Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Lesley Dahlseng, author of My Kiss Won't Miss
FQ: In the society that we are living in, My Kiss Won't Miss is truly a tale that’s needed for all kids out there. What made you head down this particular path to write this story of unconditional love?
DAHLSENG: Our greatest need is to be loved. We were created for relationships. This issue has been dear to my heart for years, though I can't really take credit for the storyline. It came out of a personal experience with my daughter and an answer to prayer. When my daughter was around the age of three years old, she began resisting almost any affection I tried to offer. Hugs were fought, kisses were rejected. Nothing else developmentally raised any red flags, yet it was still a source of concern for me.
One day in my living room I asked in prayer how I could relate to my daughter. Immediately, the words popped into my head, "Blow her a kiss and it won't miss." So I made a game out of it. She would hide and I'd blow kisses and tell her there was no stopping them. It's such a simple idea, but I can't tell you the breakthrough that was felt that day. She loved it! That night I sat down to write what is now My Kiss Won't Miss. It's a message of a parent's love. Even more significant is that it points to the God who cared enough to answer my prayer in my living room. He's a personal, relational God who wants us to know Him.
FQ: Infants and toddlers are still away from the cell phones (thank goodness LOL). Do you feel that there is too much technology, and perhaps that we have lost the understanding of how important parent/child time is?
DAHLSENG: Wow. So much can be said about this! Technology advancements bring both blessings and curses. My general sense is that it's causing more problems, however. We're wiring our brains ever more increasingly to need outside stimulation. It's going to have repercussions on attention spans and our ability to learn without all the bells and whistles. With the constant demand for entertainment, how often do people stop and simply THINK anymore? I mean really think - evaluate, reflect, meditate? And despite our social networks, our children are lacking valuable social training because they can hide behind a text message.
The most tragic social neglect, however, is exactly as you alluded to in your question. Though I've been guilty of sticking my children in front of a movie as a sort of babysitter, I try to limit it. Right now our family owns one television set with no stations. With few exceptions, we are allowed one movie per week and the kids get one and a half hours per week on computer games. Even with these strict standards, I know my children would forego these privileges in a heartbeat for more personal family time.
FQ: I know that books even mentioning the Lord are labeled Christian reading, but do you feel this is a book that really does speak to every child? A way, perhaps, to bring back the love of the Lord into children’s lives?
DAHLSENG: First, I'll say that Christ came for the world and not just a select few, so if something is a Christian message then I believe He wants it proclaimed everywhere. My own prayers have been that everyone (even the adults reading it to their children) would get a sense of their value - that they are loved. And it's my ultimate conviction that nothing will be wholly fulfilling except that which comes from God.
On another note, the majority of the book depicts the love between a parent and child. I recently gave the book as a gift to a little girl who's going through treatments for leukemia and no doubt has periods of time where her parents can't be with her at the hospital. This story is about a love that will cross any distance, and I wholeheartedly pray it can bring comfort to her. It made me consider the many difficult situations children face today - it could be a parent away on active duty, or one of the many cases of divorce that creates physical distance between a parent and child. I hope this book can minister to each of them in a way that other books may not.
FQ: I know you grew up on a small farm in North Dakota. I, too, have the background of a small town. How do you feel “small-town America” positively affects our children of today? Do you believe we have lost that way of life? If so, how can people/parents strive to bring that back in this time of constant running around?
DAHLSENG: I can always tell when I pass into rural North Dakota because everyone starts waving to you as you pass by. That's just the way I grew up. We acknowledge one another and there's a deeper sense of community that is lost in larger cities. When I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, for a few years, I joined a church that was three times the size of my entire hometown. I rarely saw a familiar face in the service, and I couldn't help but feel like just another number. Also, if it takes a village to raise a child, then the larger "village" is not an advantage. There's a greater accountability in smaller numbers. You're more likely to consider your behavior when everyone around knows you.
And yes, I agree with your assessment that we are running around more and more. As a farm girl would say, we "run around like chickens with our heads cut off." Hope that's not too graphic! We don't have to stick our kids in every extracurricular activity! We don't have to spend all our time accumulating things when what's most precious is right in front of us! No matter our location, we can choose to simplify and prioritize. And one last point for small towns . . . who likes big-city traffic? Not me!
FQ: Was the study of Philosophy helpful in your writing endeavors? If so, can you tell us why?
DAHLSENG: Writing philosophy papers and writing for young children is about as different as you can get. Nonetheless, it trains you to look for the underlying meaning of everything. I'm conscious of what it is I'm attempting to instill in young minds. That intentionality drives my general life as well. You don't escape the deep questions of life when studying philosophy. I try to examine my purpose, goals, motivations, and actions and this inevitably makes whatever I put my hand to more meaningful - that includes writing.
FQ: Besides children’s books, are you interested in writing in other genres down the line? I heard you like poetry?
DAHLSENG: I loved writing poetry as a child. As a children's writer, I gravitate towards writing in rhyme. However, I don't foresee writing any specific collection of poems. Other than children's books, I've been ruminating over a couple of topics that would be within the adult Christian nonfiction arena. I jot down thoughts or quotes I come across to possibly include, but now would be premature to really dive into writing them. There's much more for me to learn.
FQ: Could you give a little information to readers regarding your blog? How they can be a part of it; where they can read your musings, etc.?
DAHLSENG: I began a blog in 2014. It was a challenge to decide what direction I wanted to go with it. I love children's books and I also care about issues involving Christianity. The question was whether to include both, since the audiences could be very different. I decided that they're both a part of me, so why try to be someone I'm not? Thus, part of my blog is dedicated to recommending children's books (mostly secular) I've come across of excellent quality and the other is simply sharing what's been in my heart concerning my relationship with God, often an offshoot of something that happened in my life. If anyone is interested, it can be found at www.lesleydahlseng.com.
FQ: Can you offer up a hint as to another title we may see, and when we may see it?
DAHLSENG: I have several children's stories written, all of which are picture books. I've been holding onto them until I feel the time is right, so I can't really give a timeframe...hopefully not too long from now! The manuscript I'm currently finishing is likely the one I'll first submit to see if publishers are interested. It's in an upbeat rhyme, meant for some simple fun, and would fit into the secular category.