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INTERVIEW: Award-Winning Children's Author, Stephanie Sorkin, Talks About Her 4th Book "Am I A Unicorn?" And The Lesson She Hopes To Share With Children

Sydney A. Braat

Award-winning author, Stephanie Sorkin. (Photo: @StevenAndrewPhotography)

In a world that has so much negativity and uncertainty, award-winning author, Stephanie Sorkin wants to teach children the valuable lesson of embracing one's uniqueness and accepting others for who they are inside. Sorkin's fourth children's book Am I a Unicorn? does just that. The story, written in rhyme, is about a unicorn that breaks her horn and learns how to grapple with the feelings of being different from others. Children will learn about self-esteem and diversity, ultimately teaching the importance of accepting what makes you special.

Sorkin is a mother of three and was inspired to write this story as a way of opening up dialogue about what it's like to be different. She chose to use a diverse array of animals to give children a chance to see that everyone is different.

I spoke with Sorkin, to learn about the inspiration behind Am I A Unicorn?

What was your inspiration for your fourth book, Am I a Unicorn?

SS: I was inspired to write Am I a Unicorn? by the thousands of children that I've met over the years at school visits and book events. I thought about all of the children that feel like they don't fit in because they are different in some way, be it physically, emotionally, developmentally or mentally. The idea came to me, as I imagined what would happen if a character looked different on the outside by losing one of it's distinguishing features. The unicorn knows exactly who they are on the inside and sets out to prove it to the other animals. Eventually, the unicorn comes to the realization that loving yourself is even more important than being accepted by others. I should mention that I chose a diverse group of animals, rather than keeping it a world of unicorns...providing yet another example to readers that we are not all the same. I'm hoping that my books message of inclusion, diversity and celebrating our differences will resonate with students, parents and teachers.

A portion of your book sales goes to organizations that help children. Can you speak about some of the organizations that are important to you?

SS: I love that my readers help me raise money for various organizations with the purchase of my books. One charity that is important to me is F.A.R.E. (www.foodallergy.org), as they are dedicated to food allergy research and education. This is very close to my heart, as it hits home. When my daughter was diagnosed with food allergies in 2008, I immediately felt a need to get involved with the food allergy community. It was therapeutic at the time and that's when my book Nutley, the Nutfree Squirrel was born. I decided to donate 100% of the proceeds to F.A.R.E, knowing that with each book sold, we'd be closer to progress.

Another organization that I'm proud to support is Soles4Souls (soles4souls.org), as they donate new and gently used shoes to those in need domestically and internationally. A portion of the sales of my book, Chocolate Shoes with Licorice Laces are donated to this charity. I can vividly remember how great I felt as a child when I wore new shoes. It was as if I could run faster and jump higher! My hope is that children around the world can also experience this with Soles4Souls help.

My third book, Frenemy Jane, the Sometimes Friend, supports The PACER National Bully Prevention Center (www.pacer.org). They run incredible programs to ensure that children feel safe and protected.

Lastly, I've decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from Am I a Unicorn? to The Garden of Dreams Foundation (gardenofdreamsfoundation.org), an organization that brings life changing opportunities to children in need. I plan on changing the charity on a quarterly basis...and am always researching organizations that I'd like to work with. Some current possibilities are Best Buddies, The Smile Train and No Kid Hungry.

How have your own children inspired your work as a children's literature author?

SS: I'm constantly inspired by my children. Aside from getting story ideas, they make me want to do more, work harder and create a better world for them to live in. I'm inspired artistically as well...taking life events and turning them into storylines. My character Nutley, for example, is based on my youngest daughter Mallory. My book, Frenemy Jane, the Sometimes Friend was based on an experience that one of my children had in kindergarten. Their friend was not consistently nice...it was more of an every other day kind of thing...leading me to coin the phrase "Sometimes Friend". Things kind of developed from there!

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an author?

SS: There are so many rewarding aspects to being an author! Initially, when I first started out, I thought that it would be as simple as seeing my name in print, but it's so much more than that. The reward comes when I find out that I've made a difference in a child's life. After my school visits, I often find out that I've motivated an entire class to be more creative...to step away from their video games and cell phones to read or write a short story. I'm always moved when I hear that my books challenged a student to dig a little deeper and start a conversation that they may not have been willing to have before. The reward also comes when I hear from parents that my book changed their child's life in a positive way. They understood that they were not alone, they celebrated their differences or the differences of others or they had the tools to stand up in a bullying situation, all because of my books. Seeing my idea come to life is also very rewarding. It's much bigger than my ego saying, "Wow, you did this." It's beyond that... it's about choices and why I chose one word over another.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years as an author and food allergy advocate?

SS: As an author, I hope that the next five years are at least as productive as the last five! I plan on creating and developing new characters, some of which are in the rough draft stage! With time, I hope to reach an even larger audience! My books are readily available at places like Amazon, Target, Walmart and Barnes and Noble...but they are not in all of the small, local bookstores. I often feel like a hypocrite since I want so desperately to support those small businesses and I personally do, yet I must also promote big box stores as they've supported me since day one. It's a catch 22 and I hope that I can find a healthy balance with continued success.

As a food allergy advocate, I hope that as I fundraise and educate, I will continue to see the fruits of my labor! I have witnessed such incredible progress in the last few years. I feel as if I have a front row seat to medical miracles, as treatments are becoming more readily available. My own daughter is a testament that these treatments work! My hope is that we don't stop here, that we continue to ask questions, search for answers and turn treatments into cures!

When you come out to the Hamptons, what are some of your favorite things to do with your family?

SS: Some of my fondest memories as a child were in the Hamptons. As an adult, I've created some wonderful memories with my children, as well!! Aside from going to incredible restaurants, we love to go to Round Swamp Farm during the day to grab lunch to go and ice cream at Scoop du Jour and frozen yogurt at BuddhaBerry at night! My kids loved going to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge when they were younger but now as teenagers they want to go to Stoney Clover! Another one of my favorite places to visit is the annual Children's Fair at the East Hampton Library. We have been going for years and even though my children may be too old for the activities now, it's as if they accompany ME since I love to see the children's book authors! I also look forward to my visit to the Hamptons Designer Showhouse every year! Praying that these will both be back this summer!

To purchase a copy of Am I A Unicorn? visit www.amazon.com.

Sydney Braat is a Hamptons-raised and NYC-living journalist. She enjoys splitting her time between the bustling city life and relaxing atmosphere of the Hamptons. When she's not writing, Sydney is traveling. She thrives off of new experiences, cultures, cuisine, and languages. Sydney writes about the arts, philanthropy, food & wine, and shopping. https://www.sosydneyny.com/ sydneybraat

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