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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Author and Physician, Heather Manley, Discusses Her Human Body Detectives Educational Series For Children.

The guest today is Heather Manley, and her children’s books serve a very important purpose. Before we discover her books, Heather is going to let us know a little about her, and why she has created her books.

I am a mom, naturopathic physician (I graduated form the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon), in which my primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. I am also the creator and author of Human Body Detectives, an educational series of story-telling books and smart phone and iPad apps. I promote wellness and naturopathic healthcare on my website I presently live on the Big Island of Hawaii with my husband and two daughters, and currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure.

Tell us about the genre of your work. 

I, happily and excitedly, write for the children’s’ book market for ages 6 to 10.

Why did you choose this genre?

I created the HBD book series, and subsequently the curriculum, after spending time in my children’s preschool and elementary classrooms teaching about the digestive system and nutrition. The kids were so enthusiastic and excited about learning about their bodies that it led me to search for books about the human body, healthy eating, and food choices. In my search for books and resources, I discovered few books out there promoting kids’ health in an unconventional way, and none designed to teach kids about health by focusing on specific body systems. I wanted to fill that void in the marketplace, hence HBD was born.

What are some of your books, stories that have been published?

I have 3 published stories (available in retail, eBook and smart phone and iPad apps formats).

HBD: The Lucky Escape: An Imaginative Journey Through the Digestive System.

HBD: Battle with the Bugs: An Imaginative Journey Through the Immune System.

HBD: A Heart Pumping Adventure: An Imaginative Journey Through the Circulatory System.

What ages do you direct your books?

I write for children between the ages of 6 and 10.

Tell us about your books.

Originally the series was available on audio with activity workbooks and stickers, but I launched a new version in storybook format (new cover and look), eBooks and iPhone/iPad apps this June/July.  I am also working on extensive lesson plans - with a woman who has a masters in education - for an elementary school science curriculum (HBD Goes to School).

The Lucky Escape

Merrin and Pearl’s little brother Robbie has swallowed a penny! Through magic and imagination, they find themselves on an adventure through his digestive system where they must grab the penny, save Robbie and narrowly escape his poopy diaper. Through their journey down the esophagus, into the stomach, and through the intestines, the girls experience some close calls – like almost being squirted with hydrochloric acid and being bumped by gas bubbles. Their encounters force them to learn firsthand all about the digestive system, and why it is so important to eat healthy foods.

Battle With the Bugs

Merrin and Pearl’s little cousin Max is sick, threatening everyone’s Mexican holiday. This time the girls find themselves in Max’s body, witnessing firsthand the immune system in action. They befriend a white blood cell warrior who leads them into battle against the offending bacteria, and listeners learn why it is important not to eat candy and sugar when you have an illness – it can fuel bacteria and viruses and make you feel sicker.

A Heart Pumping Adventure

While eating a breakfast with her dad, Merrin wonders about her father’s eating habits and the condition of his heart. Suddenly, Merrin and Pearl find themselves riding on a red, pillowy, donut-shaped boat, floating on a red colored sea, and surrounded by hundreds of grape-like things! Where are the girls and where are they headed? Through their adventures, we learn about the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats – and why the girls’ dad needs to eat more nuts and salads.

They will be available on Amazon, the Human Body Detectives site, and various stores and doctors’ offices.

Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?

Yes! However, what is so wonderful about the series is that kids do not even realize they are learning. My goals are for students:

·    Have a basic understanding on how each body system functions, how they work independently, yet are dependent on each other to function optimally.
·    Understand the important role nutrition plays in having a healthy body.

On the Human Body Detectives website, we have a Healthy Kids tab that directs people to the kids cooking show. Merrin and Pearl (and some of their friends) cook up simple nutritious snacks and meals. I really like the idea of “kids teaching kids” approach. I believe that it makes more of an impact on children’s’ attitudes towards healthy eating.

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

My children, Merrin and Pearl, inspired me as well as their classmates.

The first book in the series, HBD: The Lucky Escape, is through the digestive system. I decided to write about this system first as it sets the stage - with absorption of nutrients - for the other systems.

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books (If you have more that one)?

I highlighted the personality of my children, which help build the characters in the stories. Merrin is studious, Pearl is adventurous, and both of them are curious.

Is there a unique character or a recurring character if you have more than one published or to be published book?

My books are a series, so they main characters, Merrin and Pearl, are in every story. I bring in other characters to add some dimension and excitement.

What is your favorite thing about your book/s?

I love that I have created an entertaining, engaging yet education series. Moreover, given the recent media attention regarding childhood obesity and health awareness – as a naturopathic physician, I realized that if kids had a better understanding of how the food they eat plays a direct role in how their bodies function, they would be more inclined to make healthy food choices. Kids do not even realize they are learning as they read or listen to the stories. I just love this!

Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience?

I have worked with an illustrator in Argentina but my amazing graphic artist has done wonders with the images and implementing them in the books.

How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?

Writing in my genre allows me to get inside a kids mind and really think as they do. What can they learn? And what do they want to learn? While I am writing about the science of the body, I feel that it is very important to keep it basic and simple to allow the kids to be engaged so that they will learn something and inspire them to seek out more information on the topic.

Are there any problems in getting children’s’ books published? 

I went down the avenue of seeking agents and publishers, however, there was such an avid interest from teachers and parents that I decided to take it on myself. I am so happy that I have. I love the creative freedom! Although at some point, I would like to partner up. Many people ask me for DVDs and other product extensions but it is hard for me to keep up with that.

What is your writing schedule?

At the moment, I am marketing the series but I plan to begin writing again in the fall – I miss writing so much!  In the past, I have spent a few hours in the morning writing down ideas and key medical points for the story and then I will just begin writing. It maybe a little backwards but I like to just get writing as you can always edit!

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

Future HBD adventures include new journeys through the nervous and muscular human body systems and diseases (especially diseases that commonly affect children like diabetes, leukemia, allergies, obesity, asthma, etc.). I believe that providing children with a new approach to learning how diseases function in the body gives them not only a better awareness of their health but a deeper compassion for children who are sick.

What kind of advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published?

I think it is all about being passionate, persistent and having patience. Dr. Phil once said, “Just put it all on the line and see what happens.” I keep this quote close because I think it is important to keep yourself open to all possibilities to let the world see what you have to offer.

Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?

The best thing I did was join a writers group. They are wonderful, honest, and non-judgmental.

Another tip is to begin writing a blog or create a Facebook and/or twitter page. It is a perfect outlet to introduce yourself to many people - potential readers, agents, and publishers – and allows a connection to be made and established.  I have met the most amazing people that I feel honored to know.

What do you do when you are not writing? 

I am playing with my kids. They are growing up so fast, so when we have time together we will go to the beach, hike, have lunch and movie dates. We also enjoy looking at maps and planning out holidays to faraway places.

Anything else you would like to add?

One thing that I like to do when I am writing is to read and edit at different times of the day. I may write for an hour in the morning and then read it before bed. I feel that it allows a different perspective and possibly add a new creative thought.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

Big Island, Hawaii
The best “made it” moments are when people email me, tweet or comment on Facebook about how much they love the series. They will tell me how they (parents) even learned something and how their kids have made more of an effort to try new foods.

Want to learn more about the author and her books, check out these links:

Twitter @drheathernd 

Become a fan of HBD on facebook!

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