For a writer who grew up in Westminster, seeing her first book published was a chance to share her love of of books with the young people who are now her readers.
Caroline Bliss Larsen, who grew up in Westminster, co-authored “Marvin’s Monster Diary 2″ with Dr. Raun Melmed. The book is part of a series that helps teach kids mindfulness tools for coping with ADHD, anxiety and anger. The title is the fourth in the “Monster Diary” book series, and the first that Larsen has co-written.
She grew up in Westminster and graduated from Westminster High School. She now spends most of her time in Utah, but still comes back to Maryland to visit family.
The series was born when Melmed, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, wanted a new way to share the information he was giving families. A lot of his advice was “demystifying” problems for parents, but makes the child the primary participant in the process.
He said, “If you ask any kid, ‘Hey, would you like to improve and get better and have more friends and don’t get angry so much?’ every kid will say, ‘Of course I want to do that.’ But we’re often at a loss for how are going to do that then? And that’s where the book comes in.”
This is all woven into a story that they hope is interesting and fun for the 5-to-11 age group.
“I think a lot of kids probably don’t want to read a self-help book. And they definitely don’t want their parents to read them a self-help book. So I think that’s why these books are really valuable,” Larsen said.
Added Melmed: “These aren’t problems that only those kids with mental health disorders have or something else like that. They’re the problems every single kid has every single day.”
Coming in to a series with characters already established was an interesting challenge for Larsen. Another part of her job is to take the principles that Melmed hopes to teach and weaving them with an engaging storyline.
The whole process is collaborative, they said. The two bounce ideas back and forth to write an outline. Then Larsen writes a bit of draft and they come back together to discuss and edit. They’re at work on the next book in the series, which will look at friendship and how to make and keep friends.
Larsen said a pleasant surprise that has come out of her first published book has been unexpected support and encouragement from people she hasn’t been in touch with for a while.
“Like, I’m totally not even close to a celebrity,” she said. "But you know, people just get really excited. They’re like ‘Whoa, you published the thing. You wrote something and people read it.’”
Said Melmed: “We’ve been both surprised and, and gratified to hear young children tell us that, this is the first book I’ve ever read cover to cover. That makes us feel just wonderful.”
“I’m really passionate about books," she said. "Books and literacy, I think, can just change kids’ lives.”
She remembers her own language arts teachers that encouraged her. One that stuck out was Elizabeth Haff, who still teaches elementary school in Carroll County Public Schools.
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“I just remember her being really supportive of me wanting to write,” she said. “I had a lot of fantastic teachers at those schools who never made me feel like I was silly for wanting to be an author, and always encouraged that.”