Author of Brynn and Amir and the Magical Map
Valerie- Today we are talking with Anna Cook about her debut early reader, Brynn and Amin, and the Magical Map. Welcome to BookWorthy, Anna.
Anna- Hello, so happy to be on here.
Valerie- So glad to have you here. Now to start, we have to take a deep breath and do our question of the week. And this week’s question is, what are your favorite things about winter?
Anna- Okay, so I’ll have to say my favorite thing about winter would have to be Christmas. It is, I mean, it is one of the only things I enjoy about winter. I’m not a big winter fan, but I do love Christmas. Christmas is the most amazing time of the year, the songs are not lying. So I will have to say Christmas.
Valerie- That is surprising since your family lives in Ohio, so you do get a winter. Down here in Texas winter is hit or miss. So it’s surprising to hear someone who lives in a winter wonderland doesn’t like winter.
Anna- I just don’t like the cold very much. And I don’t like it for as long as we get it. I like about a month of it, and then Christmas wraps up and I’m all set. I’m ready for it to be warm again.
Valerie- You’ve had the experience and are ready to move on. Well, fun. Now my next question might be a little shocking to some of our listeners. Anna, how old are you?
Anna- I’m fifteen.
Valerie- Oh my goodness. I love that you are so young and have done something so challenging and amazing. What is it like being a 15-year-old that has a published book?
Anna- It’s crazy. I mean, It’s challenging at times to like tackle both schoolwork and then
writing. It’s hard to balance both at times, but it’s amazing and it’s been so awesome to have this experience at this age and to be able to be given these opportunities that I know most people haven’t been given and so it’s been an amazing experience.
Valerie- What do your classmates think of your accomplishment?
Anna- They’re so supportive, it’s wonderful. It’s always so cool when I get to tell a teacher or classmate about my book. It’s just fun for them to when they’re holding the book and I’m like, I wrote this, and it’s just so fun to watch people interact with my book and know that it's something I made and I created. So they’re super supportive and it’s been an amazing journey.
Valerie- What inspired you to write a book at such a young age?
Anna- I’ve always loved writing stories. It’s always been a big part of my life. And so when this thing came to be, I was so excited about it. And I’ve always loved learning about other cultures and other countries. It’s been something that’s interested me for a long time. And so I went to a writer’s conference with my mom in 2021 and just fell in love with it and writing and the people. So it’s been an amazing journey, but I think the main thing was just the writing world and the people, and they’re all so supportive and amazing. And so it helped keep me going and made me want to dive into this world more.
Valerie- Brynn and Amin and the Magical Map is made for the general market instead of the Christian market, but how has God grown your faith in this process of writing a book?
Anna- I mean, it’s just, there’s so much faith that goes into it and I never planned for this. This was not something that I saw in my high school journey, imaginably. But God had different plans for me than I thought were there and it’s been great to just be able to trust Him and know that He knows what’s best and it’s going to be good. It’s been amazing to watch what he’s done with this and how it’s been able to help grow my confidence. It’s been an amazing thing to trust him in and I know that he knows what he is doing.
Valerie- It’s good that somebody does, right? Well, what was the most challenging thing about writing a book?
Anna- I think it was hard because I didn’t have a lot of experience or time. I was writing it in the middle of doing a lot of other things. I was in a musical and I was hanging out with my friends. It was summertime when I was writing the bulk of the story. So it was hard to go away and write, especially because I didn’t know if it would even be worth it if it was something I could do or something that was even possible. So it was hard to be able to pull myself away from the adventures of my life, but once I did it was amazing and I’m so thankful I did.
Valerie- It’s one of those things that even as a writer myself, I struggle with sitting down and doing the job and getting the words out. And so it’s neat to see that even I could maybe have done that when I was 14 or 15. Maybe I don’t know. I love what God is growing in you, not just a love of writing and great storytelling, but even just practical skills that you’ll be able to take on for the rest of your life, which is amazing. Now Brynn and Amir encounter a map. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
Anna- Yes, they find this map, they get it from their school librarian, and they go down to the library because they have to do a school project and so they have to learn about another country And so through that, she gives them this map to help them figure out what country they want to study and just get some information. And they’re hanging out trying to work on their project and they realize something’s not normal about that map, While they’re playing with it. Then they fall onto the map and land in Mexico and they have to figure out how to get home, and in the process learn about all the different elements of their project. In the end, they leave the place better than they found it. It’s a very fun adventure and there’s some high stakes and some humor and they play and have fun banter back and forth, bringing out the best in each other ultimately.
Valerie- Now of all the countries you could have chosen for the map to take them to, why did you choose Mexico?
Anna- I wanted a country that most people would have heard of and most children would know. There are a lot of people and families in the US who also speak Spanish, so I thought it would be a fun one to get started with, to get readers interested, and then if it does become a series, we can branch it out into more countries people haven’t heard of as much. I thought it would be a nice start to have people know a little bit about the country as they began reading it, and then further that knowledge comes through the book.
Valerie- Very neat. I think that was a great thought process. Now are Brynn and Amir good teammates at the beginning or are they unlikely partners in this process?
Anna- So they are not very similar. Brynn is quieter and she thinks things out. Amir is more, “I’m going to do it, let’s do it, let’s have fun, it’ll be fun, and doesn’t think as much before he acts. So they’re not a very likely pair, but they do bring out the best in each other and Amir gets Brynn out of her shell and Brynn helps Amir become more organized and pay more attention to what he’s doing. And so by the end of the story, they do level each other out a little bit more and help each other grow. So they don’t seem very likely, but they do good for each other.
Valerie- Do any of your friends or family members help balance you out in your day-to-day?
Anna- Definitely, I mean my Mom 100%, we’re very similar but she helps me stay level and a lot of my friends are a lot more quiet and reserved than I am so they help me know when it’s not the time to talk and I help them, you know, break out of their shell and be more confident and stuff, so I think it’s just that push-pull that you have to have with the people around you and it’s a good thing to find because it helps you be more well-rounded as a person.
Valerie- I agree. I think there’s a mindset we get into that we have to find friends that are just like us and that’s not what’s best for us. People who push and pull and test us.
Anna- You want to have stuff in common, but you want to keep growing with the people you’re around.
Valerie- Exactly. And that’s what makes you and them a better person. Even makes your friendship stronger because of those differences. Now what is the most rewarding part of writing this book?
Anna- Oh, seeing my book, like in a physical copy for the first time unboxing my pack of books. It was an amazing moment. I just kept crying, like I just kept looking at them and tearing up again. It was just so amazing and it was a moment I knew was going to happen once I signed my contract and stuff, but you can’t prepare yourself for that. You think you can, but you can’t. Because when you’re holding them, it’s just a completely different set of emotions and it was amazing. So, rewarding. It was everything I dreamed of the moment being and so much more.
Valerie- That’s so amazing. And that wasn’t too long ago either, was it?
Anna- No, it wasn’t.
Valerie- What’s your favorite book, Anna, other than your own and your mom’s
Anna- Okay so I would have to say my favorite book that I’ve read recently would have to be Fallen Leaves by Tessa Emily Hall. I read it for the first time last fall and it was amazing. It’s just the perfect book to cuddle up with a blanket and a pumpkin drink and just, and it’s everything a book should be. It’s cozy, it’s warm, and it’s engaging and just wonderful. You want to read it over and over again. Every fall just puts you in the right mood and makes you happy.
Valerie- Oh, I’ll have to check that one out. I haven’t read that one yet. Well, what’s the most impactful book in your life, other than the Bible?
Anna- I would say, oh yeah, so definitely the Bible, but I would say the most impactful book would have to be the Junie B. Jones series because those were the books that helped me believe in myself as a reader because they were chapter books. They, even though they were only like 85, 90 pages, were chapter books and so I was a ‘big girl’. I was reading chapter books and I felt smart, and it helped motivate me to read and feel confident in myself as not just a reader but my academics and everything. They were always so funny and fun and entertaining. Especially at that age, reading can be challenging. So those books, being as joyful and wonderful as they were, really helped take some of the pressure off. And they were enjoyable. I felt smart reading them.
Valerie- Is that why Brynn and Amir are in that same age range?
Anna- Yes. I wanted a kid to read it and feel smart because it is a chapter book.
Valerie- I love the chapter books that do just that. They build confidence in readers and are simple, sweet, and funny. They build that confidence to be like, ‘Oh maybe I could try that bigger book. It makes it more tangible.
Anna- They help kids believe in themselves. It is such an amazing thing to see.
Valerie- They do. Now I know you are fifteen, but did you always want to be an author?
Anna- I did not. This was not the plan. I mean, like I said, I always enjoyed writing stories. That was something I found fun, but I did not see this coming. When I went to that writers’ conference with my mom, I went mainly as a way to bond with her and I was like we’ll spend time together and it will be fun, but I fell in love with it and it was something I wanted to pursue and God blessed it and he blessed this journey and it’s been amazing to see what he’s done with it, and I am so thankful for all the opportunities. I’m so glad it happened, but no, it was not the plan or even the idea or goal. It was just what happened.
Valerie- Well, when you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up, if not an author?
Anna- Oh. So for a couple of years, I wanted to be a doctor because it was one of the very only jobs I knew about. And then I decided that was not my thing. And then for years I wanted to be a teacher and was very et about that. Now I’m deciding some things and there are a couple of other paths I’d like to go down, but when I was little definitely a doctor and then a teacher.
Valerie- Those are two very good choices, but I think God has directed you differently, hasn’t he? But I love that heart that you have not just to write for those young kids that might see books as challenging and hard because all kids start reading at different levels at different ages. And so even something fun and engaging. Engaging a different culture as well just really opens the world up to younger kids, which is amazing. Now you talked about the Junnie B. Jones series are there any other children’s books that are your favorite?
Anna- I would have to say Ali Finkel’s Rules for Girls Series by Meg Cabot. A family favorite for us. We listened to the audiobooks at least once a year in our car. We go through the whole series and they're just wonderful. I mean, still to this day, I find them so entertaining and I want to read them. I find them so fun, and I have no shame with that, but those books would have to be my favorite. They’re just so funny and there are so many good family memories attached to them as well, that I can’t help but love them.
Valerie- I think that’s the sign of a good Children’s book is it can be read at any age and
enjoyed. What is the one message you hope kids walk away from Brynn and Amir and the Magical Map with?
Anna- I hope they leave knowing that they can make a difference and they have the power to leave something better than they found it. I think it’s so powerful to see. And so yes, definitely just being compassionate and learning about other things and always being open-minded to new cultures and new things around you. Because once you have that mindset of being open and learning about other things, it changes you as a person. And so I hope they take that away and that different people are very interesting and you don’t have to look at it from a negative point that they’re different from you. That it’s a wonderful thing and that it’s an amazing thing that people have differences around you. And leaving places better than you found them and being open-minded to other things.
Valerie- I love that message and it’s so sweet to hear you talk about it too. But what can we expect next from you, Anna?
Anna- So I’m hoping to make Brynn and Amir and the Magical Map a series, where they go to other countries and have other adventures. So I hope you guys can see that journey unfold. But that’s my plan and why I’m hoping it plays out. So we’ll see, but that is my long-term goal with this series and how it steps out.
Valerie- If you could travel to any country that you’ve not been to, where would you travel?
Anna- Ooh, that’s a tricky one. I think I’m going to have to say Germany, only because we had a plan to go there in 2020. And then I bet you can imagine summer or 2020 what happens. So I feel like I want to go there even more now because I was almost robbed of that trip. So I feel a special connection to it, and I’m taking German right now in high school.
Valerie- Very neat. That is a country that doesn’t get enough credit. It is an amazing country with amazing culture. I think you would enjoy that trip immensely. So I hope you can go sometime. Well, Anna, where can people find out more about you and your books?
Anna- Okay so you can find out more about my books brynnandamir.com and you can find me on Facebook at Anna Kathleen Cook.
Valerie- Thank you so much for joining us, Anna. And thank you for joining Anna and me on this adventure and episode of the BookWorthy Podcast. Happy Reading!