Author Lisa McGuinness’s latest book Mother Daughter Activity Journal: Connecting Better with Each Other, offers mothers and daughters a new supportive place to share thoughts, dreams, worries, cares, life experiences–and have fun while doing it.
McGuinness is the author of Catarina’s Ring, Meaningful Bouquets, Hoppy Trails, Caffeinated Ideas Journal, and the co-author of numerous children’s books, including the New York Times bestselling Bee & Me. She is also the Creative Director of Mango Publishing, where she works with designers, editors, and authors. McGuinness corresponded with Girls That Create via email about her new book.
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Q&A With Lisa McGuinness
As a child, were you a writer? Did you keep a journal?
I always loved words. I remember the first word I fell in love with was “pandemonium,” one of our third-grade vocabulary words. Writing has always come easily to me, and I like to put my thoughts into words on the page, especially in times of stress. But, when I was a kid, although I desperately wanted to keep a journal, and over the years asked for and received several, they were all blank, and I never knew what to write in them. My everyday activities seemed so boring. I wish I had a guided journal, but I don’t remember ever encountering one back then.
Can you explain how journaling helps our mental health?
Journaling helps mental health because it allows people the time and space to either calmly reflect on what’s happening through words or pour out the anger, sadness, angst, or what have you by scribbling what’s happening. Either way, it allows the emotions to pour out of the body and into a safe vessel. Paper is nonjudgmental, and one doesn’t have to keep secrets from it. Once you are finished writing down what you want to express, the pages can be either thrown away or kept, but either way, it’s a safe space to be true.
What inspired you to write this book?
Publishing books that help people with various aspects of mental health, mindfulness, and empowerment are some of the strengths of Mango Publishing. They wanted to add a book like this to the list to help mothers and daughters navigate their way into a close, secure relationship. They reached out to me, and I was honored to create this journal to help achieve the goal.
In the book, there are spaces for doodles. Can you comment on why doodling is a common activity in journals and why it’s beneficial?
I think doodling is a common activity and beneficial because it allows people to express their feelings without words if they would like to. And creating art is a type of creativity that’s word adjacent if that makes sense. It’s another way to pour out one’s thoughts and emotions without having to actually put words to the feelings because sometimes naming true feelings is a scary step. Doodling is a bridge.
How can a mother-daughter relationship benefit from taking the time to do this activity journal together?
There are huge benefits to undertaking journaling together. In this case, the guided questions are a jumping-off point to tackling difficult topics of conversation. But, there are also lots of fun, light questions to help moms and daughters get to know each other as individuals, rather than simply in their role as a mother or daughter. I included conversation starters for times when it has become difficult to find common ground for simply talking to each other.
And I also included activity suggestions to create positive times together. (It’s always nice to have some positive experiences together “banked” to get you through future times of relationship stress!) Most importantly, at the journal’s beginning, I talk about the importance of making the journal a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to be real with each other and find that they can be each other’s champions.
What is the best age to embark on this type of activity with a daughter?
The nice thing is that there is no perfect age, and the moms and daughters can go as deep as age-appropriate. It’s even something that can be embarked on multiple times at different stages. It would be interesting to see the various answers to the same questions at different ages and stages! Mothers can buy multiple copies, fill them out together, and keep them—almost like a growth chart for their relationship and personal growth!
Why is it important for families to continuously keep communication channels open, especially in today’s world?
Let’s face it, the world is a more complex, stressful place than ever before, and the superficial element that social media has introduced makes it more difficult for kids and teens to navigate and feel good about themselves. So, open channels of communication are extremely important. There needs to be someone to talk to who understands your struggles and your reality and can give the necessary support to help you not only get through it all but grow and thrive. This journal helps mothers and daughters keep those critical lines of communication open and helps them have necessary conversations.
You’re also a children’s book author. Was there a children’s book(s) that impacted you when you were younger?
Like so many girls raised during the 70s, it was the novel Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Bloom. I remember strongly relating to the girl at the time, and I also remember suddenly realizing that if her parents were regular people who had struggles, my parents might also be regular people who had struggles. It was a bit mind-bending to me because, at the time, I was sure they were simply put in my world to parent me! But, books, in general, have always been a huge part of my life. My parents read to me a ton when I was little, and I have been a voracious reader ever since.
What tips do you have for girls who are aspiring authors and illustrators?
I would say that like everything that one wants to excel at, writing and creating art takes practice. Just like you wouldn’t be a good soccer player, fast swimmer, or fabulous dramatist without trying, failing, practicing, working on the skill set, you won’t improve at writing or illustration without honing the skills. Sure, some people have an innate ability, but there is also very necessary nurturing and working at the craft that is a huge part of success.
As a mother whose daughter has “launched” into adulthood, do you have advice for parents and caregivers who are in the middle of their parenting journey?
A book was tremendously helpful for me when my daughter hit the super difficult 13-year-old stage. The title is Get Out of My Life, but First, Will You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall? The general gist is this: you have to give them safe space to become who they are going to be while keeping them close enough for them to be safe from harm. It’s a tricky balance, especially if you and your daughter have been very close like my daughter and I were until she entered the space where she needed to become an individual.
The fabulous news is that they come back! Once they have pushed you away enough to feel like they are separate humans from you, they will suddenly retake an interest in you. The last couple of high school years were some of the closest times we had during her adolescence. And we are very close today as well. Also, I found that driving kids to various events is a great time to hear what’s really happening in their lives. It’s a nice neutral space where there’s something to focus on rather than each other, allowing easier conversations to happen. I was excited for her when she got her drivers’ license, but I definitely missed our time together. So, don’t rush them to the DMV!
And, if you have blown it in your parenting—as we all do from time to time—apologize! It teaches them that it’s ok to admit being wrong sometimes and models how to apologize for themselves when needed. And, let’s face it, owning up to mistakes feels good and helps us not make the same mistakes again whether we’re two, twelve, twenty-two, or beyond.
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by McGuinness