Moms to See in the 803 :: Andrea Dorn

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Mom. Psychotherapist. Author.

Those are the first words you’ll find when you visit Andrea’s website, and I think they are so fitting. Andrea and I connected through a mutual friend when she moved here with her family last year. As soon as I learned she was a fellow boy mom and a children’s book author, I HAD to meet her. 

There is so much to love about Andrea’s new Mindful Steps series, the super relatable content, the cheery illustrations (which Andrea also does), and the easy to comprehend text, to name a few. I’m so glad she was up for sharing about her journey as a mother and author, as  well as her new life here in Columbia. 

First things first, as a newbie to Columbia, tell us… what are your favorite pre/post-COVID spots in Cola?

We are still fairly new here and COVID-19 has NOT been kind in helping us explore, BUT Pre-COVID of course, the zoo, and children’s museum. We also love Saluda Shoals park (we love the new accessible playground!). Post-COVID we are loving everything nature! We’ve been going to Peachtree Heritage Rock Preserve to hike fairly frequently and we recently took up camping! 

Moving is huge, especially with little ones! How has moving to Columbia impacted your journey as an author?

Moving to and living in Columbia has challenged me in ways I never knew were possible and truthfully, I’m not sure I would have started my children’s book series had I not encountered such big changes. I have been grateful to be closer to family which has provided additional support while raising young kids, and taking on some new challenges like writing books and starting a private practice. We have loved getting to know the area and have met some really wonderful people here, but we’re still working on getting used to the heat! 

I know your move played a big role in you starting your series, but what else made you decide to write children’s books?

Like most things, my series came from necessity. About two years ago we (my husband, kiddos, and I) began a series of major transitions in our lives. As my son started to work through these transitions, I was surprised to learn there weren’t really any step-by-step, or guide books to illustrate these changes in a concrete way. Books are such an important part of childhood development and are an extremely helpful tool in supporting children to learn, and caregivers to teach all kinds of things about the world! Because of my background as a mental health therapist, I knew exactly what kind of book I was looking for and couldn’t find it anywhere. My series started as a way to help my own child mindfully handle these transitions and grew into a passion to create a helpful resource for kids and their caregivers to more easily navigate the big and small changes that come with development.

So it sounds like a lot of your topics come from your own personal experiences. 

As a mental health therapist, I have had the immense pleasure to work with children of all backgrounds in my practice. The topics I choose are inspired by transitions made in early childhood development, my own children’s’ struggles, as well as the challenges I’ve encountered with children I’ve worked with professionally. My first books are on potty training and becoming a big sibling, I’m currently working on several other titles, but you can expect upcoming books on topics like bedtime, mealtime, making friends, practicing mindfulness, starting school, processing grief, becoming a big sibling through adoption, and working through trauma. These are all transitions that children can struggle with and benefit from having concrete expectations for.

As an expert, what is one tip or piece of advice you would give to mothers in dealing with little ones and big emotions?

One of my favorite sayings is “connection before correction.” This is a positive discipline phrase and it comes from the idea that “children learn (grow, feel safe, thrive) best when they feel connection” because this allows them to feel “belonging and significance.” Young children, especially strong-willed children, will not be able to fully regulate their emotions until they’re much older, however, you will notice they become much more open to learning emotional skills when they feel they are connected (aka: feel safe, like they belong, and are significant) to their caregiver. So, next time your child has a big emotion, try to connect with them before anything else: sit with them, offer a hug, see if they can match your breathing, etc. – support them as they calm down, and then correct any negative behaviors that occurred or teach an emotion regulation skill. The best part about building connection is that you can do it anytime (not just during a big emotion!) and this will proactively help during future overwhelming emotions.

I know a lot of moms who have thought about writing their own books. For moms interested in getting a book published, what’s a good first step to take?

The first step is to flush out your idea and determine your audience. Then, head over to the library or a bookstore and read as many books as you can on the topic you’d like to write about to figure out how your book will stand out or be unique. Next, write a manuscript. Then edit, (and edit some more!), and run your manuscript by as many people as you can for feedback. If you’re submitting to a traditional publisher stop here and begin submitting. If you plan to self-publish, edit some more, illustrate, and publish on a platform like amazon or ingramspark. 

One thing I wanted to ask you was about your main character. I noticed they are gender-neutral, what made you decide to create your character this way?

When I first started creating my character, I told my husband: “Okay. All I have to do is make a character that is male and female and White and Black and Hispanic and blue eyed and brown eyed and [insert all other race, gender, appearance and family composition descriptors here].” Of course, there were limitations when it actually came down to it, but I did my best to incorporate as much as I could. My goal was to make the character as neutral as possible in order to help the reader identify with the character as much as possible.

OK, final question… What advice do you have for other moms wanting to pursue their dreams?

I think the biggest pieces of advice I could give are: Listen to your heart and have courage to be vulnerable. – If you would have told me I would be writing and illustrating children’s books 10 years or even one year ago I would have laughed out loud! Despite that, somehow this has been one of the most fitting and fulfilling (and terrifying!) things I have done in my life. Know that your dreams, whatever they are, will likely come with thinking out of the box, hard work, setbacks, and criticism. Lean into these vulnerabilities and use them to make you stronger. Lastly, just do it! Truly, if you’re waiting for a sign. Here it is. As long as what you’re doing is coming from your heart, you have “literally” nothing to lose.

Thank you so much to Andrea for answering my questions and taking the time to share your story. Be sure to check her out online on her website, Facebook, or Instagram!

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Carey Shofner
Originally from Indiana, Carey moved to South Carolina in 2009. She and her husband, Brett, met during college at USC and now reside in Forest Acres. She is an elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom to their wonderful baby boy. After struggling with infertility for years, their son, Milo, joined their family in November of 2017 through the beautiful gift of adoption. Carey enjoys writing and crafting in her spare time and even has a small Etsy shop and personal blog, both named Simply Shofner. Coffee and cats are her love language and she's passionate about adoption, education and social justice issues. She would describe herself as your totally basic, semi-crunchy, hot mess mom who loves strolling the aisles of Target and play dates at Starbucks.

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