At the beginning of 2010, good friend and constant encourager JD Blundell put together a list of bloggers to watch in 2010. That’s when I first became aware of Kevin Hendricks.
Kevin has just self published a book – Addition by Adoption – a snappy little read that shares the story of his family’s journey through adoption mostly in the form of Tweets he had fired out during those months of family change.
So, it felt like a good time to hook up with Kevin and get some more insight into the back story behind the book. Here’s the interview:
Q: Hey Kevin! First off, we have to give a shout out to our good mutual buddy, JD Blundell of the Something Beautiful Podcast who kinda drew the two of us together. Can you tell me a little of your story – your life – your work – and how it was that you came to know JD?
Yes! Big thanks to Jonathan Blundell for connecting us. To be honest, I don’t even remember how Jonathan and I first got connected. We’ve been online friends for a while now. He’s a great guy with a great heart.
My life story? It seems to be continually evolving. Right now I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, with my wife, two kids and two dogs. Of course that equation is changing, but I’ll get to that later. I’m a writer, editor and web geek. By day I hang out with my kids (Lexi is 4, Milo is 1.5) and by night (and naptime) I do work through my freelance company Monkey Outta Nowhere. I do writing for all kinds of clients, the most well known of which is probably the church communications blog, Church Marketing Sucks.
Q: Now, clearly you’re a guy who loves words, and this is not your first publication. What other subjects have you written on and published?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, since I was a little kid. I wrote my first book in first grade: Mike, The Cat (which your readers will be please to learn is available as a PDF download on my site: . Unfortunately my next book project didn’t come until nearly 20 years later.
In 2004 I participated in National Novel Writing Month, where you write an entire novel in a month. It was a breakthrough experience for me and showed me that I could actually write a book. Since then I’ve done NaNoWriMo three times and I’m hoping to do it again this year. I’ve self-published two of those novels, Downtown Dandelions back in 2004 and Least of These this year. Though I published them more as experiments than anything—neither of them were fully edited and I consider them “rough drafts.” I am putting a little more work into my third NaNoWriMo novel and I hope to publish that one someday.
I’m also working on a book about homelessness to benefit homeless advocate Mark Horvath and his InvisiblePeople.tv project. I’ve had the help of a lot of great people on that book and we’re hoping to get it out later this year.
Q: OK. On to your latest book - Addition by Adoption . 2 big questions:
1. Why did you think your adoption story was one that was worth telling, and releasing to a wider readership? 2. When you decided you wanted to tell the story, did you know straight away that your Tweets would form the basis of your book?
I’d say any adoption story is worth telling! But this book didn’t actually start as an adoption story. I’d been tweeting about the goofy things my daughter says and does and lots of people kept commenting on those nuggets of silliness and telling me I needed to collect them into a book. The idea grew on me and I thought it’d be the kind of thing my family would enjoy.
But as I started collecting tweets about singing my “Taco Man” song with Lexi or our potty training triumphs, I kept coming across tweets about our adoption story. It kept coming up and I realized this wasn’t about funny things kids say and parenting and all that, it was a much wider story. Even beyond adoption, it was a story of how Milo widened our worldview and helped us to see and embrace other causes.
So I didn’t set out to tell our adoption story, but I realized it was really the thread that tied the book together. Funny things kids say are great, but I like that it has more depth than that. It’s ultimately about something bigger and grander than ourselves.
Q: Talk to us about the process of self publication…
I’m learning the hard way that it’s not easy. One of the reasons that I went this route is because I had an offbeat idea that I thought would be a hard sell. Rather than taking the time that kind of effort would require, I just wanted to get the book out there. If any book is ideal for self-publication, this one seemed like it.
The process itself is pretty easy. I actually took the manuscript for Least of These and a week later I had a bound, printed copy in my hand. Of course I already had the manuscript done and I put minimal effort into design and layout. It’s all those extra details that are truly daunting. For Addition by Adoption I had some incredible help from Brian White of TriLion Studios on the cover and Ronald Cox on the interior design. Those guys really made the book look good, which is something I could never have done on my own.
I think writing the book has been relatively easy, especially because it was already written in tweets. I was more curating and editing, adding chapter introductions and other small bits of text. Right now the real challenge is the marketing. Just because you publish it doesn’t mean anyone is going to buy it (my two self-published novels are good examples). So I’ve really had to pound the pavement to get the word out on this book and I hope it’s enough. That’s the hard thing about marketing—you never know if you’ve done enough until it’s over, and then it’s too late.
Q: Adoption is high on the agenda of many Jesus followers in the blogoshpere. Many will be familiar with the story of Ragamuffin Soul, Carlos Whittaker and his family’s adoption of their son Losiah from South Korea. Another name that springs to my mind is Randy Bohlender of the Zoe Foundation, who is a huge advocate for adoption. Do you feel any sense of community or kinship with others who have adopted?
Oh, absolutely. There’s a sense of kinship and connection with other people. I’m always surprised at how often it comes up, how often I’ll meet someone who has adopted or is adopted themselves. It’s kind of an instant connection because you share something special. Adoption isn’t easy, but it’s good. And I think that ‘goodness’ forges an instant bond with other people. We may have conflicting political or religious views, but we place a similar value on children and people and families—and that’s cool.
Plus you can’t do adoption—or parenting in general—without support. We all need those communities to keep us sane.
Q: What has adoption done to the overall dynamic of your family?
I think it’s opened us up to the world. It’s not like we were oblivious beforehand, but from now on my family has a permanent blood connection to Ethiopia. That changes you. We celebrate and embrace Ethiopian culture, and then means cheering on their victories and mourning their losses. That means caring about Milo’s Ethiopian brothers and sisters who need help. That’s part of why a portion of the proceeds from the book will go to charity: water to build a well in Ethiopia. Seeing Milo’s people—and now I’d say my people—die from a lack of clean water is just ridiculous.
I think we’ve always cared about these kinds of causes, but international adoption has just made it personal for us. I talked about this after the Haiti earthquake , but sometimes I feel like we need to cultivate these kinds of international connections so we care more and respond more to hurting people around the world.
Q: You adopted a baby from Ethiopia. What do you say to those people who would sound a word of caution about bringing up kids in a culture that is different from their own?
We’re now a multiracial family. That’s just a reality and one you have to embrace and deal with. It’s an issue our adoption classes thoroughly covered and we’ve read up on and will continue to learn about. Frankly I’m thrilled that we’re forced to address it. I think racial issues are just hard to talk about and hard to truly understand how deep they go. Having a black child suddenly makes that a reality like nothing else could. Not to say I know all the answers, because I don’t, but I feel like it’s good to be forced down that road. Not that we wouldn’t go there anyway, but now we have no choice. There’s no turning back.
As a family one of the things we’re excited about doing is going back to Ethiopia. That’s part of who Milo is and it’s part of our family now.
Q: What are your immediate hopes for the book, and more importantly your family?
I hope people like the book. Doing a project like this is kind of scary—you never really know how people will respond. In a bigger sense I hope the book helps to further a conversation about adoption. I love adoption. I think it’s incredible. And I wish everyone would consider it.
And that’s the immediate hope for our family—we’re adopting again. We haven’t decided the details, but we’re leaning towards older children. Talk about reshaping that whole life story—welcome a couple teenagers into your family. I really don’t know what that means yet—we literally announced that we were adopting again the same week I announced the book.
Q: Is there anything you want to say about Charity Water?
We hope to raise enough money with the book to build a well in Ethiopia through charity: water. They’re an amazing organization that puts 100% of donations into providing people with clean water. It’s such a simple and basic thing, but so many people don’t have it. And it’s killing them. It’ll take $5,000 to build a well, so that’s a lot of books. We’re also encouraging people to make donations on their own. If you don’t want to buy a book, at least give to charity: water.
Q: Anything else you want to share?
I’ve probably talked enough, but check out the book and say hello on Twitter (@kevinhendricks)….
Massive thanks to Kevin for sharing so freely.
Go buy the book!