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Bloomfield Hills

March 27, 2013

Local children’s author crafts message of respect, tolerance

By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Karin Jill Katz knows writing. While serving as a speechwriter for more than a decade, as well as raising three children, Katz also began to quietly write children’s books on the side. The only thing she  lacked was the confidence to publish them.

After going through a divorce in 2007, she said, writing on the side was nearly impossible.

“It was like having a writer’s block — I couldn’t write at all for two years,” she said.

With the onset of a new relationship three years ago, Katz regained her passion for writing. She stopped writing speeches and started publishing the children’s books she had set aside.

“It was like a re-invention of myself,” she said. “I finally had the confidence to do it.”

Now when the Bloomfield Hills native isn’t writing, she spends her time traveling to elementary schools around Oakland County, reading her stories and hoping to impart a little wisdom kindness, love and respect along the way.

Katz, who attended Lone Pine Elementary, West Hills Middle School and Andover High School, earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Michigan State University, with a minor in psychology and early childhood development.

“Today, everyone is moving at such a fast pace and downloading anything and everything electronically. I like to sit and read to the kids,” she said.

“I grew up with books surrounding me, allowing me to learn from the pages. It allowed me to use my imagination. That is what I want to share with these kids.”

Among her personal inspirations is her own childhood favorite, “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, and of course, her own children, ages 9, 12 and 13.

“I cried every time I read that book as a kid, and I still do,” she said.

“I want to be a giving tree. I want to give as much as I possibly can to everyone around me, and I want to inspire people to do the right thing because, every day, my kids inspire me.”

Katz’s first book, “There’s a Fly in My Soup,” tells the story of a hungry fly who plays on and eats a little girl’s food without permission. Although the girl’s anger and exasperation grow, she never swats him or uses physical harm, Katz said.

Eventually, the fly apologizes to the girl and they become friends, illustrating forgiveness, tolerance, manners and respect.  Katz said the book also proclaims an anti-bullying message that, as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, is immensely important to her.

“My father was in the concentration camps, and he and his sister lost their entire family, so I am wholly against physical harm and bullying,” she said.

“I always want the core values of my books to be kindness, trust, love and respect, because of what he went through. I want to spread that to my children and to others as long as I am on this earth.”

Jeff Sakwa, president of anti-bullying organization Defeat the Label, described Katz as “very talented and passionate” about her work. Katz has worked closely with the Bloomfield Hills-based organization in the past and donates a portion of her book sales to its cause.

“She recognized the good work we have been doing with kids and schools, and wanted to help through her book,” he said.

“Defeat the Label is working every day to promote a judgment-free society. Karin’s work with young children is what Defeat the Label is all about.”

Katz said she plans to schedule readings in the Bloomfield Hills School District in April for her second book, “One Ten and Over Again,” which focuses on counting by using imagery, repetition and entertaining narration.

“I feel like I make a difference when I read to the kids. I see their smiles, and they give me hugs. I leave feeling good. Giving them joy and having them for those 30 minutes fills my (happiness) bucket,” she said.

Katz said she also signs books for students who read copies in advance.

“I tell them that, in order to be an author, you do need to love to read and that the things you feel can be put into words — but I also explain that words can either be used to help or to hurt,” she said.

“Being selective in your words is so very important.”

“One Ten and Over Again” and “There’s a Fly in My Soup” are available for purchase at www.KarinJillKatz.com. Contact the author at kjs70@aol.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.