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Hi, I'm Jen Landis, founder of Pincurl Girls. And this is the GIRLBRAVE podcast. And this episode I chatted with Lotus a 19 year old children's book author who created an educational campaign for kids called Bears for Cares to educate youth about endangered species and wildlife, to motivate them, to help protect the earth. So let's get to it.
Hi, how are you today?
I'm good. Thank you so much for being here.
I cannot wait to talk to you.
Me too, thank you for having me.
Sure. Tell me how old you are and what grade you're in.
I'm 19 and I graduated high school last year.
How does it feel to be 19?
I really liked being 19. It's been good.
If you could describe 19 in one word, what would it be?
Oh my God. It's actually crazy. So my birthday was like a few months ago and it's actually been like really, really great since then. Like, I don't know, like on my birthday, like, cause you know, when it's your birthday, everyone obviously is like sending you messages and being really nice to you. And I just realized like that I really good friends in that. I'm just like I'm in a really good place.
Oh, that's awesome. Well, happy birthday belated birthday. Yeah. Okay. Well I know a little bit about you, but I'm interested in hearing more. So I do know that you are a writer.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing pretty much my whole life. Like since I was little, like when I was around seven or eight, I'd write like kind of short stories in my room that were kind of like my first kind of like children's books and I didn't even try to illustrate them and I've never been the best artist. So now, now I have somebody else to illustrate, but yeah. And that was kind of like where it started and I like writing songs, like always I was really young and writing's just always been the way that I most easily express myself. I've always been a very deep thinker.
So like for me, like thinking is almost just like breathing in and then writing is breathing out. Like I just have to do it and yeah, I just always have written stuff.
I love that description of breathing in the inspiration and breathing out your writing.
Well, I think so much and I just have to get it out, you know?
So when you write, do you have to do any preparation before your inspiration comes like meditate or take a walk or is it, does it just hit you?
It just hits me.
I think a lot of us would love that to happen.You're also the founder of Bears for Cares.
Tell me about this. What is it about and what's the mission?
Well, it's actually, it's an as a Roots for Shoots project, which is through the Jane Goodall Institute and it's a youth program for kids that care about the environment or care about an issue to create their own projects. And me and my sister created it when I was 15 and she was 17 at the time. And we were just looking for a way to kind of educate kids on the environment and what's going on in the world and in a way where they would like understand it. And so we had the idea to give these like stuffed toys and then you have the idea for children's books. And so, yeah, like it was in a very easily understandable and sweetly educate kids on what's going wrong in the world.
How do you make this stuff, the animals. And how did you publish the book? Like what's the process behind that?
I got super lucky with having amazing partners with this. So for the stuffed animals, we worked with a place called hug a planet and I've had to hug the planet since I was little and they're like these stuffed earth. And we wound up being able to partner with them. And then we, they made these stuffed animal berries. We call them berries and berries and more beautiful than heaven. And as a character and they're made from recyclable organic materials, he also Robert the person on the planet wound up also the Billy's from Billy [inaudible] stuffed animals were also something he found and helped us with. And also there's free. Here's come with the stuffed earth from hug a planet. So that's how we got the stuffed animals. And then for the books being published, I have a really amazing publisher called Eifrig Publishing publishing. Yeah. And I've been really lucky to be able to work with them because they're also really, really, really great.
Sounds amazing. Did you know these people, these partners before you started or did you email them and ask them and introduce yourself?
My parents have a website called EcoMall, which is like all the way they have like environmental products being sold. So Hug A Planet has been a partner with EcoMall for a really long time. So we did kind of know Hug a Planet and so that was really awesome. As for eighth grade, there was a time when I really didn't know like how I was going to get the books published and I thought maybe I was going to have to self publish them. And I didn't know. And then we got really lucky with this publisher. Like I don't think she was like open for like submissions at the time for like publishing, but, but my mom just like sent the looks anyway and just like just, just trying to help me. And then the person that, that publisher, her name is Penny. She's really nice. And she's like, I love these books. And like, I'm not even publishing books right now, but like I want to do I believe in these books I think. And so that was really awesome. And so, yeah, I've been really lucky to have that.
That is amazing. That's great. So your books and Bears for Cares wants I educate kids on the importance of nature and motivate them to protect the earth, right? So it sounds like you grew up in a household like that. Tell me more about your passion, about saving the earth and educating kids about it.
Yeah. I did definitely grow up in a very socially aware household and kind of in a socially aware, like even neighborhood where I live. And so that always came naturally. But I think for me as a teenager and because I was homeschooled, so I really, instead of just learning what I was being taught in school, I really followed my own interests and this is something I was naturally interested in.
So it was a very intense time for me when I was around like 14, 15. I just really realized things going on in the world. And I was finally like old enough to kind of understand these things because when you're little, like you, you kind of get it like, yeah, we used to save the planet, but you don't really, you're not old enough to really grasp what's going on. And so when I finally became old enough to understand, it really affected me and it was really hard for me.
So that's why I really wanted to create Bears for Cares because I wanted to feel like I was doing something I wasn't just sitting back and watching things happen and I really wanted to help inspire other people to do something. And with these books and everything and future generations, like the generation below me too, to be aware and to do something because, you know, like we were like, we're, we're kind of at this point where like, I feel like we're kind of like one of the last generations that seems we can really do something before the effects of what we're doing to the earth, kinda, you know, get a bit irreversible.
So we really have to step up and do things right now. And so I knew that this was a really important thing for me to do. And then I really just always naturally had a passion for animals and for the earth.
Do you find that your friends and the students that you're talking to or kids that you're talking to understand the importance of this?
It depends. It was, it was interesting for me making friends as a teenager because I was very passionate about this stuff and I had some friends that just didn't really like, they were more just in their own world and we kind of grew apart. I had other friends that were like, Oh, that's so good. That's so good that you're doing that. But like you could tell them it's not really their thing. And then I met some friends and I had to make some of them online actually, because it was hard to find them around me.
But especially online, I met some really amazing people who really care about there are people that are around my age that really care about the same stuff I do. And finding those people even just to talk to online have been really important for me to like, feel like I can talk to people who get it. And yeah, like there are people and, and I do think that a lot, there's a lot of people my age, especially now more than ever, like people are like, even if it's not the environment they're seeing that there's issues in the world and wanting to get involved. And I think we see that a lot right now. So I do think my generation is definitely like a genuinely activisty generation. So I do think that there is that.
Yeah. I see a lot of activism, especially with the young women that I'm interviewing for this podcast. And I think it's just absolutely amazing. And I'm so proud of that there's such a great generation coming up to kind of right our wrong, so to speak of the world and everything that's going on. I had a followup question. So could you share with us your website for the bears for cares, so if people wanted to go on and check out your books and stuff, what that website is.
Yeah. The website is BearsforCares.com and that's where you'll find links to the books and stuff about bears for cares and also for the stuffed toys and all that will be at the website.
So when you started writing those books, what was your process?
When we created the kind of like mission plan, we kind of like rushed it because Bears for Cares before we knew how we were going to do it. And then we think it was, my mom was like, you could do it as a Roots for Shoots project. And you were like, Oh, that's a great idea. But then like the deadline at the time for creating a project was like a day like after that. So we only had like a day to do it. So we just like really just rush something. So then I was like, Oh, we'll have these stuffed animals, cuz, that was the first idea. And then my sister, cuz I was thinking like, let's stuffed animal is nice, but it doesn't, you're not going to learn anything from that. They're not going to know like what does a stuffed animal mean.
So I was like, you could have like a pamphlet. And then I think it was, my sister was like, you could write a children's book. And she knew how much, like I wrote children's books when I was little and I love children's books back before I was homeschooled. I didn't love going to school. And so the way my mom would inspire me, like get me to want to go to school. She would be like, I'll get you a Dr. Seuss book. If you like show up on time three times this week, like I'd like to go to school and like get a Dr. Seuss book. So I was like, and not just when I was little, I mean, like this was like eighth grade. Like I was still like wanting to have every Dr. Seuss book. So I've always loved him. My family knew that about me. And so then it always felt like it was something I was destined to do.
So then my sister was like, you should write a children's book. And I was like, okay. And I didn't really know what that was going to mean. And then finally the time came, when we created the project where it was my sister and my mom were both like, we're waiting on you, you know, to write the children's book Lotus. And I was like, really? You want me to do that? Like now? And cuz I never knew like when it was going to be the time I was actually going to do that. Cuz, I was like, okay. And then like I planned on doing it that night and then, and I'm like very much a night owl. So I think I was basically like up all night and it was like right before I went to bed and God knows what time it was. I was like, Oh yeah, I was supposed to write the childrens book itself.
And there was that night, like right before I went to bed, I, I just started writing the first book More Beautiful Than Heaven and yeah, it just kind of came to me that night. And then the next day I read it to my family and they're like, they loved it. So yeah, that was the process for the first book.
And then the second book, Billie The Octopus, it was when I realized that I wanted to do something about the ocean that was very passionate about the ocean and really looked up to people like Sylvia Earle. And so there was a character in the book, More Beautiful Than Heaven called Billie the octopus. And I, the idea would have Billie The Octopus, cuz I didn't, I planned on writing one book. I didn't plan with having multiple. But then I was like Billy the octopus had its own book because I wanted to write something about the, and at the time I was even assigned to like write like an article about the ocean, but I like, I didn't know like what to, like, I was like, I'd rather just write like poetry, like, you know, like I wanted to like make it rhyme, like, cuz I'm like very much like a lyrical person. And so I was like, well maybe I can write a book about the ocean and that's more my style. And so then I mentioned then I wrote Billie The Octopus to do that. So that's my process.
Is there another character from their first book that this is going to a spin off to a third?
I knew I couldn't leave Jenny out. There's a Jenny, the chimpanzee. And I might be working on that book right now.
Awesome. Well that sounds super exciting. I would love it. If you would be open to reading your books on like an Instagram live.
At some point I was actually recently just asked to do something like that. So I think the sign I probably should.
Well, that's good. I'll take that as a yes. So I imagine we have a lot of young writers listening to this podcast. What advice would you give them about writing?
I would say just do it and do it a lot. Like for me, like I didn't really, like I had the teachers at school that taught me, you know, writing stuff, but mostly it was on my own cuz I was a pretty shy kid. So especially for me, writing was kind of my like hidden place where I would just like, it was just like my hidden world. So like I wouldn't really share my writings with anyone.
Like when I was younger, it was very much just something I did for myself. So no one really taught me as much how to write as much as I just wrote. So I would say like, it's not as much as like a tip. You can give someone about writing. It's just to write as honestly as you can. And to just like, for me, I'm just writing throughout the day. Like I'm always writing down thoughts constantly or at night and wherever I am. Like I just always had to write like even when I was a bit younger and I was in school before I was homeschool, I would constantly meet to write songs and, and I wasn't really supposed to do that like, while at school.
So I would kinda like sneak my phone to the bathroom and write like song lyrics in the bathroom. And then I remember one time the teacher was like, we're banning phones from school and I was like a good girl, so I didn't want to break the rules. So I didn't bring my phone to school when the entire day I just had these song lyrics. I was like, I need to write these down.
And so then I, and then I was like, I always have to bring my phone with me in it. So basically that's like, I don't know if that makes sense as advice, but I almost would say to somebody else, keep it, whether it's your phone or a notebook, like keep something with you where you can write down those ideas all the time. And if you have to like sneak into the bathroom at school or wherever you are to write down those ideas, I think that's really important to just always just be writing and not, it's not as much as like just, oh, and always do it, write like no one's listening, you know, cuz that's when you're going to be most honest.
And I think the truth is the most important thing you can put into writing. So the only way you're going to be completely truthful is to write like, no one's listening and just have that. It'd be that secret place for you. Like the fact that I was still like secretive about my writing is what, let me, my writing so honest was because I was just doing it for myself and because I needed to. So that's my advice.
That's great advice. So you, you write everything on your phone?
I have notebooks too, but I don't use my notes app anymore because I had so many notes on my notes at that eventually just like jammed and stop working. So I used, there's an app called Bear that I use, but I'm constantly like writing down notes.
Is that B E A R?
Cool. I'll have to check that out. So when you say right, like no one's listening. I know a lot of times artists and just teenagers and women and men in general have that sort of self doubt where they look at themselves or they've read what they wrote or they look at their painting and go, this isn't good enough. How would you talk yourself? Or how do you, if that happens to you, talk yourself out of that and just do it anyway.
So I write like, no one's listening, but after I write, I have enough to consider, am I going to share this? And that's when all the self doubt comes. And that's when like that happens to me all the time, all the time when I'm writing and it can be really scary, I guess it's something I'm still working on. But I think like, as I said before, like the most important thing to put into writing is truth and vulnerability and being authentic. And so I think when you're scared to do something, it's usually a sign that it's, that you've done something important in that thing that you're most afraid to put on and write.
There's probably somebody else afraid to say that there's somebody else that wouldn't do it. So you have to be the voice that does because you kind of have to put your pride aside and say, could this help someone? And if it could help someone, you put that first and then you put your own pride aside. If this can embarrass you, because I know when, especially when I'm writing songs or whatever it is, I'm like, I can be really embarrassed about what I write and everything, but I'm like, if this could give joy to someone or impact someone else's life, then I'm going to put my own insecurities and complexes aside and put, you know, kind of let the thing you wrote have a life of its own in somebody else's life. And it's kind of self sacrificing to do that.
But I think if you are having self doubt, you just have to believe that what you create can be bigger than even you and bigger than your insecurities and to just do it. And then the more you do it, the less scary it gets. It's like when you, you don't just escape your comfort zone, but you ride in it. So the things you once felt a scare to do will eventually be comfortable to you, but you have to do it while it's still scary. And then all of a sudden, like it won't be as scary and you'll find yourself like this is already happened to me. Like certain things that I was so scared to do now were like effortless to me. But like there was a time where I never thought that would happen.
So I think whatever so scary to you now, if it's something you want to do and is worth doing, do it and then the more you do it, all of a sudden you'll be like, I was scared to do that. Like even if you do get scared, a little scared every time you'll get more and more used to pushing past that fear.
So that's awesome. Awesome advice. I'm still afraid of doing things and it doesn't go away as the older you get, but it does become more comfortable when you keep trying and just keep putting yourself out there, which is why I named this podcast GIRLBRAVE, because I think there's a part in all of us that are afraid to do things. And even the smallest little thing, taking a step, raising your hand in class or something like that is brave. And so tell me, what is your definition of brave? And do you think you are brave?
My definition of brave? I think, I think brave and fear are not opposite. I think they're companions. I think they can't exist without each other. I think fear is like a signal that you're doing something brave because if you don't really care about something and something isn't scary to you, like, well, you won't feel scared to do the things that aren't brave. It's when you're doing something brave. But all of a sudden, like the more scared and terrified you feel, the more you realize you're doing something brave. And so instead of letting that fear just kind of eat away at you, you have to let it be a signal that you're doing something brave.
So I think being brave is really just doing things because you feel like even if they aren't popular and even if it isn't what you know is going to work out, like you could be like, I have no idea, no idea if this is going to work out and you do it anyway, because the risk is worth it or whatever it is that you believe in or whatever it is you want. And yeah, I have been thinking about this word, especially like since turning 19 or whatever, like, I feel like this is a big year for me already and that I'm doing lots of really scary things. But you know, when I, when I was younger, as I said, I was really shy and I've had levels of social anxiety and especially when it comes to my writing, being afraid of sharing that. So I think I'm very, very brave because I am now doing these things even with fear and yeah, it's, it's something I'm just constantly working on actually. But I think that I am very, very brave. Yeah, I am.
That's amazing. Everything that you said is so true to me too. And it does take... You just kind of have to do it and then, and then, you know, it's gonna work out or if it doesn't work out, then, you know, Hey, maybe that wasn't meant to be,
But you won't know if you don't try. And I promise not doing it is going to eat away at you more because you're always going to wonder what is, so you just have to do it. And even if it doesn't work out now, you know, but you wouldn't know and not knowing like your entire, like yeah.
When I think about something that I'm afraid to do, I asked myself, well, I regret that doing this and a year or five years. And if the answer is yes, then I just think myself.
That helps me too. Especially when it comes to stuff I'm really afraid to do. I think, well, what if I don't wind up ever like, like doing this? Like, especially when it comes to my music cuz I love music so much. I get so scared to pursue it. But I think, well, what if five years go by and you still haven't done that. And I like that makes me so like sad. And so then that motivates me to like, even if it's scary, now I have to do it for my future self. So she doesn't have to look back and be like, Oh, I should have did it for your future self.
Do that for your future self.
I love that. Well, it's been amazing talking to you. Thank you so much for everything that you've shared with us today. And I cannot wait to hear your songs. What's next with that? Will you be recording?
Yeah, I really hope soon that people will get everyone, all my friends and everyone they're like, I want to hear your songs and I'm like, they'll be ready soon. So yeah, hopefully I'll doing that really soon.
Awesome. Is there a social media or a Instagram account that people could follow that that's, that has your music on it or more, more about you?
Not my music yet, but I do have an Instagram called @LotusRKay and that's L O T U S the letter R and K A Y also have a Twitter with the same handle. And also Bears for Cares is also has an Instagram that you can follow, which is @bearsforcares and yeah.
Sounds good. Well, I'll be sure to follow you and I can't wait to hear more about you and I'm, I appreciate your time today and I think you're wonderful and I wish you all the luck and thank you for inspiring me today.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. You're welcome.
Thanks for joining us on the GIRLBRAVE podcast. Go to pincurlgirls.com to hear more interviews with inspiring girls. And if you want to get on our daily texts list, go ahead and click the encouraging text tab at the top. We'll see you next time. Bye.