On May 27, 2014, Joan Y. Edwards did an interview with me on her Never Give Up Blog: Guided Imagery for Children and Adults-Interview with Janis Silverman.
The following is an excerpt of an interview of Janis Silverman by Joan Edwards.
The full interview can be found at :
“Guided Imagery for Children and Adults – Interview with Janis Silverman” by Joan Y. Edwards
Thanks for inviting me to share with writers and book lovers!
You’re very welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
1. When did you decide to become an author?
I began writing when I thought I had something important to say .I had a private tutoring practice where I was teaching a lot of reading and study skills. I had developed some successful techniques for students to learn how to study various content subjects. So, I published my first book, Read to Study in 1987.
2. Did you ever consider giving up?
I have not ever thrown in the towel on an important writing idea. There are times when rejection letters can be discouraging; however, I kept going each time. When you believe in the value of your writing, you have to keep believing and keep going.
3. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to keep you going as a writer?
I am a very determined person.
4. You’ve written many wonderful non-fiction books. Is this your favorite genre? Why?
I love to read and write many types of books. I’ve written children’s fiction, but my nonfiction writing is what was published. My last books are guided imagery meditations, poems, and prayers. Each meditation is written like a very short story. My imagery stories are imaginative like fiction can be.
5. What is guided imagery?
Guided imagery is a story or scenario the reader must imagine. While reading or listening to the imagery story, the listener visualizes himself in the story. Each meditation introduces the reader to an idea worth contemplating, such as love, friendship, hope, etc. The following is excerpted from my children’s book of guided imagery, Imagine That! (YouthLight, Inc., 2011)
Guided imagery is a method that incorporates listening, visualizing and imagining. As children listen to a guided imagery reading, they begin to draw mental images, use sensory input, think about the concept presented, and learn to relax. When given the opportunity to interact with the imagery, children process the ideas and images. The imagery is further enhanced through discussion and follow-up activities. Children may revisit and use these images as needed.
Children enjoy using imagery because it is fun, like a game. It appeals to their natural ability to imagine and to their sense of fun” (Berkovitz, 2004).
Guided imagery can take many forms. Guided imagery may be introduced as a short reading, a longer story, or a simple directive. A child may be directed to visualize his favorite place or to picture a happy day. In longer stories a child will slowly meet a new situation and be invited to enter the story.
Regardless of the style of imagery presented, each child processes imagery in a different way. He uses all of his senses and his imagination. He/she gains individual insights from the experience.
Imagery can be accompanied by music. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (Bonny, 1978) is used by music teachers and trained therapists who use classical music following a story. Children process the visualizations while they relax with the music. Music teacher and therapist, Linda Powell describes participation in the Bonny Method as “dreaming while awake”(Powell, 2007). Children write or discuss their ideas following the music.
Guided imagery is not hypnosis. Professionals are not telling children what to believe or what to think. They merely use stories to help children imagine success and to improve their relationships with themselves and others.(Imagine That! Copyright YouthLight, Inc., 2011)
This speaks about children’s use of imagery. Adults also benefit from the process.
6. What are the good benefits of using guided imagery?
There are many benefits to guided imagery meditation. The following is taken from the introduction to Imagine That! Imagery Stories to Help Young People Learn to Improve Their Behavioral Self-Control (YouthLight Inc., 2011) Although this discusses use of guided imagery stories in schools by teachers and counselors, the method is greatly affective when parents introduce this to their children. If you are interested in the research references, they are at the end of the book, Imagine That!
What are the benefits of guided imagery?
Teachers and school counselors can use guided imagery to aid children to feel safe and relaxed. Guided imagery helps children with tension, general anxiety, test anxiety, grief and trauma, to gain insight and to visualize success (Cheung, 2006). Professor Cheung also uses guided imagery with children struggling with ADHD.
Guided imagery in schools supports children with issues of safety, bullying, social skills, health, paying attention, anger, and performance anxiety (Powell, 2007). Other benefits of guided imagery Ms. Powell (2010) claims include building self-esteem, finding creative solutions to problems and the confidence to explore new possibilities. ”…When children are given the chance to explore themselves and their world through imagery, incredible transformations can take place.” (Berkovitz, 2004)
Images can also be helpful to the creative writing process. Ebersol (2007). Art classes created their story characters before they wrote and benefitted from the visualization process.
There are several techniques school professionals may use to relax ADD/ADHD students (Rief, 2006). According to Ms. Rief, imagery is helpful in developing focus, relaxation, dealing with stress and anxiety, developing social skills and creative expression.
Classroom teachers and reading specialists use visualization to improve reading comprehension on a daily basis. There are many benefits of using guided imagery in a variety of school settings.
How is guided imagery used in the schools?
Most often counselors and school psychologists use guided imagery in a small group counseling setting. However, classroom teachers and special education teachers may use guided imagery to create a safe and relaxed atmosphere and to better control behavior issues in the classroom.
Guided imagery “increases students’ self-awareness and integrates their inner senses with learning (Johnson, 1984). According to Sandra Rief (2006), visualization skills have been determined to be a valuable tool used to empower students to overcome difficulties in their lives, to develop memory, and to improve learning. (Copyright YouthLight Inc., 2011)
Adults find many benefits using imagery. These include stress reduction and health advantages.
7. When did you learn about guided imagery?
I have used guided imagery meditation for decades to help with pain levels of rheumatoid arthritis and stress.
8. How has guided imagery helped you?
Imagery meditation relaxes my mind and body. It reduces my tension and pain levels and better equips me to think, focus, and problem solve. Meditation helps me stay positive and focused.
9. What are three of your favorite guided imagery passages?
I am including one for children from Imagine That! The title is “The Wave is Like Breath.” Read or listen to this meditation very, very slowly.
The Wave is Like Breath
As you close your eyes, imagine that you are at a beautiful beach.
You sit in the sand watching the sun rise.
The sun’s golden color shines on gentle waters.
You quietly watch the water move back and forth on shore.
Breathe slowly in and out as you watch the waves do the same thing.
You feel your body relaxing to the slapping rhythm of the waves.
You continue to picture the waves and breathe slowly.
Listen to the ocean water move in and out of shore.
You feel totally connected with the earth, water and sky.
This is the start of a wonderful day. (Pause and relax in this place awhile.)
Slowly stretch and open your eyes.
Keep these memories with you as you slowly open your eyes.
Make it a fabulous day.
When you need to relax, recall these images of the beach.
This imagery story is also from Imagine That! (YouthLight, Inc., 2011)
Think about this.
Possible is the opposite of impossible.
Imagine a world where dreams can happen.
The word “can’t” is not spoken or even thought.
Close your eyes, and imagine what is possible in
Picture yourself doing something you have been
afraid to do.
Maybe it’s playing a new sport or rock climbing.
Perhaps it’s being brave enough to talk to
someone at school.
Maybe it’s going in for extra math help after school.
You could ask a classmate for help.
Imagine that you can do anything.
Think of something you want to do.
Just know that you can follow your dreams.
Picture your dreams in living color. (Pause; sit quietly awhile.)
Slowly open your eyes.
Remember that anything is possible.
Yes, it is possible.
This meditation “A Sea Shell” is from Book One. Relax: Staying Grounded After Diagnosis. This is one of four books of meditations I wrote three years ago during treatment for breast cancer. The four eBooks contain Guided Imagery Meditations for Women with Breast Cancer are titled: Relax, Reflect, Restore, and Recover.
A Sea Shell
Run your fingers over a polished, smooth shell.
It is so soothing.
The repetitive stroking of your fingers.
A sea shell is a certainty in a time of uncertainty.
This lovely object affirms the beauty of
nature and life itself.
When you relax or meditate,
try holding a smooth object.
It could be a small polished stone.
Or a glossy piece of jewelry.
A swatch of a favorite velvety fabric.
How can a tiny object be comforting?
Gently close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Imagine that you are in a favorite spot.
You are curled up and comfortable.
You have a special object in your hands.
Breathe slowly and rhythmically.
Stroke this favorite object between your thumb and forefinger.
You find your fingers in rhythm with your breathing.
The pattern of breathing and fingers is captivating,
relaxing and all consuming.
You find your mind leaving stress and problems behind.
You are lulled into deep relaxation.
Sit like this in a quiet place.
Continue breathing and stroking the silky object.
Continue this pattern for at least ten minutes.
When you are totally relaxed.
Gently stretch and awaken.
Open your eyes.
Use a comforting object when you meditate.
Awaken your senses.
A simple shell can be so healing.
10. Where do you get your ideas for writing the guided imagery for your books?
Everything I have written has come from my experiences, either professionally or personally. The meditations in Imagine That! Are meant to help children think through and solve problems, develop better self-esteem, and learn how to calm themselves.
I use nature and other topics familiar to children as springboards to develop imagery stories. Children can more readily picture themselves in these scenarios. I also believe these imagery stories and activities help children understand themselves and learn to control their behavior.
The meditations in Relax, Reflect, Restore, and Recover were daily messages in my heart with concerns and feelings that I sorted out in my writing. This allowed me to turn any negative thoughts into positive ones, visualize, breathe and meditate on more optimistic ones.
As I moved into wellness, I began writing guided imagery meditations for wellness. I also am developing interactive very short imagery stories for toddlers and young children. The idea for the latter came from time with my five-year old grandson.
11. How do you weave research into your manuscripts?
I have searched and cited research studies on the benefits of guided imagery. This is found in the books’ introductions.
I developed Help Me Say Goodbye, a children’s grief therapy book after researching about grief and what books were available for children.
Forums, Fairs and Futures: A Journey in Time through Markets of the World required the greatest amount of research. I researched places, history and the monetary/economic systems of several early cities.
12. What are you writing now?
I am working on two manuscripts of guided imagery. The first is for adults. I am enjoying writing these wellness meditations. The second is for very young children. I may be blazing new territory, as these imagery stories are short and interactive. Children do not have to close their eyes or sit still. They interact with the imagery in an active way. Young children relate better when they are moving and thinking at the same time.
13. How do you know when your manuscript is ready for submission?
That is a challenging question. Is it ever perfect? I do edit and listen to my words many, many times. I try to get others to try the meditations and comment on them. After much ado, I begin a proposal and send it out to publishers.
14. What three things should a good query letter contain?
A query letter should engage the publisher. The working title should be clear, the purpose and audience stated. A note about how the book is better and differs from others on the same subject is a valuable addition to a query letter.
15. How did you find publishers for your books?
Ah, that is the hard part! The publishing business changes constantly. It seems to be contracting, not expanding. There is still a place for independent publishers. That is where my educational and counseling books have been published.
Getting the right match is a challenge. The Literary Marketplace and The Writer’s Market are good references, as well as publishing information in writing magazines. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ magazine, “The Bulletin,” has a publishing page or two in each edition.
I also get information about publishers through networking and attending writing conferences. Since I do not have an agent, I cannot solicit some of the larger publishing houses. If a writer wants to knock on those doors, she needs an agent.
16. Did you cry while writing any of your books?
I don’t remember crying, but it was an emotional time for me when I began writing Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities to help Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies. My mother had just died after a long bout with cancer.
When I wrote the guided imagery meditations for Relax, Reflect, Restore and Recover: Guided Imagery Meditations for Women with Breast Cancer, I was going through a rough time with breast cancer treatment. I had a lot of emotions which changed on a daily basis. The writing and use of these imagery stories was calming and soothing to me.
17. How did you do in English as a kid?
I did well in English and loved the literature. I am still a voracious reader.
18. What’s your favorite book of all time? Why?
My favorite children’s book is Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I love the naughtiness, spirit and adventure of Tom’s escapades. The book also has a historical impact, since it shows how separate and unaccepted black Americans were in the 1860’s. There are many interesting concepts, such as Huck Finn’s father’s alcoholism, Tom not living with his parents, and the lifestyle along the Mississippi River at that time. There are many lessons Tom learned and shared in this remarkable book. The writing and dialogue are also superb.
19. What’s your favorite book of all that you’ve written?
Each book is a part of who I am. All of my writing came from my life experience. It is difficult to choose. I am attached to the new books I am currently writing.
If I have to choose, the four audio and digital books of meditations I wrote three years ago when I was in treatment for breast cancer have to be closest to me personally. Each meditation went from my heart, my mind and my soul to the computer. I hope other women walking this path will find the meditations in Relax, Reflect, Restore, and Recover calming, centering, and comforting.
20. Which book on the craft of writing has helped you the most and why?
Olga Litowsky’s It Is a Bunny Eat Bunny World: A Writer’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Competitive Children’s Book Market, Walker Publishing, 2001, is an excellent guide to navigating the world of children’s book writing and markets.
21. What is your favorite blog? Why?
Joan, I love your blog. It is so encouraging and upbeat. You always have such a variety of ideas and writers for us, the readers, to take in. Thank you.
Thank you, I’m honored that I give you encouragement.
22. What other blog do you go to for inspiration and encouragement?
I do use the SCBWI blog and Katie Davis’ blog. Because of my limited vision, I write and research when I can, but may not surf writing blogs as much as I would like.
23. What’s a funny question or unusual statement you’ve heard or read related to your books?
I may be too serious, and my writing is about serious topics. I did use a lot of humor in a novel, Smoky Secret Agent Cat. This book has not yet been published. I also have an idea for a funny picture book. Maybe then I’ll have funny comments.
I love your story, Smoky, Secret Agent Cat. I hope it gets published soon.
24. What does your writing mean to you?
I’ve been writing for more than twenty-five years. I love creating, taking an idea, watching it grow. Writing is not only a wonderful expression of who I am. It is also a way for me to contribute, to give back, and to leave my footprints.
Janis L. Silverman is a retired elementary, middle school, junior college and specialist teacher of gifted and talented children. She holds a B.S. Degree in Elementary and Kindergarten Education from the Pennsylvania State University and an M.A. Degree in Special Education: Teaching the Gifted and Talented Child from Northeastern Illinois University.
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