First, I want to congratulate you on your upcoming picture book, The Present is a Gift – it must be so exciting to have your book about to be released. So that my readers can get to know you, can you please tell us a little about yourself?
The Present is a Gift is my second book. My first book, A’s B’s C’s Oh My!, is an alphabet book with every letter associated to an animal. Each animal has an informative fact as well. I’m a social worker, father, husband and a lover of learning. I currently practice social work in a health care company. My role is to help support members utilize services to promote wellbeing. Part of being a social worker is helping people cope in everyday life and develop empowerment tools through learning about one's strengths and goodness. Prior to having kids, my wife and I traveled to different countries fully experiencing what the country and the communities had to offer. My first book takes you on an animal adventure, inspired by my travels. My upcoming book The Present is a Gift is inspired by my sons, reminding me to pay attention to what is happening right in front of me. I love how much I am learning from my children and wanted to share that with the world. I can tell you that an author is not something I ever imagined I would be. But thanks to all the support I am getting from family and friends, I get to pursue this new passion.
Without giving away too much of the book, (because we want people to go out and buy it) could you give us a brief synopsis of The Present is a Gift.
The Present is a Gift is about a teacher going out of the classroom and learning from mindful animals to help the students be more mindful in the classroom. Each mindful animal is practicing a yoga pose. Each animal also has an informative fact. Along with the lessons learned from each mindful animal the book comes with a practice page for kids, adults and teachers to practice mindfulness, which can be done along with the book or independent of the book.
Your background is in Social Work – what inspired you to take to writing? And why the genre of Children’s literature?
A few years ago I was working in a day program for adults with mental health needs. As a group facilitator, I learned about mindfulness and began running groups and bringing mindfulness into my overall clinical work. The group attendees expressed how much they benefited from mindfulness. The idea of paying attention to this moment with a non-judgmental attitude is so important. I actually never thought I’d be an author. I’ve always loved drawing and used it as a grounding practice. It has helped ground me emotionally, feel good about what I could accomplish and remove myself from all thoughts of the day while focusing fully on what was in front of me. I was inspired to write books once my first son came into this world. Since I was already drawing I decided to make a book for him. During the process, I sought out a graphic designer and ended up self-publishing A’s B’s C’s Oh My! Publishing has given me the opportunity to share my passion with my children and to know that they will have something lasting from their father.
What influence does yoga have on you when you write?
Yoga is an exercise I look forward to, but don’t get to practice too often. First and foremost is coming home from work and spending time with my family and taking care of our home. Therefore, yoga has become a gift I give myself when I have the opportunity. Yoga is a reminder that when we do something, we don't need to achieve perfection, we’re trying to feel balanced and gratitude in a non-judgmental way.
What are the advantages of starting yoga at a young age as opposed to starting as an adult? Children are sponges and teaching them yoga and/or mindfulness can help them develop positive self-esteem. I think adults would benefit from this book as well. We are all students of life. Children can learn the benefits of paying attention fully, without judgement of themselves. The book teaches us to take our time, be proud of ourselves, stay focused, stay curious, pay attention to details, be accepting of ourselves fully and let thoughts and emotions come and go. If children can implement these at a young age they can practice and develop into mindful adults with ease.
What’s your advice to writers who might also find inspiration in yoga?
Yoga is inspiring for me because of the non-judgmental practice. It is an opportunity to rid myself of all my thoughts about the day and fully focus on the present. Yoga can be used as a great tool to help clear your mind.
Would you say its easier for children to be mindful and present?
Children don’t have to deal with all the life experiences adults have. At a young age they are still open to exploring all aspects of life and are not necessarily set in their ways. From my experience, adults (even when open to being more mindful) have more barriers because of all of their life experiences. We can all benefit from a beginner's mindset but children are used to the learning experience and being supported in their learning by parents and teachers. The Present is a Gift is a tool to provide guidance for living mindfully.
Your illustrations are very vivid and colorful! Who is your illustrator? How did you know when you found the artists you wanted to illustrate your book?
That’s an interesting story. I am actually the illustrator for my books. I illustrated and wrote The Present is a Gift with insight and direction from my wife and our friend Tracey, who is also an elementary school teacher. My original idea was to hire a graphic designer to clean up simple mistakes and format my book for self-publishing. That is what I did for my first book and I just want to express my appreciation to Vanessa, my original graphic designer. Without her, I never would have become a published author. For my upcoming book a friend told me about Fivver and the different ways to prepare for publishing. I found Jorge Luis Barboza, my current graphic designer, and I'm so grateful. Jorge and his illustrator, Halirio, have taken my work to another level while respecting my art and overall vision. His support and professionalism are unmatched. I am so grateful and ecstatic that I can share my work with the world.
Tell us a little about your KickStarter Campaign. Is there anything my readers can do to help in getting the word out about your book and campaign?
My fellow author friend told me about Kickstarter and I decided to put myself out there. I believe mindfulness is such an important tool for bringing up our children and The Present is a Gift will make mindfulness accessible to parents, children and teachers. I’d love for people to visit and share my campaign. If you choose to support, you’ll be helping a book whose goal is to educate and inspire, come to life. Here is the link to my campaign Kickstarter .
Where can we find you online? Are you on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media?
The Present is a Gift has a facebook page, facebook.com/thepresentisagift81. I can be found on Amazon.com; amazon.com/author/elchananogorek . I can also be found on Twitter @ElchananO. I am looking forward to connecting with you.
If you had to persuade someone to buy your book in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?
If we want our kids to grow up to be more mindful people, we need to show them the right path! The Present is a Gift is a cute book that will inform young readers about mindfulness, benefits of being fully present in the moment.
About the author
Elchanan is an author and social worker with a passion for teaching the importance of embracing the positive side of life, living in the moment and having a happy and positive attitude. Elchanan discovered the rewards of yoga and mindfulness several years ago. He has fully embraced yoga as a positive exercise and has embraced mindfulness to achieve balanced living and deeper appreciation. Elchanan's mindset is helping him raise his children to be attentive, appreciative and mindful of people, animals and their surroundings. Elchanan was inspired to publish his first children’s book after the birth of his first son and has an upcoming book inspired by both of his sons. His first book, A’s B’s C's Oh My!, provides fun and informative facts about animals in a simple way children can appreciate and understand. His second book, The Present is a Gift, teaches children focus and mindfulness through the observation of mindful animals practicing yoga. Through his books, he hopes to guide parents on how to raise children with an understanding of the importance of love, kindness, gratefulness and respect.
Elchanan is a devoted father to his two sons, Leo and Oliver, and loves to spend his downtime with them and his wife, Allison.