SMILE while you read my interview with Ruth Kaiser

smiley book of colorsIt was just one of those accidental meetings which I am sure was guided by a divine energy bigger than us all. I went to Lafayette last weekend to help my mother with her booth at a craft fair and in the space next us was Ruth Kaiser. After I shuffled around being grouchy while setting up my mother’s display of bags, I stopped to look at what Ruth was selling.

A book about spreading happiness. Talk about guilt! I had growled at this woman because her display was a quarter of an inch over the line. Lucky for me, she lives by her motto and she was forgiving!

Ruth Kaiser is the author of “The Smiley Book of Colors” (I don’t consider this book just for children!) Check out her website – and her Facebook page – Spontaneous Smiley

Tell us about yourself:

I am a career artist and teacher. I graduated from Berkeley with a degree in art and went on to get a teaching credential. I have three grown children. I am also an actor – currently playing and singing with the Contra Costa Civic Theater performing A Child’s Christmas in Wales. After years of teaching my basic curriculum of KINDNESS, I expanded my theory to include not only how to be kind, but how to look for ways to be kind.

How did your book come to be?

As a photographer I love to take pictures of all kinds of things. One day I noticed that there were smiles everywhere. My children convinced me I should have a Facebook page to spread the smiles. People started to message me. My kids said you should have a Facebook group. It took off and  I spent more time developing it. I was getting smiles and messages from all over the world. Then I started getting requests for interviews – from Bejing, London, CBS news. I had an interview with Katie Couric and was contacted by Oprah. I got serious about developing my idea that smiles are everywhere and that people can chose happiness. Originally the book was going to be a coffee-table book, but for a variety of reasons it turned into a children’s book. (This book is wonderful for adults too.)

Tell us about Operation Smile.

In 2009 the Spontaneous Smiley Project partnered with the medical charity Operation Smile. Each time a Smiley is uploaded to the Smiley Gallery, a $1 donation is made to help fund free surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates. To date Spontaneous Smiley has funded 25 surgeries, one Smiley photo at a time.

How does the Spontaneous Smiley Project keep the $1 a Smiley pledge alive? With the help of our Smiley community!  From dental offices, to Smiley contributors, to an entire Elementary school hosting a Smile-a-Thon, the pledge lives on. Your donations, of any amount, help the Spontaneous Smiley Project continue to help kids like these! (Click here for the link to donate)

Do you have any advice for other authors?

Because I didn’t go through the traditional channels—I was lucky—I can’t really say. I was introduced to a friend of a friend, who just happened to be in the publishing business. She was willing to help me in a general way, but when all was said and done, I asked her if SHE would be willing to publish my book and that led to the eventual contract with Random House. But luck was only a tiny factor. I did the work. The project grew because I had a purpose – spread happiness and help people smile. There is power in social media, but I worked at it. I looked for other groups that were about optimism and I would link with them. I am very active on Twitter—which is different from Facebook—and work hard to keep up an active presence. In fact Twitter is how I came to be contacted by Oprah. I spend a lot of time on my website, time selling and signing books and putting on events, as well as continuing my day job with my pre-school.

How do you market and sell your book?

Book signings at a wide variety of events. Assemblies at schools. These are great. I present to the kids about happiness. How to not stress when you aren’t first in line or you don’t have the toy you want. How to be happy for your friend when she is student of the week (and you are not). Then we have a “Smile-a-thon”. The kids go out around the school with cameras and find smiles. We talk about turning the camera upside down to find a smile. Kids are so spontaneous and see the smiles immediately. And, as I said, I work hard maintaining my web and social media presence.Ruth Kaiser

Are you working on a new project?

Yes. I am have more children’s books I am prepping for publishing. I’m also working on a parenting book which focuses on being a gentle parent. My experience as a teacher and my observations of the world help me to see how necessary this is.

Any final advice?

You get what you look for. Your life becomes what you focus on. If you look for happier things, you will have a happy life.

Thank you Ruth!

Click on the photo of the book at the top of the page for a direct link to buying it!

Robin’s favorite quote from the book: 

Purple. Might all be okay? Might it really be fine? Tell yourself, “Yes!” Life is yours to define.

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