At the Same we love connecting readers with authors, and, today, we interviewed children’s author, Jennifer Hultz. We’re excited to introduce her beautiful book with readers around the world!
the Same: Tell us about yourself!
Jennifer Hultz: I grew up all around Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, moving around frequently due to my father’s profession. This definitely shaped a lot of who I am today as I had to learn how to adapt to change, new surroundings and people from a very young age. I also delved into writing and expanded the use of my imagination when I had a lot of downtime. I often spent weekends and summers enjoying all that the beach and ocean had to offer, setting up a deep rooted passion I have for the beach. The older I get, the more I recognize the calling I have from “ocean life” and that it creates a sense of grounding for my soul. The sounds and smells of the ocean still permeate my being deep in the heart of Tennessee. I am a wife, mother to three beautiful children (three years old and younger), full-time working nurse anesthetist, and now full-time children’s book author. My time is incredibly precious as life is beyond busy. Beach time serves as a recharge and comfort to who I am at my core. It is relaxation, peace, joy, calming. The ocean is my deep breath in life.
Hopkins, the inspiration for my children’s book series Adventures of Hopkins, was the precious black lab I had in my life for almost thirteen years. We were connected by our deep love for the beach. I could always tell the immense joy and peace that he experienced while running long stretches of beach or when he would body surf and ride waves in to shore. Hopkins was my graduation present from my parents when I completed my degree from Johns Hopkins University, School of Nursing in 2004. I traveled to the countryside of Virginia, outside of Richmond, to pick him out of a litter of new lab puppies when he was just six weeks old. He captured my heart when he stood out from the pack, exploring the land of his own, while the rest of his siblings chowed down ferociously on dinner. This was a snapshot into what our life would be like together and the adventurous spirit we both would embrace over the next twelve plus years together. We traveled and settled our lives in many different areas: Richmond, VA, Charlottesville, VA, Washington, DC, West Palm Beach, FL, and then to our final, forever home: Knoxville, TN. The next book in this series will appropriately be titled, Hopkins Goes Camping, as we also enjoyed mountain life in the Smoky Mountains together.
tS: Tell us about your journey to becoming an author. How did you come to be a writer? Have you always wanted to write?
JH: Reading and writing has always been a passion and love of mine for as long as I can remember. I vividly recall sitting in my dad’s office during the summer months as he would place me in front of a typewriter, a budget friendly form of babysitting. For hours, I would sit and create stories of places and things of untold lands and adventures. This unbridled free time allowed me to use prose to cultivate my imagination and express myself in ways that greatly shaped my future in school, my medical profession, and now motherhood. A common theme of birthday, Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as Christmas gifts from me would include framed printed out poems I had written. I’ll never forget visiting my grandmother not long ago and going in and using her bathroom. There, on the wall, was hanging one of my many gifted poems I had created as a child. Words touched me and moved me to express myself in deeper ways, and share this with those closest to me. Now as a mother, the feelings I experienced after the death of my beloved dog, Hopkins, moved me to put pen to paper and honor him and create a legacy by which my children would forever remember him. My first children’s book is a melding of two precious and beautiful worlds of mine: my early, adventurous and nomadic young adult life with Hopkins combined with my current, chaotic beautiful mess of life with three children three and under.
tS: Have you ever had to struggle for your voice to be heard? Tell us about that.
JH: Personally, the struggle for my voice to be heard has come from a myriad of circumstances associated with growth, development, and maturity. The younger I was, the less confident I was because I didn’t know “me” yet. I look back at that time as a period by which I was able to grow in understanding about who I was and the worth I had as an individual. As time has passed, I’m much more confident in who I am as a person, wife, mother, friend, coworker, and businesswoman. From this confidence comes a stronger voice. I hope I display a quiet confidence in all that I do, and if need be, a level of forcefulness to get my words across. This growth over time should be an expected demonstration of how each of us evolve, develop, and mature. I am at a much happier and more confident place now in my thirties than I was in my twenties and teenage years. I hope to grow further and become even more sure of myself in my forties and fifties. What is the point of living a life of full of choices within different experiences if we don’t grow from this autonomy and power over ourselves?
tS: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
JH: Language, most certainly, has power! There are many scenarios that stick out to me when I was a child and teenager, both positively and negatively, to demonstrate this fact. Specifically, I can remember two times of negative language spoken to me when I was younger, that I vividly remember details surrounding each time. I remember sights and smells from those exact moments. I remember being embarrassed, scared, humiliated, and sad… from words spoken to me. When I was quite young, I remember riding with my mom while she was driving and upset. She said, probably jokingly at the time but I was too young to recognize, some poor choice words to my brother and I. She was angry and frustrated, like many moms get when they have met their limit. She spoke to my brother and I during that moment of losing her patience and it affected us deeply. We still jokingly tell her about it today, but she has no recollection of that instance and is mortified that something she said in a heated moment had such a profound impact on her two children. I often struggle myself with patience. Having three children three and under, working full time, and trying to grow my small business sets up circumstances where I am feeling quite overwhelmed and exhausted. There are many moments I may lose my cool and speak to one or all of my children in a way that makes me feel guilty afterwards. This weighs heavy on my heart as I know the power of words spoken, especially to children and the lasting impact it may unintentionally have on them in their present and future life.
As a mom of little ones very close in age, I am constantly reminded how the power of language is so differently influential among each person, little children included. My boy/girl twins are the perfect example. They are the same age, yet have vastly different personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and ways in which they handle learning. My son is much more sensitive than my daughter. I could say the exact same thing to my son, which had no effect on my daughter, and he will immediately put his head down and go sit by himself in the corner. It can be crushing as their mother at times. I constantly need to be aware of WHAT I am saying, but also HOW I am saying it. This can make or break a situation with my children. Words matter. Facial expressions matter. Your inflections and tone of voice matter.
The second scenario involves an overnight sleepover I had with my cheerleading team. We played a horrible “game” of going around and telling each person one positive and one negative physical attribute they each had. Do you think I remember what that person told me was good about myself? No. I don’t even remember the girl’s name. However, I do remember the room we were all sitting in. I remember where this girl was standing in the room in front of everyone telling them something negative about my physical appearance. I remember my face getting really red and hot. I remember feeling embarrassed and sad. Do you know what she said? My ears stuck out too far. That’s it. It was a game. She had to say one nice thing and one not nice thing. For years and years I didn’t wear my hair up if I didn’t have to for sports. Her words affected me profoundly. Words have power. Words can cut deep. Words can not be taken away from someone’s memory. Words can change someone’s own personal view of themselves. (I am happy to say that I do now wear my hair up and haven’t thought twice about my ears sticking out too far in years! Again, I’ve had a steady growth in personal confidence and maturity.)
There is hope! Words do matter. Words are powerful. They can affect change positively. I wish I could remember what my fellow cheerleader said about me that was good. Unfortunately, the negative outshone the good. Speak positively. You never know the power your words may have on someone, and for years to come. We need to recognize the power of speaking intentionally and positively. Careless and negative speech are potentially destructive forces that could impact someone to their core. We should strive to use language to inspire others. Say what you need to say, but do so in a positive way and always remember to compliment those around you. You never know the power your words may have on those closest to you and also to complete strangers.
tS: What was your favorite book as a young girl?
JH: Two books that stood out to me as a young girl are classics: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank and Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. There were three main takeaways about Anne Frank’s diary that resonated with me as a young teenager that I think most women feel at some point in their journey into womanhood. First, through our frequent moves, I think I related to feeling as though I could entrust my innermost thoughts and deepest feelings to no one other than a diary. A sense of liberation and trust formed when I could confide my truest thoughts and pen them to paper. I kept a diary on and off for most of my teenage, college, and young adult life. This helped facilitate and grow much of my joy of writing. For me, writing gave me life.
The second area I connected with, which I think many teenage girls identify with, is the close relationship Anne Frank had with her father and the struggled connection she had with her mother. Like many young girls, I, too, seemed at odds with my mother for most of my teenage and young adult life. There was a sense of familiarity and sigh of relief that I wasn’t alone in my differing relationships with my parents. It seemed as though young girls’ plights were the same across time, religions, nationalities and this made me seem less different and strange. Lastly, there was such an awakening to the reality of injustices and prejudices in this world, even of the most basic right for freedom. Her diary stirred a belief my family instilled in me, that we are all created equal and that we must always demonstrate love and kindness to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion. Sadly, we still struggle with this in today’s world and her book has transcended time in the themes that were highlighted.
The second book that resonated with me was Little Women, which followed the lives of four sisters in their passage from children to womanhood. There were so many different aspects of this book that connected to where I was and who I wanted to be; specifically, romance, family drama, and figuring out young women’s place in the world. I loved that she highlighted the plights of ambitious women, gender constraints associated with these aspirations, and the attempts to escape those barriers that has, unfortunately, transcended time. Alcott’s writing style influenced me greatly as I saw the success she had in writing from a place of personal experience in her own life.
tS: Which female authors have most influenced you as a writer?
JH: For me, an extremely influential female author was Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’ve always loved poetry and the way her words seem to dance across the page was mesmerizing. I have always enjoyed the challenge of finding a deeper meaning to prose, specifically some of her works. Browning also carried a variety of social causes and religious themes to many of her works. I so admire those that are able to include important hot topics within their literary pieces. What better way to affect the world around you, inspire others, and put your stamp on the world than to have your writings published? I wanted to be proud of my children’s book, not only for my own children, but something I felt could brighten the day of a little one and promote positively into our world.
tS: Tell us about one female author we may not have heard of whom you think we ought to read.
JH: A female author I am really enjoying reading lately is Emily Ley. She is a source of constant positivity that I’ve found I have needed recently in my overwhelmingly chaotic mom life. Emily started out as a blogger and then formed her boutique lifestyle brand that inspires women of all ages to build joy and simplicity into their lives through intentional choices, purposeful plans and playful experiences. Her first book, Grace not Perfection, hit home with me as I was desperately seeking ways to simplify and prioritize this crazy life of mine. I loved her focus on faith, reminding us that God abundantly pours out grace on us- surely we can extend grace to ourselves. Her second book, A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living, is set to be released November 21st of this year. I look forward to reading more from a self-made, driven young mom and businesswoman that connects with readers because of her honesty and connectivity.
tS: Tell us about your book.
JH: “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” Robert Wyland
These words encompass the essence from which my first children’s book was birthed. Hopkins Goes to the Beach is a story shaped from real life experiences that only ocean life can have on families, especially young children. Hopkins, a black Labrador retriever, embarks on a day trip to the beach with his mommy. As a result of not listening to his mother’s wishes, Hopkins plunges into a world filled with animals, families, and activities he has never before experienced. After an exhilarating day spent drenching himself in ocean life, darkness begins to blanket the beach and Hopkins is left wondering if he will ever be reunited with his mommy. This children’s book highlights the unconditional love a mother has for her child, while also focusing on the importance of a child listening to their mommy. Rhyming, repetitive phrasing and a sing-song cadence allow children to quickly get engrossed in this adventure with Hopkins. Hopkins Goes to the Beach becomes a fan favorite for bedtime stories, any time of the year.
tS: Tell us about the process of writing your book.
JH: A family vacation to the “Forgotten Coast” in September 2016 was an incredibly bittersweet moment in time for me. We had not been on a family vacation in over a year and a half, and never had had one with all three children. My husband and I were desperate for quality, relaxed time together with our children and the vacation did not disappoint. My twins were at such a great age for discovering new things. At two and half years old, every new experience was the ultimate high for everyone. It was also my youngest son’s first time ever seeing the beach.
The “Forgotten Coast” led us to experience almost all of the must-haves of being at the beach: beautiful sunrises and sunsets, crabs, sharks, seagulls, dolphins, stingrays, pelicans, sea turtles, building sandcastles, playing volleyball, sunbathing and relaxing, having lunch under an umbrella, fishing, surfing, and roasting and eating s’mores right on the beach. Everything was such a momentous activity for the kids, much of it being their first memorable experiences at the beach. I was in awe of the joy seeping from every pore of my children’s bodies. Nothing could dampen the light of this trip… Until that moment we received the devastating phone call from back home. Hopkins was sick, suddenly and without warning. He was too sick to survive us taking an immediate trip back home. My husband and I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to let Hopkins go be at peace, without us at his side. Fortunately, one of my best friend’s, who had known Hopkins since he was a puppy, was able to be with him and FaceTime me during his last moments. We sat on the beach and talked to Hopkins, letting him know how much he was loved and appreciated. We were there with him during his last breaths. The anguish, tears, sadness, and love enveloped my husband and I. In this moment, I knew I needed to honor Hopkins, our joint love of the beach, and my three beautiful children in a children’s book. Hopkins Goes to the Beach was born on September 27, 2016, the day Hopkins left this earthly life, and set out on his heavenly journey as our guardian angel.
tS: Did writing your book change you as a woman? What did you learn?
JH: Writing a book has forever changed me as a woman. I had a passion and love for writing. Even though my day to day job didn’t allow for this type of creativity to flow, I followed a dream of mine and saw it birthed into a reality. I am so proud of my work. I hope to instill the same type of tenacity, fortitude and drive into each of my children. It sounds incredibly cliché to say, but follow your dreams! A deep sense of pride, accomplishment, and happiness grows from within and changes you for the better. I sign each of my books with the following: “Dream big! Live your passion. Always remember to find a way to do what you love. Explore the world and your imagination through books.” This is what I want my legacy to be to my children when they think about me writing and publishing my first children’s book—Mommy did it! I can do whatever it is I set my mind and heart to do!
You can check out Jennifer’s website at www.adventuresofhopkins.com and order a personalized and signed copy of “Hopkins Goes to the Beach”. Use the code “thesame” and you’ll get 20% off list price and free shipping!
If you enjoyed getting to know Jennifer as much as we did, make sure to connect with her on social media!