Today we’d like to introduce you to Conor Dubin.
Hi Conor, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I started writing my book series after a phone call with a friend one night several years ago. She was going through a break-up and I felt sad for her. I started examining my own life and where I was with regards to relationships and I wasn’t particularly happy either. I started wondering if the pitfalls and lessons I had learned along the way in relationships would be helpful teaching tools for others and I started researching the ways we teach children about relationships. It turns out we don’t! There are really no stories for boys and the only story we teach girls is a fantastical princess narrative where the girl is always an orphan with no real passions or interests in life, she is surrounded by people that are jealous of her or competitive with her and there is usually an old person trying to do her harm. I figured there was an opportunity to change the narrative. I set out to write a series that would discuss healthy partnerships and the power of a choice directed life. As the concept progressed and the ideas matured, I began exploring ways of tackling the subjects of fear, love, empathy and gratitude. I never really set out to write a children’s book series, but as I continued to write, I realized all of the areas we are missing the mark when it comes to teaching children these important life lessons. I was also writing during a time when medical professionals were identifying a “Loneliness Epidemic” and I believe that our unwillingness or inability to teach children about all the necessary ingredients to healthy partnerships may have something to do with the growing loneliness epidemic in adults.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Like any great journey, some moments have been beautiful and rewarding and revealed to me the capacity of creativity. Other moments have been challenging and full of self-doubt and discovery. Ultimately my guiding premise has always been to really tackle the important topics we are not teaching children. For example, the princess narrative we read to children now seems to indicate that a person must wait for the right partner to “show up” in order to feel complete and worthy. That scenario has never felt right to me. The greatest struggles and ultimately the most rewarding moments for me have been when I have had to challenge myself to put on paper the purest form of my message within the literary structure of the fable. But when I am able to stay true to the message and have a breakthrough, it always feels cathartic. Kate’s Grandfather advises Kate in the first book that “finding joy in your life is your own work to do, a first mate’s first job is to share that with you and when the seas are too rough, most important of all, to stand by your side so that you don’t fall.” I have read these words to thousands of children all over the country and when I get to those important moments where I am trying to change the narrative and I see their faces light up, I know every struggle is worth it.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I think what sets my series apart from other children’s books is that it tackles important and difficult topics, topics that I think are necessary to teach but hard to understand. “Journey Through Jellyfish Island”, the second book in the series, discusses the concepts of fear and feeling trapped. I think there is a lot of that feeling present in the world right now and children’s books offer a vehicle for parents to not only teach their children but also absorb a lesson that maybe they have been needing to learn as well. Kate and Nate learn on that island that the best way to deal with fear is to set a clear intention and make a choice to follow that path. The book also explores the possibility that there may be outside forces that come into play when we set clear intentions. I also like to have fun with words and hide messages in the artwork. The third book in the series, “Princess Arainee and the Search for Pet Hamy” is about finding a lost pig named Hamy. Pet Hamy is also an anagram for empathy, and while the reader is following Kate and Nate’s journey, trying to find the Princess’s pig, the greater lesson in the book is the search we are all on to find empathy for each other.
Can you tell us more about what you were like growing up?
I had too much energy for my own good! Always playing with my imagination, building forts in the woods of Connecticut, there was a pond in the woods behind my house so I would spend many afternoons battling pricker bushes with my sheep dog Oliver going down to the pond to fish. I was doing theater from the age of six and exercising those creative muscles early. I was a big daydreamer (still am) and would record fake talk shows on my tape deck and play all the characters and do all the voices. I also really had a love of children’s books. I would get lost in the artwork of Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak. Those authors and their messages played a huge role in my passion for the art form. I also spent a lot of time picking prickers out of Oliver’s fur.
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