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Play it Again- BookWorthy Chats with Crystal Bowman

BookWorthy Chats with Crystal Bowman
BookWorthy Countdown


Valerie - Today, we are talking with Crystal Bowman. She is an award-winning author of over a hundred children's books. Welcome, Crystal.


Crystal -Thank you, Valerie. It's so good to be here.


Valerie -I'm so excited to talk with you today and just see, I don't know, you've been a favorite children's author of mine for a long time, so it's kind of a little starstruck here. So to calm my nerves, we'll start with kind of a fall fun question. Pumpkin spice. It is kind of all the rage. Are you a pumpkin spice fan or not?


Crystal -I don't like anything spicy, but pumpkin flavor, I love. Pumpkin pie, my favorite is probably pumpkin ice cream because ice cream is always my favorite thing. Yes, yes. I've had pumpkin pie ice cream and it has little chunks of crust in it. And it's like, yeah.


ice cream scoops

Valerie -See, I knew we were kindred spirits. Ice cream, yes. I haven't tried pumpkin ice cream. I'll have to give that a try.


Crystal -It's best if I don't have it in the house. Let me just put it that way.


Valerie -That's true of any ice cream for me, but that does sound very tempting. Now, what is the strangest pumpkin spice thing that you have seen on the grocery shelves?


Crystal - Probably, oh my husband loves to experiment and explore new things. I think one time he came home with some pumpkin soup that I kept in the pantry for a year and I finally broke it out and it was good. It was really good. I'm trying to think what else. Pumpkin cookies. Oh, you know what another favorite I have I was speaking at a Mops group one time and one of the moms had brought pumpkin muffins, pumpkin, they only had like three ingredients. It was pumpkin and applesauce and a cake mix. Oh my goodness, those, I think I had four of them. So, two before I spoke and two after.


Valerie -Oh my goodness. Yeah, those mops. Those Mops groups always have the right recipes. They need to create their recipe book.


Crystal - We also had a package of pumpkin pancakes in the pantry, which never made it to the frying pan or the griddle. I think we put that on a back shelf, but I think that's probably one of the strangest things I've seen is pumpkin pancakes.


Valerie -That does sound very strange. I think my kids would give me a very funny face if I brought those out. Well, Crystal, tell us a little bit about when you published your first book.


Crystal -I published my first book a long time ago. It was 1993, I believe, and I self-published it. And those were the days before you could do print-on-demand and Amazon and those more affordable ways to do it. But I was doing poetry workshops in the schools. Christian schools, and public schools, I was doing workshops and assemblies and using my own material. And one time a little girl, she was in sixth grade and she said, Christal Bowman, why don't you put all your poems in a book so that I could buy it? And I went home that day and I told my husband, I'm gonna put these poems in a book. So it was, I had one of my, my oldest son was in eighth grade and I had one of his friends do some cartoon illustrations. And I put together this very amateurish collection of children's poetry, but I continued to do school visits and sell it through the schools. In one year, I sold 12,000 copies by myself, just by going to school. And so I just kind of got this feeling that maybe this was a direction that I needed to go and that God was opening up some doors. So living in Grand Rapids, Michigan was very beneficial because, you know, the big Christian publishers are here, Zondervan and our Daily Bread and Kriegel and Erdmans and Baker and so it wasn't long before I was able to start, you know, getting my foot in the door with some of those publishers I've written for all of them. So that's kind of the short synopsis and now it's how many years later? 30 years later and I'm just I'm so blessed that God's given me all these opportunities.


Valerie - Most definitely. Now, poetry, you said you had started with poetry, but on your About page on your website, you say that your first poem was when you were 10, right?


girl writing

Crystal -Yes, I was 10 years old and that's when I first discovered my love for writing poetry. I didn't know it was there, you know, and My fourth-grade teacher gave us an assignment. She was very, she was a fabulous teacher. We had 40 kids in our class. It was a big class and she was probably the only teacher that could manage that many. But she gave us an assignment to write a poem about something we love doing and immediately I knew it would be our summer cottage. You know, that's where all our adventures and I loved summer. And so I just started writing this poem at the cottage warm and blue, we go swimming two by two. And I wrote, I don't know, three or four verses and turned it in. And I didn't realize that was a bit of an ability. I, you know, I just thought, well, everybody can write a poem. And then, When my teacher handed it back, she made some very positive comments and told me that someday I was going to be a poet. I remember it like it was yesterday, and that was a long time ago. I share that story often to remind teachers and parents of the power of their words because you can plant seeds with those words and children believe what you tell them. You know the opposite is true too. You can destroy a child with your words because they do. They believe what you tell them and so she planted a seed that eventually blossomed and the really that book. She was in the final stages of Alzheimer's, but her daughter was my daughter's sixth-grade teacher. So to be able to share that with her and it was it was it's so cool to see. The great thing about getting older is that the more you look back the more you see how God is always working behind the scenes and He has His hand in everything.


Valerie -Yes, he's working and waiting.


Crystal - Yep, and it's so exciting to see when those things come together.


Valerie -Very neat. Now, what is it? You've also written songs for piano lesson books. So are you a big piano player?


playing piano

Crystal -Well, I play enough just to get by. I'm not, I took piano lessons and when I was a child and took piano lessons I would rather just sit at the piano and just play by ear. I didn't like learning to read music and so a lot of times I just shoved those books aside and just did my own thing. But I met some composers that I shared some of my children's poetry with and they were looking for a new lyricist. That together. I actually started writing for them before I even published that book of poetry. And when I do school programs, it's kind of funny because the children, even though I've written more than 100 books, most of the children who know my name, they know me from their piano books, more than the children's books I've written. But I don't write the music. I write the words and then Nancy and Randy Faber are the composers and they put my words to music. Once in a while, they'll send me a tune and then I'll put words to it. So fun. It's just fun to be in such a positive publishing environment with children and music.


Valerie -Did you always want to be a children's author?


Crystal - No, I never thought about it. I never thought about being a children's author. I mean, that just, it just, it wasn't anything I dreamed of because it seemed so unattainable. And what made me think about it was when I was teaching preschool. This was before I had children and I was teaching preschool. And those were the days before the internet before you could download a song or a fingerplay or a story. And we were living in Ann Arbor at the time. My husband was in grad school. And on a cold winter's night, I didn't want to go to the library to look for resources. So I just started making up my own. I would make up my own stories, my own songs, and my own finger plays, and use them with the children. And it was so fun to see the connection and how they responded to what I was creating and making up. And So I, you know, I started thinking about it then, but not seriously until, you know, years later when I started doing school programs and God used that little girl, you know, to tell me this is what's next for you. And the cool story too is that a year later, I went back to that school and I gave her a copy of my book. So that was, yeah, it was cool, so.


Valerie - In the last 30 years of writing children's books and poetry, what if, how have children's books changed?


Crystal - Well, I think they change in line with what parents want to teach their children. I think in the last decade probably, there's been way more emphasis on feelings, you know, helping children. And I regret when I was raising my kids, we didn't you know, ask our kids, you know, how are you feeling? Are you sad? You know, what, how, you know, to have those discussions about emotions. And so I think Nancy Tillman is the one that kind of launched this whole emotive theme, especially for very young children. On the night you were born and wherever you go, my love will follow you. And then I have some friends who recently published, um, our God is bigger than that. And this addresses fears. And then this is by Michelle Medlock Adams and Eva Marie Everson. And then I have two friends, Michelle Neidert and Tama Fortner, who wrote God, I Feel Sad. So we're seeing more of these kinds of books. And then in the board books, too, my daughter and I, my daughter's Terry McKinley, coauthors

My Arms Will Hold You Tight Cover

several of my books. We have one called My Arms Will Hold You Tight, and it's all the animals interacting, baby animals with their adult animals, and that one has been very well received because it's just love and affection and emotion and so we've seen an increase in those themes over the last at least the last 10 years because that parents want to reinforce how much you know they love their children then also in the Christian market I think you know we're seeing more of that too. Of course, STEM has been great, especially with devotional books like Indescribable and Willie Giglio's devotional books, looking at God in science and then a big emphasis on God's love. So I think that the books evolved to meet the needs of parents and what they want to teach their children.


Valerie - Yeah, I definitely love all the books that you've mentioned and it's lots of fun to see kind of what we missed as kids. I mean like this is what I wish I would have heard as a child and like what I wish I would have known and I think that that's really neat to kind of see that come full circle and for your parents to have those resources. That a story isn't just a story anymore. Very neat. Now, what is your favorite book, Crystal?


Crystal -Favorite book that I've written or my favorite book that someone else has written.


Valerie -That someone else has written. We'll start there.


Crystal - Growing up, my favorite book was the Pokey Little Puppy. And to be honest, I'm not

The Pokey Little Puppy Cover

sure why, but everyone loves puppies. And I think even back then, you know, I was, you know, what, maybe six, seven years old. There's a lot of, even though it doesn't rhyme, there's repetition and there's rhythm. And that's something that I connect with. I love repetition and rhythm when it's done correctly. So that was, that was one of my favorite books. And then I remember in fourth grade when we would, we could order books through these little. I forget what they were even called, what the company was called, but we would get these forms and could order these books. And the first book I ordered that I still have today was the Arrow Book of Funny Poems. I thought that book was so hilarious and little did I know that years later I'd written two collections of humorous poems for children. That was a long time ago, but I still get them out. I still read them when I do school programs. And so I guess, I guess you're drawn as a writer. I think a lot of times you're drawn to what you want to write. And I read, to be honest, I read more children's books than adult books, but I have written four nonfiction books for women. And I do prefer nonfiction. I like, Bible study books and devotional books. But as far as children's books, I love them all. I love all. And then especially the rhythm and rhyme ones, because that's kind of my thing.


Valerie - There's something just fun about the Rhythm and Rhyme books is that it's, you know, you get to get to play with the words just as much as the kids do. And so.


Crystal -Well, and they're very whimsical and, you know, appropriate for a younger audience, but babies are born with a natural sense of rhythm. That's why they clap their hands and tap their feet and they move when they hear music. And so little ones are drawn to text that has that rhythm and that rhyme and that's why they're so popular with board books and some of the preschool picture books.


Valerie -Yeah, they teach that, what is it, you know, both rhythm as well as just that starting to enjoy reading. Reading is, you know, brings that fun that music does as well and just really engages kids in so many different areas of their minds. So it's always fun to find them, what is it, even when I'm talking with my kids, we'll love to just play with rhyme and to go back and forth and a little bit of Princess Bride, you know, anybody has a peanut, you know, type of thing. But it's a lot of fun just to enjoy words and enjoy, you know, books with your kids too.


Crystal -Sometimes when I do school programs, I will, as I share my poems, I'll pause and see if they can guess the rhyming word. And they love doing that. They love guessing. A lot of times they're right, and sometimes they're not. And for little ones, I know I did that with my little kids when they were very young, when I would read them rhyming text and rhyming stories, I would pause and let them fill in the word. And that's actually how kids start learning how to read.


Valerie -Mm-hmm. Yeah, very neat. Okay, so what is your favorite book that you have written?


Crystal - You know, I get asked that a lot and I usually say it's the most recent one that I wrote because, yeah, it's the most recent one because it's like a new baby and you're just obsessed with it. And so I, you know, I've written a variety of books from board books and picture books to, I do a lot of devotions for kids and my daughter and I write for our daily bread. We write our daily bread for kids. And so those books have a different audience and a different purpose. But I think as far as fun, for me, it's just really these board books, you know, the little, my newest one is Good Morning, God Loves You. And I just, read it over and over and over again. But you know what, what's really, exciting for me and my daughter is to see the illustrations because we don't do them. We have very little input in the illustrations and to see how these gifted and talented artists can just make our words come to life and add humor and they add joy. In my latest book that I just mentioned, Good Morning God Loves You, I put a post, I think it was on one of my Facebook pages and I said, this should come with a warning that if you read this book, you will smile the rest of the day. And it's not just the words, it's the art that goes with it and the cute and she has animals. And so it's a very, very fun world to be in. And, you know, kids are exposed to so much darkness, way too young, you know, we can, it's really difficult to protect the innocence of children today. And so I think that's what Terry and I try to do in our books, is just to give them something that's just sweet and fun and innocent, but still with God's truth. It's a good morning, God loves you. Good morning, God loves you. And then that's carried out throughout the book. But then at the very end, it's good morning, God, we love you too. So, there's a message there. It's great for children to know that God loves them, but they also need to want their love back. You know, God wants us to love Him just like He loves us. So even in the whimsy and the fun and the rollicking rhythm and rhyme, we can still weave in a nugget of truth that's going to be impressed upon a child.


Valerie -Yeah, I think that's what the mark of a really good children's book is. It's not just, you know, A plus B equals C. It's there's so much more behind the words that are being said, that there's a truth that's being told, that there's a moral, an idea. There's something thick behind even just the simple words. So even when I remember when my kids were little, sometimes my devotional time was a little board book and I was just like God I needed this book this morning just as much as my kid needed it and so I think that's sweet that even just you know kids books can even reach the parents when they're in the middle of rocking babies.


Crystal -I have had feedback from mothers saying that I'm reading, it's like some of my devotional books for kids. I have the one-year book of devotions for preschoolers and I've had mothers say. You know, I read this with my child, but it speaks to me. And so that's one thing that I try to keep in mind when I'm writing is, hey, you know, I'm writing this so that children can understand it, but sometimes when in its simplest form, it's also the most powerful and memorable. And so we're writing for two audiences, you know when I'm writing for children, I'm also writing for that person who's reading it. And it's just a joy to hear from adults benefiting from reading these devotions to their children.


Valerie -Yeah, that's what's been super fun with my kids too, is we do a devotional time every night and it's just been like, huh, I needed that. I didn't know I needed that, but I needed that.


Crystal -Yeah, and as writers, we need it too. There are times I know this, when I was working on a devotional book, one of the editors, when she sent something back to me, she said, oh my goodness, I needed this today. And I said, so did I.


Valerie -Too fun. Okay, so what are you reading right now?


Crystal - Well, I'm reading a lot of children's books because I'm trying to get my reviews. I'm

Good Morning God Loves you Bowman

asking friends to write reviews for Good Morning God Loves You. And then I, in return, I say, I'll do the same thing for you. You know, you do this paper for me, I'll do it for you. And so one of my friends just sent me a nonfiction book for adults. And so it's gonna take me a while to read that one. But I like reading, like I said, mostly devotional books. I'm reading Experiencing the Presence of God by, what is it, Chris Tigreen. And then I get, you know, I get gift books from the publisher sometimes for Christmas or birthday. And so I always keep them by my on my nightstand and pick one up. And I like books that I can just pick up and put down, you know, read a few. So I guess that's why I'm drawn to devotional books. But I do have some friends who write fiction and I keep promising them, one of these days I'm gonna read one of your books.


Valerie -I know I have was it a book club that I'm a part of I don't think I've ever been stretched as far as in my reading just because I tend to stick with children's books and middle-grade books just because that's what I'm writing and that's what I'm trying to read alongside with my kids just to make sure that hey if there's a conversation we need to have that we can have a conversation and so it's like oh there are books outside of middle grade and children's books.


Crystal -Well, and also if I've been on a computer all day writing, usually at night I don't feel like reading. You know, if I've been creating and writing all day, reading isn't a break for me. It's hard to explain but so and I stopped watching television about six months ago and it's changed my life. And so what I've been doing in the evening when the computers are off and maybe I'm not I don't not in the mood to pick up a book is I've been coloring you know with

Coloring book

colored pencils and it is so relaxing and so fun and I can see you know because at first when they came out with these adult coloring books I'm like Oh, right. Well, I can see why they are so popular and what a relaxing and enjoyable. And I don't do it to produce some masterpiece. My sister is good at it and she does these meticulous pieces and she'll show me sometimes. I'm like, okay, I sometimes pick up kids' coloring books and I color in those. But it's just that it allows my mind to relax and just especially like I say if I've been writing all day, and what I love about writing devotions is it keeps me in the word all day too. And so sometimes at night I just need something different but I don't want to.



Crystal - Like I say, this is not judgmental for anyone who watches TV by any means, but I just, I wasn't benefiting from it. And I found that it was setting me more, than relaxing me. So I cut that cable and got some colored pencils and that's my new hobby.


Valerie -I love it, you know, what is it? When my kids want to color with me, they're like, Mom, we're only gonna color for this long. Because I will sit there and I will like, okay, we're gonna color for the rest of the day. Good deal. Well, Crystal, what do you have coming out next?


Crystal-Well, as we have already talked about, Good Morning, God Loves You isn't even a month old yet. So that's still my new baby. But I have, what do I have coming out next? Next year, 2024, I have a new Bible storybook coming out. I co-authored it with one of my author friends the stories are all gonna focus on compassion. They're gonna, we're pulling Bible stories that deal with compassion, either God's compassion with his people, or like the Good Samaritan, or stories where people show compassion to others. So I'm excited about that. That's a little bit different from something I've done before, and it's with end-game press excited about that. And then my daughter and I just completed an Easter story for Tyndale. One of our books, man, it's been quite a few years already now, is M is for the manager. And it's still out there. It tells, it uses the alphabet to tell the Christmas story in chronological order, which has not been done before, at least to our knowledge. And so Tindil is our publisher for that, and they came to us and they said, we'd like you to use the same concept where you use the alphabet and tell the Easter story in chronological order. That was challenging, but we felt the Holy I can do this on my own, you know, without the help of the Holy Spirit. And you know, when God calls us, he also equips us. So we worked on that and now it's in the hands of an illustrator. It won't be out in time for this next Easter. It's a little bit too much of a crunch to get it out. So it would be 2025, which seems so far away, but it's probably not. So.


Valerie -Right. It'll be here before we know it.


Valerie Fentress and Crystal Bowman

Crystal - So working on that and then I'm also starting to do a lot of coaching. I love mentoring and coaching children's writers and I do some freelance editing for children's writers as well as a few publishing houses. So that's kind of fun to jump into that role and walk the side. Writers who have talent and they've got what it takes but they don't have 30 years of experience. So I love mentoring young writers and helping them, sharing my experience, and helping them learn and grow just like I had to do when I started.


Valerie -That's so amazing. I know I have benefited from your knowledge and editing skills too. So I know you've helped me learn a lot too, which I am so thankful for, and kind of made a love for rhyming for me.


Crystal -Rhyming is a lot harder than what people think. Yeah. No, it's... Well, you know, when you read it, it looks easy, but then if you try to write it in a... I know a lot of writers...


Valerie -They really- yeah, it seems easy, but no, there's a lot to it.


Crystal -They force their rhymes, they think of two words that rhyme and they go, oh, this will work. And then they use this awkward language. And so it's, first of all, it's an ability that you have to have. Your brain has to be wired for that. You know, there, I could take all the art lessons in the world and I'll never be an artist. I just, I'm not, that's not a gift that God's given me. So first of all, you have to have the ability to write in rhyme and then you have to master it. So, that takes, a lot of years, but it can be done. It can be done. There are some really good children's authors out there that write in rhyme and they do a very good job.


Valerie -Yes. Now, Crystal, where can people find out more about you and your books?


Crystal - My website is just my name that's crystal with a C. in B-O-W-M-A-N. I'm on Facebook. You can find me on Facebook. I'm on Instagram, Crystal Bowman author, but I have to confess I forgot that I have an Instagram account so I'm not active. But I have for Crystal Bowman, I have an author page. For Facebook, I have an author page and a personal page. So if you just type in my name, you'll find me. And I love to with writers. I love to connect with parents. So please reach out and I'd love to connect.


Valerie - So fun. Well, we have enjoyed having you here with us today and so, so thankful for your time and all the work that you put into providing amazing books just to encourage the heart of both kids and parents.


Crystal -Well, thank you so much for having me be a guest. I appreciate it. As we chatted before we started recording, I don't think I'll ever be the host. I prefer to be the guest. So I appreciate the opportunity to be on your program. And I just wish you the best as you reach little ones and families for Jesus because that's our greatest calling.


Valerie -Yes ma'am and I'll have you back anytime, Crystal. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining Crystal and me on this episode of the Bookworthy Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes for any books or links that we discussed and hit the like and subscribe button to help us discover more great books together.

Happy reading.

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