kristina Lahr: Yeah. I mean, at first, so it was 2017 when I had that first draft and then it kind of just sat in my computer for two years.

Theresa Kiser: Like the candles and the box, huh?

Kristina Lahr: Pretty much. Yeah. So I was like, oh, that was fun. I’m glad that I had that experience of writing this. Sure. Whatever. But then whenever I would go to that particular adoration chapel–if I went anywhere else, I wouldn’t think about it–every time I went there, I just kind of had this prompting of like, what about, what about that story? What about it? It’s still in my computer. It’s still not doing anything. Jesus, I’m sorry. 

So eventually it was like: okay, I need to at least take the next step and see where that leads because there was still that question of: is this good enough? Is it just going to be a waste of time? 

I showed it to a couple of friends and family and they said it was really great. And so okay. But I think anytime you show family and friends your writing, they always say it’s great. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to make you to feel bad. And it’s like, I get it. I get it. 

So I found a children’s book writers group in Fargo. What they did is that they would bring a children’s book and print copies for everybody, and then everybody would read them out loud. So I was like, okay, I don’t know any of these people, so I’ll bring it here.

And so actually I used a different book first–one I was less attached to–just to feel out the group a little bit. I loved my candle book, and I didn’t want them to rip it apart. 

And so with that first book, it was really good. Cause they’re like, “oh yeah, You know, it’s…it’s…it’s okay. There’s good things about it, but it’s not quite there yet.”

I’m like, okay, I’m glad that you’re honest with me. Like, okay, great. 

So then, I brought the candle book and I was super nervous about it because it’s Catholic and I don’t really know these people and I had just a really great experience with them. Someone cried. I was done and I was like, oh, wow.

I’m glad I got to experienced that because she wasn’t Catholic, but there was still something there. She appreciated how you saw Jesus’s love for the candle and for the community through the book. 

And I was like, okay, great. I think there’s something here. They also gave me a couple of ways to polish up the book too. And so that was very helpful to receive that kind of feedback. 

Then from there, I really did want to traditionally publish. That was my goal. So I sent it to a couple of Catholic publishers. And I think in hindsight, I could have submitted to a couple other publishers as well.

But I wanted to make sure the illustrations were…that whoever was doing it was also really invested in the project. And also just kind of knew like, this is where the tabernacle is, this is how a church is supposed to look, and whatever. 

And so from there, I did, you know, submit to a couple of publishers. Didn’t work out that way. But I think like I could have submitted to more and at some point I just got the sense, like: “I don’t really want that, even though I feel like, I do, I don’t think it’s right.” 

So I’m like, okay: we’ll do this self publishing route, which is sort of just this…I dunno…big void.

Like, I don’t know what that means. I don’t really know anybody who’s done that. Where did you even start? So I just started with researching online, just endless: how do you self-publish? How do you…There’s articles all over the place. And, eventually…it’s a lot.

And I think you, you hear different things: you should do A, you should do B; make sure you look at this or that. And it just got so overwhelming. I just need to do something, I don’t know. 

Finding an Illustrator

But one of the first things is you have to have your own illustrations. So looking for an illustrator was my biggest thing.

And so Virginia. I met her through the Catholic Illustrators Guild and she was just delightful and I really enjoyed working with her. But I think one of the hardest things was really like making that commitment because it’s a financial commitment to pay the illustrator. 

And so, I don’t know who you are. We’ve had some good conversations and after I spoke to her in person, it was better, but still just nervous, like: okay, are you going to send me illustrations? Or are you going to take the money and run? I don’t know. But overall it worked out and it was really delightful.

I think that was really the hardest part of the whole thing was just making that first commitment. Once I put some money down, that’s it. There’s no, there’s no backing out. So that was the first step was doing the illustrations. And then I found a self publisher company Luminarae Press, which basically they do all the little nitpicky stuff, getting an ISBN number for you; putting the text with the illustrations; just making your book look nice. All those sorts of things. I worked with them and then setting up a website. That was a thing too. 

Theresa Kiser: Your website looks great and the cover looks great. It all came together really well. And I’m so excited that now children can read it. What age of children is this best for?

Who is this book for?

Kristina Lahr: I have it for like 3 to 7/8. But really it’s hard for me to have an answer for that.

Theresa Kiser: Up to adult, right?

Kristina Lahr: You can read it to your infant…

Theresa Kiser: Put it in the Mass bag. 

Kristina Lahr: I also think it’s good for First Communion, because you are learning: what is the Real Presence? What does that mean? In a different sort of way. 

Theresa Kiser: So what do you hope that your readers, your children readers, who open this book and read it and finish it? What are they going to come away with? 

Kristina Lahr with her book, Candle’s Great Feast

What do you want your readers to know?

Kristina Lahr: Well, first of all: that God loves you. That he has a plan for you. And if you feel discouraged in whatever is going on, in your family or at school, that it’s going to get better. And you know, just don’t be afraid to trust that God is going to be there for you. 

Cause I think that is a hard thing. Like, “I don’t want to be disappointed if God doesn’t come through for me.” But it is so good to be hopeful and so good to be trusting and to have that faith. So don’t be afraid. 

Theresa Kiser: That is such a beautiful message and so important, I think for our times. Maybe for every time, but I’m feeling it now, especially.

Kristina Lahr: Exactly. 

Where to find Candle’s Great Feast

Theresa Kiser: So where can work and listeners find your book, Candle’s Great Feast? Where can they find it? 

Kristina Lahr: Find it on my website: www.kristinalahr.com. It’s also available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon as well. 

Theresa Kiser: Awesome. And Kristina has generously decided to offer a one lucky listener, a signed, free copy of Candle’s Great Feast. So take a look in the show notes for information on how to join that Rafflecopter giveaway and try to get your copy. 

And also, if you have been inspired by Kristina’s story, if you have ever thought about self publishing YOUR Catholic children’s book, if there’s a manuscript in a box in your office that you just keep on coming back to and you want to learn more about self-publishing, Kristina has some tips and some more experience to share with us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club

So, join the writer’s club. It’s specific for writing good books for Catholic children. Come and join us over there and unlock access to the rest of Kristina’s interview as well as community support; potential manuscripts swaps; information about self-publishing, traditional publishing, writing good-quality Catholic children’s books. So find out more at www.CatholicKidlit.com

Kristina, thank you so much for being with us today. And we will look out for your book Candle’s Great Feast. Thank you so much. 

Kristina Lahr: Thank you. 

What inspires you in adoration? What books are your favorite for introducing children to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?

Let me know in the comments!


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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.Sign up for emails

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


Announcing: New Podcast…all about Catholic Kidlit!

Back in March I hosted a Catholic writing contest because I LOVE children’s books–especially those that lovingly instill the worthy values and human necessities like hope and love!

So I’ve been working on a project to connect all of us who love Catholic children’s books–my new podcast: Catholic Kidlit.

This podcast will feature interviews with authors, editors, and publishers who create children’s books, especially those with a Catholic heart, whether they’re overtly Catholic or not.

Check out the new (very first!) episode!

Check out the “trailer” episode here:

If you like it, let me know in the comments, or–better yet!–leave a review! I’d love to hear about what you’d like to hear featured on Catholic Kidlit!

***If you listen carefully–or read this blog post carefully–you might spot the planned title for my upcoming baptismal board book! First reader to comment with the title gets a shoutout 🙂 ***

Thank you for joining me on this new adventure!

What do you think about the podcast? 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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


Baptism Board Book — Coming Soon!

It’s official! I have just signed a contract with Holy Heroes for our second board book together! I love the way Holy Heroes brought Liturgical Colors to life, and feel very excited to see them bring book one to life too!

This isn’t your average baptism book…there’s a “twist!” I can’t wait for you to see it!

Contract signed for a NEW Baptism board book with Holy Heroes!

I’ll be able to share details about the title and contents soon, but for now I can share a few clues. This book has it all:

✓ Baptism

✓ Holy Spirit

✓ Rhyme

✓ Solid Catholic teaching

…and…

✓ Adventure (???!!!)

This book is unlike any Catholic board book I’ve seen. I’ll keep you posted with more details as I’m able to share, so be sure to sign up for updates to stay in the loop.

In the meantime, I’m very much looking forward to 2022, which is scheduled to see the publication of this new baptism board book (title to be announced soon!) AND Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server! Stay tuned! 🙂

“Liturgical Colors” is getting a “brother!” Looking forward to my new Baptism book, coming 2022, with Holy Heroes!

What’s your favorite Baptism-related board book? 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.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!


Free “Ordinary Time” Printable Activity

So I’ve never done this before, and I’m trying something new! Inspired by my board book, Liturgical Colors, I’ve been working on a project to bring the liturgical colors into the home.

I thought about liturgical flags, socks, and more, and finally found an EASY, CHEAP, and SUSTAINABLE solution: door hangers!

Just for fun, I put together a door hanger activity printable that’s perfect for:

✓ Families

✓ Homeschool

✓ Religion classes

✓ Catechesis

✓ Parishes

Introducing the liturgical colors is a great lesson to include in the first few months of school/catechesis. This way, when Advent hits, your kids are READY, and know to expect a change of color and symbolism. During the busy December months, you’ll have more time to enjoy Advent, prepare for Christmas, and USE the liturgical knowledge already gained.

Black-and-white and color versions are both included.

I’m making this printable free for your use, and if you like it, please leave a short review!

If you have any other feedback, let me know so I can help. This is a learning process for me and I have to admit that creating this was a lot of fun.

I’m hoping to make some more resources in the future, so be sure to sign up for updates to stay in the loop.

In the meantime, HAPPY ORDINARY TIME! ❤

How did it turn out? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments!


About Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), the board book A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), and the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. I love supporting other writers through workshops, writing contests, manuscript critiques, and one-on-one coaching. On a rare moment when I’m not writing or changing diapers, I might indulge in fruity teas, dark chocolate, and a good book.

Let’s nourish hope & love in young hearts…through books!