Tuesday, March 11, 2008

interview with Nana...

As the voice of Sheila Walsh rolled out of the speakers, reading the story of David and Goliath, I could almost imagine myself sitting at Nana's house, listening intently as she told me age-old stories from the Bible from the point of view of a little donkey or a little boy! Roberta (Nana) writes just as if she were sitting in your living room, speaking through the characters as though they were personal friends, bringing you right into the story on the wings of your imagination.

Way cool. I got the chance to ask Nana some questions. She is just a beautiful soul. She is so warm and friendly--I would love to be her neighbor. She has such interesting stories to tell about her own life. It's easy to see why her book is so appealing. She is truly a born storyteller. Here are her words:

Nana: It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to share some of my personal thoughts and experiences as a new author with you, Daisy, and the "A Daisy A Day" ladies! I am so blessed to see the work you are doing to help and encourage each other!

There are so many gifts lying dormant in the lives of women—just waiting to be discovered or understood. I pray not only that my book, Nana’s Bible Stories, will be encouraging to the children in your life—but, also that my personal story will be of encouragement to many of you as you pursue your calling.

Me: Your personal story is one of obedience. You didn’t plan to become an author. Tell us about some of the challenges you faced from family, friends, etc. on your journey.

Nana: Challenges do come, and they come often. Some years ago, I did a writing seminar, here in Barbados. I remember being so excited, as I did want to write, but up until then, I had only written articles for the newspaper, and a few plays for church.

The gentleman who read and corrected all that I had written scribbled all over them with a nasty little red pen. On the bottom he wrote, “You can’t write!” I shrugged and thought, “I have five kids to raise and I have lots to do, so never mind!” He was a very influential man in Barbados – in fact, he was a well known Pastor! Lesson to be learned in this? When God says you can do it, even a well known Pastor cannot get in the way with his negative comments!

Years later, when I knew God spoke to me about writing, I felt excited and flew home (I mean drove!) and started to write. I believe what was important at that time, was obeying God, and not listening to man!

Friends and especially family have totally encouraged me on my adventure, and this is really special!

Me: Unbelievable. Well, obviously this man was mistaken! You're a born storyteller. You have been telling stories to your five children and nine grandchildren for many years. Why do you believe the art of storytelling is so important…and why do children respond so well to stories?

Nana: Storytelling is so important firstly because you are engaging a child or children for a special time. I love to use my grandchildren’s names in the stories as I have done in Nana’s Bible Stories.

I believe storytelling is an adventure, and what you are doing is bringing children into the story. It is also a great time for cuddling, and being close to the kids – it is a time for bonding, and engaging their trust. I find there is not a child I have met who does not just LOVE having a story read, or told to them!

I believe that children respond to stories (if they are good stories!) because it is a time where they can listen to a story about someone or something else other than what they see and feel everyday, and many times can place themselves into the story – e.g. “What would I have done?”
While playing with kids, I love starting a story – “Once upon a time, there was a…” then I would point to one of the kids, and they would have to make up something. I would continue this way until all the kids had a turn, and we had a story! It was crazy, fun, and lots of loud laughter.

Me: It sounds like my house: crazy, fun, and lots of loud laughter. You all must have had such good times. I can see how the children would enjoy themselves. I see that your stories are told from the perspective of a child or an animal. Why is this beneficial to the child listening to the stories?

Nana: I believe that when a child listens or reads the stories about other children, they can identify with the child in the story. I hope that they will say to themselves – “I could have been that boy/girl!” I also believe that they will see how much Jesus loves children, and they were always uplifted and loved by Him in the stories.

I just love animals, and so do children. It is fun writing about them, and I know that God was pleased and loves all He created and He sure created a beautiful animal kingdom!

Me: Oh, I totally agree. Why Bible stories, though? Why do you believe it is important to introduce our children to the Bible when they are young?

Nana: I do believe, and it is also scripturally true, that if you train up a child in the scripture, and encourage that child to have a personal relationship with God, then when he/she grows up they will truly not depart from it. I have done this, and seen the results. I can truly say that all my children, and their children, know the Lord!

If we can promote the Bible as interesting, exciting, etc. then children will want to know the content. I want my stories to be exciting and truthful, so that my book can serve as an introduction to the Bible, and they will want to read more!

We need to reach kids when they are young, when their minds are open to accepting new concepts, characters etc. Look at how easily young kids can pick up new languages. When I was five years old I went to a Welsh school, where no English was spoken. I could choose to hide in a corner, as I did the first day, or jump in and learn the language. I chose to learn, and learn I did!

The minds of children are so open, and accepting. When kids learn the Bible at an early age, it teaches them great values, and greatly influences the development of their character!

I think it would make such a positive and wonderful difference in children’s lives if they were required to learn Bible stories!

Me: I think you're right. And your children and grandchildren are so fortunate to have you in their lives, teaching them truth through the Bible stories you tell. But what about you? I understand that your family has a rich history…tell us a little about your parents and grandparents.

Nana: My life was very interesting with the parents and grandparents that I had. A lot of it was wonderful, but there were difficult times as well. I loved my life as a little girl. My father was a big band leader in England, and we had two pianos in our house. A grand piano in the living room, and a small piano in his music room. Music was such a huge part of my life, and I remember performing in front of his friends, singing and dancing! I even went to a few of his performances, which was a great treat, especially when I went up on the stage with him.

My mother was very beautiful and made a few movies with my father. My grandfather and grandmother were the last Rajah and Ranee of Sarawak. My grandmother, who was JM Barrie’s inspiration for “Wendy” in Peter Pan, was quite a character—she was an artist and an author as well. She took me to many interesting places, many of which she should not have taken me, like scary movies!

When I was around 9 years old, my parents got divorced and I thought it was the end of the world. She remarried to an American Colonel, who for a while was my hero, as he could get unlimited candy, coca cola, and chewing gum! Unfortunately, he was not a hero and that marriage also ended in divorce.

We learn difficult lessons in life, and I can relate to many people because of the things I had to face, including World War II, and being hated and singled out for being Jewish. Through all of the pain and heartache, I loved my family very much.

Thank you for allowing me to share a part of my life and calling with you. If you would like to learn more about me or my book, please go to
http://www.nanasbiblestories.com/. You may download one of my favorite stories—The Butterfly and the Cross—the story of the crucifixion as told through the gentle and tender eyes of a butterfly. I have also included a special devotional for the story which you may share with your children this Easter season. Cuddle up with a child and enjoy!

Me: Nana, you are the sweetest grandma ever! I'd love to have you for my grandma, especially since I never knew mine. Maybe I can adopt you in reverse. Thank you so much for coming to spend time with all of us. Your stories are marvelous.

I'm going to give your book (and the CD narrated by Sheila Walsh) to one lucky reader who leaves me a comment on this post. All I need is a comment about a favorite story. I'd love it if it was a story remembered from childhood, but whatever works! Have a beautiful day, y'all, and good luck!

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