Securing the Cheese and Teaching Life Lessons
an Interview with Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy by The Clown
May / June 2018 issue of My City Magazine
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go” from T.S. Eliot and “Do or do not. There is no try” from the Jedi master Yoda are two quotes that come to mind when pondering life’s possibilities. When we see others becoming an embodiment of these ideas, the results are often inspiration, admiration, and maybe a bit of envy. The envy comes from the thought that we cannot possibly fit a dream into our busy schedules to feed our souls. Once that thought is defeated, possibilities seem endless.
Some local individuals are ever expanding their possibilities and you can encounter them daily, if you so choose. The owners and operators of local shops and restaurants, publishers of independent media, and even the skater kid selling art on the corner for the first time all provide us glimpses of things we may not have, as of yet, explored. Another local example has just published his first children’s book. Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy is a scientist, entrepreneur, comedian, business owner, father, explorer, and, now, children’s book publisher. The Clown had some time to talk with the author of Bertie the Cat and the Troublesome Mice recently.
Clown: What was your favorite book as a child? Tell us a bit about it.
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Growing up as a child between England, Canada and Iraq, I loved the Richard Scarry books and stories of Arabian folklore, One Thousand and One Nights. I learned to read English from Richard Scarry books. They were brilliant for learning a new language. I loved the illustrations and the colours. The work was simple to follow and fun to read. From there, I graduated to Sesame Street where I improved my English thanks to their fantastic educational programming. Every young Arabian child learns of the fantastical stories of Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba. I have illustrated a few of these stories and hope to publish them one day.
Clown: What was your initial inspiration to produce this book?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Keeping a promise to my daughters (Mia and Zoe) and niece (Zara). They usually ask me to sketch and doodle for them. I did one of a cat and promised that I would turn the cat doodle into a book. The rest is history.
Clown: What made you choose children’s literature?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: I am a kid at heart. I’ve always liked children’s books. Most of them are whimsical with an educational or inspirational message.
Clown: Where did Bertie come from?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: My daughters and niece usually ask me to sketch and doodle for them. I did one of a cat, I asked my niece what was the cat’s name. She answered “Bertie.” Why Bertie? That was her grandmother’s cat, Bertie. “What does Bertie do?” I asked her. “He lives in a cheese shop” she answered. I thought it was a little odd that a cat lived in a cheese shop, “What does he do in this cheese shop?” she looked up at me as if I was silly “he stops all the mice from stealing the cheese.” Of course he does! A light went off, go on little girl, keep talking, what else can you tell me about this cat. When I told my daughters about a cat named Bertie, they continued the story line. He was lazy. He didn’t try. He didn’t think he was good enough, the mice were smart, and so on. Their little minds were flowing with ideas. These books were born from the minds of little girls, a child’s imagination.
Clown: Will there be a series of books featuring Bertie?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Yes, in fact the illustrations and story for Book 2 are complete’ “Bertie meets Lexington the Rat”. Book 3 is “Bertie meets Bella”, Bertie leaves Appleford village to go to Lizard Gizzard to help Bella solve her missing cheese mystery. Book 3 story is complete. In Book 4, Bertie is tempted to leave the Cheese Shop. There are other non-Bertie related children’s stories in process as well.
Clown: What would the full vision of this endeavor look like to you? (books, products, cartoons, etc)
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Spreading Bertie messages, experiences, lessons learned and sharing Bertie’s adventures through digital media, cartoons, books. I hope to have Bertie’s story licensed.
Clown: What messages do you want to deliver to your readers?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Every book has a different message. In this book we learn “anything is possible, all you have to do is try”. In the next book, Bertie learns it’s OK to ask for help, even if it’s from others that you may not get along with. Following these, Bertie learns step outside of his comfort zone and leaves home on a trip. He also learns compassion and to see things from the others’ perspective, not to be as judgmental. The fourth book in process has Bertie learning temptation and the value of friendship and loyalty.
Clown: What is the most difficult aspect of your process in completing a book?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Time, distractions, and other priorities. In our busy lives, we have a million and one things keeping us from doing what want to do. I had to focus on completing Bertie otherwise it would never get done.
Clown: What is the most rewarding thing about publishing your work?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Others appreciating my work and understanding the messages. Also, it gives me GREAT joy to see the smiles and wonder in children’s faces.
Clown: Have any other authors had a hand in inspiring your work?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Authors? No. Friends and family? Yes. Friends and family helped fine tune the story with their perspective and imagination. They added details to the story. Sitting around the dinner table I would tell stories about what I am working on and they would chime in with their ideas. Over time and so many interactions and ideas, Bertie and his world was born.
Clown: What are your thoughts on the cultural importance of storytelling and writing?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: I fear the tradition of storytelling may be disappearing due to several reasons, whether be it technology, time constraints associated with modern living and whatever else. I believe storytelling helps bring people together and bridges the generational and cultural gaps. There is something intimate and interactive in the art of storytelling.
Clown: How has the response been to your initial release?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic! I have been delighted with the response from all that have experienced the first Bertie. Wait till they see Bertie 2!
Clown: Any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy: It is the same advice I would give anyone who has whim or a passion to do anything. Just do it. “To Dare is To Do.”
Bertie the Cat and the Troublesome Mice can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, at Park Road Books, and on Amazon. You can also obtain it as an E-Book and Zaidoon A. Al-Zubaidy is available for book signings and readings regionally.