A vessel of faith... pouring out
Inspired by the natural chemistry of the creativity placed in her by the Most High God, author Leneen Faith is taking an educational adventure with her Peacebe and the Heartwatch children’s books. She took some time to be interviewed by us. Check it out!
How far into your teaching career did you decide to write the series?
Well, it was actually before I started teaching. It was when I was a substitute teacher. My first year -I only subbed for one year before I got a full time position. I realized that the school board had an amazing character program in place. They just needed more resources. They recommended different books about the topics, but they didn't have a one-stop shop, so to speak. So, while I was subbing, I realized the character (Peacebe) that I’ve had in my head for five years, would be a good fit, and thought, "why don't I write a book for each of the character traits?" So that's how I decided to write the books, but the program itself is great. What we create is a resource to add onto the program that's already in place.
So, Peacebe and Heartwatch were already in your mind before you started teaching?
Yes. It was 2005 when the idea popped into my head, and I didn't really do much with it at all. I wrote maybe two or three stories in the span of five years, but there was just no set structure and during that time my husband and I ended up having our own kids. I'm watching Dora and all these kid’s shows, and then I’m realizing that all of them have a set structure. So, what I did was, once I became a substitute teacher, I saw all of these really cool character traits like respect, responsibility, citizenship etc. and I decided to write a story for each one of these traits and have it structured just like Dora has where there is a clear beginning, middle and end, and do the same thing with Peacebe, but with the first series just focus on character. So, yeah, I did have the idea five years before teaching, and my first year of subbing that's when I wrote out the whole series on paper and then typed it into the computer and then it took my brother and I four years to complete it. He came on board 2010 after I wrote the books and then it took us four years to turn them into a mini book series.
What's it like to work with your brother (illustrative genius)?
It's awesome. It's awesome.. we understand each other. We both have the same vision in mind for Peacebe. It's brought us closer. We’re five days from a year apart. We grew up as best friends. Even in college we were cool. I think just after college things changed a little bit for both of us. So, we weren't as close, but working on Peacebe, we've become close again. He has the same vision for Peacebe. He's a perfectionist, like no joke. You know people say they're a perfectionist? He really is, and it's good because he wants to make sure that the visual appeal of Peacebe is at a very high standard, and that's why it has taken so long. Other illustrators may have been able to do it in a few months, but it has taken so long because we wanted to make sure that everything looked awesome.
What is the creative process between you both?
Well, I have no artistic ability at all. Pretty much the way that it works is that I story board. I create a story board, for example, one of our first books that we came out with was, Operation Transformation, and I just took typing paper and I stapled them together and I used stick figures and I wrote out what I wanted each page to say. I just told him (brother) that Peacebe is the boy, Sabrina is the girl.. I just gave him a description. He just kind of went with it. I just let him be creative, because that's the best thing to do. He just got in his zone and he was able to create the whole Peacebe world visually, and I'm cool with whatever he comes up with.
Are you taking away pieces of your everyday life to help write about these character traits?
YES. That’s actually exactly what it is. For now, we have the eight books. Eventually we want to have more, but how the stories came about, it's just really being a teacher at the time being in the classroom I got to see the kids, and I have my own kids. I've always loved teaching so I kind of poured my heart into it -from the eyes of the teacher. The kids get excited because there's an adventure piece to it. Heartwatch can make Peacebe fly, transform, and become invisible! So, it's not boring. The kids are excited at the same time while they're learning really valuable lessons. We started off with character, because we believe that that's the foundation. Also, the other reason why we started off with character was with me subbing and seeing the need for this resource. We have about seventeen other series in our heads, hundreds of stories. We want to do adventure next. We actually want it to be a cartoon. We have many different ideas in our head, but for now we have to just market and promote the eight books that we have out.
Did you study creative writing?
No, actually I did psychology at the University of Florida. I’ve always known that I wanted to work with kids. I did psychology because I wanted to be a child psychologist initially, but then I changed my mind during my senior year. Then, my older brother was like, just graduate Leneen, its ok. So, I just graduated and went to Nova and got my Masters in elementary education. I’ve always loved writing. It's always been a passion of mine ever since I was a little girl. I remember one time I wrote this piece and the teacher didn't think I wrote it. She didn't believe me but I really did write it. From that time I knew that I had a gift. I wanted to figure out how to use the talent that God gave me to impact the world positively. So, after graduating college that's when Peacebe popped into my head. I've never majored in writing. It's just been a passion. Sometimes, when people go through issues whether it’s a loss of a loved one or things like that, I just write to encourage them. I like writing music and different things also. Peacebe is my big thing now.
Do you consider your story telling and writing as a God given gift?
Yes, 100% I believe that we all have our talents from God. I feel like if you don't use it, you'll lose it. I also feel like when you do use it, God blesses you with more. That's in the bible. I love God, and sometimes when things get hard --I'm fueled by His peace and His power. It has nothing to do with me. I believe that God has this big calling on my life in regards to kids and it's ultimately going to relay back to Him. Now, Peacebe is something that can be in the schools. Eventually, I want to combine scripture with it to make it for the church as well. I do believe writing is a God given talent. Just like art is a God given talent for my brother David. He uses all of his talents. He does music at times. He does stand-up comedy. He doesn't waste his talents, and he keeps getting more.
Are there Christian undertones in your books? If so, were you intentional about that?
We are in the process of meeting with publishers, and we get feedback without even saying it. They'll refer us to religious publishing. That's just God. I'm not going to hide away from it. I know how the school is and how it's set up. I'm a teacher and whether I agree or disagree, you follow the rules that are in place. At the same time, no matter what religious background you are from, you want your kids to be respectful, kind and have citizenship to be responsible. Now, those traits apply to everybody, no matter what your religion. Now, if we were going to take the same traits and find them in scripture, you can. You can find stories about Job and how to persevere. You can relate it to scripture. It is something that applies to all religions, but for me, God knows where my heart is and I know where my heart it is. The undertone does shine through.
What was your favorite bible story growing up?
I never had one. My mom is a Christian, and loves the Lord, but we didn’t really go to church that much. It was more after college, I had a lot of questions. Things didn't make sense. It was probably a little bit later in life when I developed a relationship with God. In 2005 actually, I started a journal. I started asking my older brother Leighton questions about Christianity, telling him that some things didn't make sense. So, he said, "Leneen, I'd have more respect for you if you'd try to find these answers for yourself." That was ten years ago. I would always read and pray. I have a relationship now. Right now, I’m a Sunday school teacher and I’m learning the scriptures as I’m teaching the kids. I read the whole New Testament. I’m reading the Old Testament now. It's not like I had favorite scripture growing up. You know, there's David and Goliath and stories like that.. Some of the things I’m learning at Sunday school like.... I forgot one and it's pretty cool. He had a funny name and yeah, Jehoshaphat! I learned about that as an adult teaching Sunday school and I thought that was awesome because he's going out at a big army ready to fight people and instead of having weapons, they were singing praises, and that shows us a really good lesson as adults and the kids got it as well. So yeah, I’m always learning different scriptures and things.
Have you come across a particular scripture that you feel you can identify as your life verse or a mission defining scripture?
There's more than one.
2 Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Philippians 4:13, "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
These are very important because life is very hard. It's not easy at all. There are so many (scriptures) that I draw on. I write them down, but those three are the ones that stick out right away.
My middle name is Faith. I feel like eventually I want to do a blog and relate it to all the different gifts and ideas that God has given me, and it's pretty much, Faith isn't just my middle name, it's my way of life. I left teaching to step out a new year in faith to pursue my dream. Ultimately, I've got other God given ideas to do, and I want to use up my talents while I still have breath in my body.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is allowing fear to paralyze me from achieving my dreams. It's a constant battle, I have a lot of faith, but fear creeps in, but ultimately faith wins, because God is in control :) But if that's too deep, then I'll go with rats...lol:)