Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey in writing.
A: I’m a homeschooling mom with four children, and I’m the author of twelve Catholic children’s books (ten currently available, and two more forthcoming after the new year). I also write articles for various Catholic publications.
My journey as an author began in first grade, when my older sister’s teacher encouraged me to show her the stories I’d written. They were not particularly great stories—I still have some of them and can attest to their mediocrity! But she gushed over them nonetheless, and her enthusiasm made me want to keep writing.
As I got older, I felt called to teach, so I got a degree in education. One of my professors in the education department had a great love of picture books. “Enthusiasm for reading is caught, not taught,” she used to say, and then she proved it. Her enthusiasm became my own passion. I fell in love with picture books. Reading them aloud with students became one of my favorite parts of teaching.
After teaching elementary and middle school for five years, I felt called to study theology, so I moved to Steubenville and entered the graduate theology program. That’s when I began dreaming of writing Catholic picture books. I was fascinated with what I was learning and wanted to share it with children.
The idea stayed with me for a long time, and about ten years later, I wrote the manuscript for my first book. By then, I was a homeschooling mom, and my love for picture books had only grown as my children grew. My vocation as a writer combined everything I had been drawn to throughout my life: Scripture, education, and picture books. It has been immensely rewarding to be involved in these projects that are so dear to my heart.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your latest children's book, Seven Clues: A Catholic Treasure Hunt?
A: Seven Clues is a picture book about three siblings who receive a mysterious invitation and a box on their doorstep. The box contains a scroll with seven clues, which the children decode one by one. With each clue, the children come closer to an exciting discovery about their faith, and readers solve the puzzles along with the characters to find out where the invitation leads. Ultimately, this treasure hunt brings the children to a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith in a delightful and captivating way.
Q: Can you take us to the moment when you were inspired to write it?
A: I can take you back to the moment when I first dreamed of writing Catholic picture books inspired by Dr. Hahn’s theology! Two decades ago, when I was a graduate student in theology, I sat in Dr. Hahn’s class and marveled at the amazing theology I was learning for the first time. As a teacher, I immediately wanted to share these fascinating concepts with children. I envisioned writing picture books that brought these eternal truths to young readers. At the time, I even told Dr. Hahn about my ideas, and he encouraged me with great kindness. Now, as my tenth Catholic picture book is released, and is co-authored with Dr. Hahn, it feels like that first moment of inspiration has come full circle. I’m deeply grateful to be, as Mother Teresa would say, “a pencil in the hand of God.”
Q: How did Dr. Scott Hahn come to be involved in the project?
A: The editor of this project at Loyola Press, Gary Jansen, worked with Dr. Hahn on some of his previous books, like Signs of Life and The Fourth Cup. So, he knows him well, and he invited Dr. Hahn to do this project. In addition, eight of my books are published through the institute Dr. Hahn founded, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, so I’m very familiar with Dr. Hahn’s work. Gary arranged to bring us together as co-authors.
Q: What makes this story unique?
A: Annie Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller, said, “Children should be encouraged to read for the pure delight of it.” This book engages children through pure delight! As a story, it taps into things children love: treasure hunts, mysteries, packages, Saturday mornings, time spent with family. And on a spiritual level, it brings Dr. Hahn’s theology, particularly his theology about the Book of Revelation and the Mass, to children in a gentle, sweet, playful way, tucked seamlessly into the heart of the family. The catechesis is hidden in a world of wonder.
And the illustrations are absolutely stunning! The artist, Mercé Tous, captures the spirit of childhood, family, and faith in the most endearing way.
Q: With so much great children's literature already out there, why is it important to keep writing stories such as Seven Clues and your other titles––The End of the Fiery Sword, Into the Sea, etc.?
A: I believe that people are called to imitate the Creator by creating, using the talents they’ve been given. That creativity can take many forms: art, literature, music, and so much more. The paintings, symphonies, books, and other created works of the past will always remain beautiful, and are a repeated gift to the contemporary world; and yet, we can never exhaust the creative potential of the human spirit. Each individual person has something unique to offer the world that has never been offered before. And so, it is always worth creating new books, new stories, new art, new treasures. And particularly in the world of children’s books—which is a battleground between good and evil in our culture—it is so important for authors to keep contributing to the good.
Q: Seven Clues has been called "timely.” Can you tell us what makes it so?
A: Providentially, the release of Seven Clues coincides with the start of the Eucharistic Revival. The timeliness of this pairing seems divinely orchestrated. Just when catechists and families are searching for new ways to focus on the Eucharist, this book offers an exciting and brand-new avenue for making those connections, as the Eucharist is a key theme in the story.
Q: What is the target age range for Seven Clues?
A: The suggested age range is 6-12. At the same time, I believe that beautiful picture books can be meaningful to all ages, including adults.
Q: What advice would you give to a young person interested in becoming a writer?
- Keep writing! Write for yourself—journals, poems, stories, whatever you enjoy writing. Share your writing with others when you’re ready, but don’t stop writing for yourself—and for God.
- When you write, say a little prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
- Remember that even if no one ever reads what you’ve written, it’s still worth writing. Writing helps us to make sense of the world, to clarify our own thoughts, and to make something permanent out of something temporary.
- Write at least some things by hand in order to keep in touch with the physical contour of the words.
- Have fun with it! Enter contests—and don’t be discouraged if you don’t win. Many famous authors had their manuscripts rejected by publishers.
- Write down your ideas, and save everything you write—you never know when you might use it again.
- Don’t worry if you don’t like something you’ve written. Every artist creates some things they like and some things they don’t like. It’s part of the process!
- Keep reading, especially in the genre that you like to write in. Every year, I read hundreds and hundreds of picture books (thank goodness for interlibrary loan!), and I receive tremendous inspiration from them for my own writing. We can learn so much from our favorite authors!
- Write what you enjoy reading, what you’re interested in, what fascinates you, what captures your heart—and your readers will receive the gift of your joy, your interest, your fascination, and your heart.
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--Maura Roan McKeegan