The Storyworld is available for download for the iPhone on the App Store here: Bedtime Stories — read & tell App.
Thank you for joining us and welcome to my blog. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
Hi Paul, thanks for the invite!
I’m Nikki Bergstresser, author of children’s fiction and actor. Previously, I was an elementary teacher for many years. I live just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with my husband and two daughters. Two rather large cats named Moose and Meese and a little Dachshund named Delilah, live with us too. My days are spent home schooling my daughters and trying to fit writing and acting somewhere in between.
What’s the name of your Storyworld and what is it about?
Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters is a story about a quiet boy who leaves behind the noisy city, his parents and four loud brothers to spend the summer with his grandparents at Cedar Forest. A magical walking stick gives him the ability to talk to the animals. Carter uses his knowledge of nature to lend a helping hand, solve a few problems and make new friends.
How did you come up with the stories and characters?
It has always been my opinion that spending time in nature fills a heart with peace and empties a mind of clutter. I love to share that joy of nature with others. Stepping into a forest with towering cedar trees and the chatter of feathered and furry critters feels almost magical. I have a nephew named Carter, whom I adore. Carter has a special relationship with his grandparents. Over the years, I have seen them share a love of nature with their grandchildren. There is nothing quite like a grandparent’s love. So the journey began to create a storyworld where Carter could spend the summer with his grandparents, venture into Cedar Forest and talk with the critters.
Tell us about the themes in your Storyworld. Why are they important?
Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters is about observing the world around you, taking the time to slow down and notice the little things.* Carter is a quiet and watchful boy. He is aware of his surroundings and grows from new experiences. There is also the theme of appreciating the differences in others. Whether human, feathered or furry, all are important and deserve to have their voices heard.
Are there educational aspects to your work? If so, what are they?
Yes, there are numerous opportunities for learning throughout the storyworld. Carter faces a new experience and new experiences can be stressful. This story lends itself to discussing emotions we experience when trying something new.
There are many different elements of flora and fauna that Carter sees in Cedar Forest. Learning about new plants and animals by taking a trip to the library is a fun thing to do on a rainy day, or you could take a walk in nature and observe the sights, stopping to listen to the sounds and to even play a game of ‘I Spy’.
Problem-solving methods are applied in each story as Carter helps the critters with a number of sticky situations. Each critter has a different personality, so they must also try to work together as a team to solve the mysteries they investigate.
When and why did you begin writing?
Growing up I enjoyed writing, especially poetry. My dad loves to write and was a wonderful role model for me throughout my childhood. I incorporated writing into my classroom as a teacher and now when I instruct small groups of children in home schooling programs. Often when I am unable to find a story or poem that fit what I was teaching, I will write something.
How many books have you written to date? What inspired you to write your first book?
Many stories and poems have been written over the years and I am currently pursuing publishing some of them. Family and friends have been my biggest cheerleaders encouraging me along my writing journey.
Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your genre that you find particularly challenging?
I enjoy bringing a poetic and expressive element to my writing style. Hopefully it allows for the reader to experience the story through a variety of senses. When writing picture books, I can be “wordy” at times making it difficult to keep the word count down. As a writer, having supportive critique groups are great for encouraging our strengths and working through our writing challenges.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I began saying it out loud to others. Verbalizing my dream allowed me to own it. It also created some accountability when family and friends asked how my writing was going. It motivates me and keeps me on track with my writing journey.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
Coffee and chocolate! Seriously, it just depends on what I am writing. For Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters, I began feeding the squirrels (bushy black and grey ones), Stellar Jays, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and various other birds in my backyard. One day I was struggling with one of the stories so I packed up my folding chair, computer and coffee. I went into the woods by a stream and wrote. I became so engrossed in my story and the talking critters, I hadn’t heard a man and his dog approach. The dog came leaping at me to play at the same I heard a voice say, “Great day to be in nature!” The dog’s owner was standing behind me and I hadn’t seen him. For a brief moment, I actually thought it was the dog talking to me! Now that’s when an author is really immersed in a story.
What were your favourite books as a child and why?
Christina Katerina & The Box by Patricia Lee Gauch A girl with the most imaginative mind transforms a simple cardboard box into endless possibilities. As a child I spent hours playing creatively and this book really spoke to me to look at things in different ways.
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton The journey of a little house through the seasons and years is beautifully written and a great discussion on change. It still brings a tear to my eye when I read it to children.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney Doing good and making a difference in the world through small actions can have big impacts. Such a powerful message that is timeless.
What book are you currently reading?
I started leading book clubs for my daughters and their friends. Each week I post Reflection questions on a blog where they respond about the chapters read. At the end of the book we gather for a pizza party and discussion. It’s been a definite highlight listening to their feedback from the novels we have read. Currently we are reading Eric Walter’s Walking Home, A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielson, Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember and I have Refugee by Alan Gratz sitting on my bedside table.
What advice do you give to writers starting out on their career?
On my phone I keep a list of story ideas in a folder. I always have my phone handy so it’s a great place to keep them. My daughters even know how to access my idea folder because we may be driving and a story idea just hits me so I will have them jot the idea down.
Get involved with local critique groups and become a presence on social media. There have been some amazing connections made through networking online. Write to your passion and what you know. Since I love nature, I spend time going to wildlife sanctuaries, hiking and watching nature documentaries. If you write for children, read to children. Know your audience through reading your writing to them and see how they respond. And if you have children of your own, teach them to make you coffee when you are immersed in your writing!
What are you currently working on and what is your next project?
When Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters comes out in the Bedtime Stories app, I will be doing an author visit to several classrooms. I just outlined another picture book idea and began writing it this weekend. As well, Nanowrimo https://nanowrimo.org/ is coming up in November. It will be my first time participating in it this year.
Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Thank you for telling us about your Bedtime Stories Storyworld and your books! We can’t wait to read them!
Thanks so much, Paul!
Carter & The Cedar Forest Critters is available for download on the Bedtime Stories — read & tell App on iPhone and iPad