Smarties, we are super excited to introduce you to author and philanthropist, Kathy Izard. She has recently published a children’s book, A Good Night for Mr. Coleman. We couldn’t think of a better book to read with our little smarties as we celebrate Read Across America.
We feel blessed to have had the opportunity to interview Kathy. She is an inspiration to do more, to give more, and to see more. Maya Angelou said it best, ” God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us – in dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see a possibility of hope.” Kathy is a perfect example of a rainbow!
She is the ULTIMATE SMARTY MOM!
Grab a cup of coffee, cozy up and get to know a little bit more about Kathy. I can guarantee her words will inspire you, and you will leave this interview not only wanting to purchase a copy of A Good Night for Mr. Coleman to share with your kiddoes, you are going to want to purchase her first book, A Hundred Story Home, for yourself.
Please introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about you and your family.
I was raised in El Paso, Texas, graduated from UT Austin, and lived in the Lone Star State for over twenty years until I moved to Charlotte in 1985 to take a job with an ad agency. I fell in love not only with the city, but with my husband, Charlie, and now we have made this our home for over thirty years. We have four daughters, including a set of twins, and still live in the same house we brought those baby girls home to in 1994. All our daughters are through college and even Graduate schools but two live in Charlotte, one in Austin and one in Orlando.
Tell us how you became involved with helping the homeless.
I was one of three girls and my parents raised us to Do Good. We were always helping through our church or in the community. El Paso is a border city and my parents, particularly my mom, was very involved helping with children in the barrio of El Paso and our neighbor city, Juarez, Mexico. As Charlie and I raised our girls, we felt it was important to instill this idea of service and we began helping at the Urban Ministry Center which had a soup kitchen and services for those experiencing homelessness. We volunteered one Sunday a month for over ten years before I eventually went to work for the Urban Ministry Center in 2008 to start a housing program, Homeless to Homes. It was just supposed to be a small career change for me from my life as a graphic designer to a nonprofit job but eventually that program became the start of Moore Place, Charlotte’s first permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless men and women.
Talk about your first book, The Hundred Story Home.
Looking back, I realize when I made that career change, it was the perfect time in my life to start my next chapter. I was looking for purpose and restless to do something that mattered. I had big dreams for my four daughters, but I had forgotten what my own were. I could never imagine all that came with that career change. My life is completely different that it was eleven years ago, and I am so grateful. Because it became such a profound change for me, I started writing about it—what eventually became my first published book The Hundred Story Home (Thomas Nelson, 2018) It took six years to finally write a book that I thought someone else might want to read. I kept thinking that there had to be people like me, wanting to do good in the world but not sure where to start. I wrote the book about my experiences so that people could see how unqualified I was going in, but with passion and persistence, you can learn anything. Or really as my Dad used to tell me: You can do anything. Really Anything.
Talk about your newly published children’s book, A Good Night for Mr. Coleman.
I had a librarian suggest that I should make my adult book into a book for kids because she was always trying to find stories for children which could explain large concepts like homelessness or community service. My first book had taken years and almost 300 pages to explain so frankly, I had no idea how to distill all that down to a message for kids. But one morning—literally woke me up at 5:00am—and I went downstairs and wrote what would become A Good Night for Mr. Coleman (Grace Press, Feb 2019). It is based on the true stories from my adult title. I was struggling to figure out how I would find an illustrator and my daughter, Kailey, who lives in Charlotte, said, “You should ask my friend, Evelyn.” I had no idea she knew Evelyn Henson, amazing local artist, who ended up being the perfect fit and made the manuscript magical.
Will you please introduce the characters to our smarty audience?
The story centers around one child, Grace and one homeless man, Mr. Coleman, and they develop a friendship in the local soup kitchen. Grace learns that Mr. Coleman does not have a home, or a bed and she cannot understand how he can ever have a good night if he has nowhere to sleep. Grace starts to sell lemonade to raise enough money to help and her efforts, combined with some grownups, build a home for Mr. Coleman. The book is all based on a true story about Charlotte kids who raised $105 from a lemonade stand for Moore Place and the real Mr. Coleman is pictured in the back of the book.
What is your mission with the children’s book? What message to you hope to share with this book?
I think the main message of A Good Night for Mr. Coleman is just what Grace learns. We are all capable of so much more than we imagine. And that sometimes things are not Complicated. We just need to Believe in Something Bigger Than Ourselves. There is also a Reader’s Guide in the book developed by local fourth graders to help start conversations about homelessness and Doing Good.
In the book, the character Grace says she heard a whisper that compelled her to do more? Did you hear a whisper? Please explain.
In The Hundred Story Home, I talk a lot about whispers. What I mean is that we all have a little inner voice that is telling us to do something, but we don’t always want to listen. Often, the whisper feels crazy or inconvenient, but I believe it is always pointing us to what we are meant to do in this world. I quit my job in 2007 because of a whisper and I have been following and listening ever since.
Illustrations are an important element of a Children’s book. They capture both the imagination and attention of children. Please tell us a little bit about your book illustrator, Evelyn Henson.
I cannot say enough about Evelyn and her work—she is amazing. We had the best time collaborating on this book. I started by looking at her Instagram account (@evelyn_henson) and saw all her whimsical, colorful drawings. We created storyboards for each page and then refined the vision. Evelyn created original paintings for each page, and we will be creating a site to buy pillows and wall art for kid’s rooms with inspirational quotes and art matching the book. We also plan to do some more books together. When we finished A Good Night for Mr. Coleman, we looked at each other and said, “Grace has got to do something else!” We are already planning! Evelyn is also the visionary behind the Confetti Hearts Wall in Southend–so check that out with your kids! https://www.evelynhenson.com/blogs/behind-the-scenes/behind-the-scenes-confetti-hearts-wall
Tell us more about your forward vision with helping the Charlotte Homeless Community. Are you working on any other projects?
I am working again with the Urban Ministry Center on an even bigger project for more housing—so stay tuned! We will be telling Charlotte about it in the coming months!
How can someone get involved? Adult or child?
The Urban Ministry Center is supported by hundreds of volunteers each year. You can learn more on how to donate or volunteer by going to their website
Where can you purchase the books?
The book can be ordered through any book store or on Amazon but I always encourage people to buy local—support our independent bookstores! Park Road Books and Paper Skyscraper have both books in stock.
Park Road Books
Park Road Shopping Center
4139 Park Road
330 East Blvd
Arboretum Shopping Center
8040 Providence Rd, Suite 400
Click here to purchase The Hundred Story Home on Amazon.
Click here to purchase A Good Night for Mr. Coleman on Amazon
Will you be hosting any book signings, readings?
Check my website or follow social media
* Send us your photos of kids with the book or their stories—we love to post them! And we hope to be doing a summer event with the Confetti Hearts Wall!