The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards and How Fantasy Can Help Kids with Such Complex Issues and Ideas


guest post by: C.J. Quinn

Does your child enjoy reading fantasy books? If so, your child may be smarter than you think. Reading the genre of fiction and fantasy has many social and behavioral advantages.

Intelligence quotient (IQ) was once considered the golden standard for measuring how smart a person was. However, in 1995 Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist, proved that we weren’t taking into account emotional intelligence when determining a person’s intellect. According to Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a person’s ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions.” Since Goleman’s theory, both IQ and EQ are now combined in order to study the ‘intelligence’ of a person.

A person with a high IQ as well as a high EQ is a person who has good interpersonal skills and possesses compassion and empathy. As a result, this person is able to develop strong relationships, has greater self-awareness, and operates with the faculty of reasoning and understanding.

Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Research consistently shows that the more people read, the more it helps people’s understanding of others. The genre of fantasy is an especially effective way to encourage empathy among children. For example, when children read fantasy that provides valuable lessons, such as environmental awareness, they become more empathetic toward important issues. In the case of environmental fantasy, they learn how to be sympathetic about human impact on the natural world that surrounds them.

In recent years, psychologists and childhood development experts have expressed concern with the apparent decline in empathy among children and young adults. One study found that the number of children’s stories parents expose their preschoolers to can predict a preschooler’s ability to understand the emotions of others.

Fortunately, one can start learning empathy by reading fantasy. The genre of fantasy encompasses a world of imagination and make-believe with myth and legend involved. Fantasy appeals to children because it brings them out of the mundane and into a world of magic. Reading fantasy gives children an important tool in dealing with reality by discovering hidden meanings within the story. Fantasy is timeless and has shaped culture for centuries. The security of knowing that the story is fantasy gives the reader a safe place to discover topics that are sometimes difficult to understand or too frightening to confront. A child’s brain may not be developed enough to understand a subject that is beyond their comprehension. Through the experience of reading fantasy the child’s mind has a chance to make sense of their lives by learning through the sympathetic experience.

Many children today spend more time indoors than outdoors. They are becoming deprived of the connection between who they are and the marvel of the natural experience. America is in the midst of one of the most profound and rapid societal shifts in history. Today’s generation is the first to grow up indoors. Their plugged-in lives are often devoid of exploration of the natural world. It is difficult to teach about nature in the classroom when children are detached from it. In the year 2000, two-thirds of the public failed a basic environmental quiz and 88 percent failed a basic energy quiz. By spending very little time outdoors there are costs to our children’s health: attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, and a diminished use of senses.

However, children who read environmental fantasy may have a more intrinsic yearning to go outside. And, once a child has the opportunity to learn about their environment through reading fantasy, the child begins the transformation of becoming a guardian of the environment, rather than simply being a consumer of it. The child now has the empathy to relate to his environment and the desire to go outside and experience nature. When our youth read environmental fantasy it helps them become ambassadors of the earth. The National Environmental Education Foundation Act of 1990 (NEEF) believes “with increased environmental involvement of individuals on a national scale, their actions, taken collectively, will have a tremendous environmental impact and help bring about a cultural shift in attitudes and behaviors.”

The rewards from reading environmental fantasy for our youth spawns a new empathy and understanding for the natural world. This in turn assists in molding them into stewards of the environment in which they inhabit.

cj-quinnC.J. Quinn is the author of Talia and the Capture of Wrath, a middle grade fantasy novel that promotes environmental awareness. After traveling the world, she settled down to start a family, which has proven to be the biggest adventure yet. She currently resides in Seattle with her family.

Talia and the Capture of Wrath is available talia-and-the-capture-of-wrathvia Amazon wherever books are sold. The audio version of Talia and the Capture of Wrath was released November, 2016.

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Chronicles of a Wannabe Children’s Book Author

file000739253401This is a post I don’t usually write. Usually, I’m a how-to nonfiction writer hoping to inspire you. But when it comes to fiction, I’m struggling.

Recently, I attended SCBWI Hawaii chapter’s 2016 conference with 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat and literary agent Suzie Townsend. It was as encouraging as it was discouraging. It made me want to write as much as it made me want to quit.

One of the other writers put it simply. With nonfiction there’s facts to lean on. When you’re grasping around in your imagination, there’s no bars, no walls. You’re free and freedom can be a nightmare when you have a type A personality.

“The hardest part of finding your voice is trusting your own instincts.” – Dan Santat

I believe everything hard is there to teach you something.

Growth doesn’t come from blissful days.

It just so happens that writing fiction is my next challenge. But the same old discomfort comes up. The fear. The resistance. The desire to do anything, but sit down and write. I used to feel like that about nonfiction. Nonfiction used to make my skin crawl. Because I thought it revealed my worth. It made me vulnerable. But it’s a sliver of who I am versus my fiction and essay writing. But I’m going to put it all out there because anything that stretches me further into my true self is worth the torture.

Here’s hoping today becomes the day I rolled up my sleeves and got serious.


3 Surprising Truths About Sharing Your Writing

Writing group

It took me a long time to do it. I blame it on the years of torment I endured from a high school teacher reading our work aloud. With our names. And with unnecessary bullying and negative criticism included. But it’s come at a detrimental cost.

What hiding has done in the long run is hurt my writing.

As a freelance writer, edits, feedback, and revisions are part and parcel to the job. It doesn’t feel personal. Someone pays me to write words for them and it’s my mission to deliver that.

But when I write fiction, it feels like my soul is pouring out of every word. It’s in my word choice, and character description. It’s in my deep desire to share an experience with strangers who may not be as kind, understanding or compassionate in their reading of it.

Because of this fear, however, my writing has gone stale, stunted, and rejected before it’s reached its full potential.

Last weekend, I finally decided to take that risk. I met with SCBWI members from the Hawaii chapter and I silently prayed that they would be kind or more importantly that I would be kind to myself no matter what feedback I got.

Here’s what I learned in the process:

  1. You need outsiders who can tell you if you’re successfully delivering your story. You know that thing that happened between you and your cousins? It was hilarious and you really had to be there. You may be making the same mistake I made-writing a story as if they were your cousins who knew what you knew, who experienced what you did. But readers don’t have that same privilege. Offer your story to outsiders and they’ll tell you if that line about the party jives or needs more details to make sense.
  2. Non-friends and family will read it without sentiment. And you need that. Your mom might be your biggest fan and is so impressed that you wrote a book, she’ll overlook the flaws in your story-the missing ingredient, the lack of climax. But a fellow writer, won’t. And that’s a lesson worth learning sooner rather than later.
  3. If you want to get published, you need to prepare yourself for rejection. If you’re normal, you will experience a slew of rejection when you start querying agents and publishers. It’s part of the sh*ts andwich author Elizabeth Gilbert talks to Marie Forleo in this video. Anything worth it’s grain in salt comes with difficulty. Getting negative feedback from another writer is much better than getting a rejection letter from an agent prematurely because you didn’t put enough work into it.

For the most part, writing is an isolated activity. And if you’re writing purely for self-reflection and journaling, then you never have to open up your world to other people. But if you want to get published, if you want your words to move people, then you owe it to yourself and the world to step out of the shadows and right into the spotlight. And this is true, even if it means some people will hate your work or won’t get it. Eventually those people will be your book reviewers on Amazon. But for now, let them motivate you to keep chipping away at your work.