11.4.15

Horse Lovers Math Workbook: Interview with Deborah Stacey

Horse Lovers math Workbook by Deborah Stacey
www.horseloversmath.com
Recently, I took on the commission to illustrate and draw in pencil for a math workbook for children, titled Horse Lovers Math by Deborah Stacey. I was thrilled to be apart of an amazing project where math and the passion for horses, combine all the usefulness of math, in a workbook format. It is filled with photos, drawings, quizzes, stories and lessons, to teach grade school math and ingeniously, merge it with learning all about horses. 



My grade school experiences could have been more interesting to keep my interest in learning subjects in school, besides a good teacher, it would have been more interesting if the subjects could reflect our everyday life situations and interests. 

Math was one of those subjects that could be difficult for a teacher to keep their students from nodding off in class as I know one of those students was me! Many math dilemmas's later, I found out to study art is to also study math, geometry, science; as art is more than a pretty picture and there is no getting away from MATH in everything we do in life.

Horse Lover Math workbook by Deborah Stacey
www.horseloversmath.com
Math was my worst subject in Grade School and is typically the worst subject for many females. Math was one class I skipped regularly in High School. I have dyslexia which was not recognized during my days in schools and did not know how to study and read a textbook properly. 

Years later I took some classes on HOW TO STUDY and take notes to prepare me for University. Originally, I studied Interior Design which had LOTS of MATH and then finished with a Business Math Science Degree.



Horse Lover Math workbook by Deborah Stacey
Preparing an illustration by Minaz Jantz
 for Horse Lovers Math author Deborah Stacey
Geometry is in most successful art even unnoticed as its the very foundation to make marks more sensible and RIGHT feeling to the viewer's eye. The geometry is usually set up with guidelines in the preliminary drawings or paintings, sometimes using Golden Rectangles or also called Sacred Geometry. There are many ways to use math creatively and so it is necessary to learn it and Horse Lovers Math Workbook delivers these skills with useful and interesting challenges for the horse lover!


I am excited to share 20 interview questions with Deborah Stacey, the author of Horse Lovers Math Workbook!

1. What happenstance came to combine math and horses as a possible method to learn two subjects simultaneously?

(Deborah): When my daughter was in elementary school we lived on a horse farm. She was a horse crazy girl. In school, she struggled with math.

One evening, while helping her with math homework, I could see that the question could easily be changed to reference the world of horses.  Instead of ‘Sally receives an allowance of $35 each month.  How much money does she receive in a year?’  I wrote, ‘Sally pays $250 each month to self-board her pony at a nearby farm. How much does it cost to board her pony for the entire year?’

This is a realistic amount to pay for self-boarding a horse in our area so while the mathematics of the question is the same, my daughter gained a sense of the actual cost to board a pony per month and for an entire year.

Using the math worksheets my daughter brought home from school as a reference, I began creating math questions based in the real world of horses.  Suddenly, I began seeing math everywhere in my work with horses.

Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz


2. How did you become involved with horses? 

(Deborah): I was a horse crazy girl growing up. I read every horse book I could get my hands on, watched each episode of Fury and My Friend Flicka on TV and collected every horse picture, model and magazine that crossed my path. If I was lucky, a few times each summer I would have a chance to ride a real horse at a dude ranch or farm. When I finished high school I began taking riding lessons at a stable not far from my parent's house. Several months later my riding instructor asked if I was interested in a job on a hobby farm just outside of Montreal. I took it and several weeks later found myself on a train bound for Montreal. The day after I arrived at the farm we were going to a show. The owner sent me to the tack room to clean tack. I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t know how. Fortunately, I found instructions on a can of saddle soap.

Around the same time, Humber College in Toronto started up a Horsemanship Program. I thought it would be a great way for me to learn about horses quickly and signed up. Two years later I earned an Honours Degree in Horsemanship.


Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz

3. Why did you choose to write a math workbook for young students? 

(Deborah): At the time the idea for Horse Lover’s Math first came to me, I was taking writing courses. I’d published several articles and personal essays, been an editor for a quarterly publication by and for feminist women at home, and received an honourable mention in the Writer’s Digest Magazine Writing Competition. I saw the potential for a book. There is a huge amount of math and science used in today’s horse world. If horse crazy kids can make the connection between STEM subjects and horses early in their lives, it may motivate them to do well in school. Kids are more likely to learn what they find interesting.


Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz

4. Was math a favourite subject for you when you were in grade school? 

(Deborah): No. I did not thrive in the institutional learning setting. Perhaps Horse Lover’s Math is created with girls like me in mind. Horse crazy girls who are intelligent but who haven’t been able to find a way to combine their passion with education and who don’t thrive in a typical school setting.

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I didn't think like that. My thinking has always been very immediate. What am I interested in now! I was obsessed with horses but had no real way of pursuing that obsession other than through books and movies. When I was growing up there was no internet and home computers!

While still in elementary school, a friend and I organized our own horse school where we taught each other, taking turns being teacher and pupil. We wrote on a chalkboard, gave lectures and tests.

Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz


6. How did you come up with the title? 

(Deborah): I’m not really sure. It just came to me.



7. What was the hardest part of writing HLM? 

(Deborah): The level of effort it took to end up with a book in my hands. It was a very steep learning curve. I had to learn about graphic design, both basic principles and how to use the software. Then there was how to create grade specific course materials and meshing those with the real-world of horses. There were setbacks, I worked with four illustrators by the time the first workbook was complete. Finding and working with an editor, and printer. I started a website, took Wordpress courses, and began creating content for the website, all while moving the workbook forward one page at a time. Social media was another whole area to learn about!

8. What did you enjoy most about writing this book? 

(Deborah): This may sound funny after the answer to your previous question but one thing I enjoyed is how much I learned. And its tremendously satisfying to take what was an idea in your mind, and after all the effort, hold the book in your hands. I also love hearing from kids who are getting into HLM. I’ve received comments like, ”It [HLM] is a spectacular idea. I love mathematics and my daughter loathes math. This book helps explain how pertinent math is in her everyday life now and in the future.”



Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz


9. Did you have difficulty with illustrations and photography to complement your writing? 

(Deborah): Yes I did. The first illustrator I worked with was wonderful and I’m very grateful to have started the project with her. She’s also a graphic designer and so was able to help me with design and software suggestions. But, she became too busy to finish the project. I then went through two other illustrators who for various reasons, did not work out. Finally, I met up with Minaz through a mutual friend and she brought me home to the finish line!

The photography was not a problem. We have digital cameras now, and Photoshop and sites like Flickr with Creative Commons licensed materials. I also live in close proximity to one of the biggest horse areas in British Columbia and was able to take many of the pictures myself.  

10. What were the challenges of publishing & writing that you confronted and will do differently next time? 

(Deborah): I now have contacts within the printing community and know the process for shipping and customs. I know how to apply for an ISBN number and the barcode for the back cover. I’ll have a clearer understanding of how long the entire process takes.

As for writing, I’ll know at the start that I’m writing two workbooks at once, a metric version and an imperial version. I was unsure with the first workbook about how to handle this challenge, trying a combined metric/imperial before realizing they would be best kept separate.

illustration by Minaz Jantz  for Horse Lovers Math author Deborah Stacey

Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz

11. Who are some of your favourite authors and did any of them inspire you to write? 

(Deborah): I grew up loving the Black Stallion series so Walter Farley would be one, Margaret O’Henry and the Misty series was another. I remember reading Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James and finding it very powerful. I still have the book! I read every horse book I could get my hands on. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Molly Gloss, Jane Smiley, and Pam Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls is another great book for horse crazy adults. I can’t say that any of them inspired me to write. It wasn't until I was at home with my kids that I experienced the urge to write about my experience. Fortunately, I found an organization and publication that made a perfect fit. 

12. How do you feel about e-books vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing? 

(Deborah): I’m fine with e-books though I don’t have the desire to read a book in that format myself. The plus side to e-books is the low cost of production and there’s no shipping! But the idea of reading off a computer screen instead of holding a book in my hands does not appeal to me. I love the look and feel and even smell of a printed book.


13. What process did you go through to get your book published? 

(Deborah): Again I was fortunate to be put in touch with the friend of a friend, an experienced artist, and illustrator who took me by the hand (virtually) and lead me through the process. He was there every step of the way and put me in touch with printers. He showed me how to list the book requirements, request quotes, and explained what to expect in the shipping and customs process. 

Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz


14. What are some ways in which you promote Horse Lover’s Math Workbook? 

(Deborah): Through the website and social media. HLM is on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter. I’m also on Linkedin. Social media is an area of expertise unto itself so in anticipation of the workbook’s release, I hired a social media person for a consultation. She was great and provided a road-map which I've been following. I've added a newsletter signup to the website, I've run giveaways, and started creating info-graphics. She’s suggested we have a live book launch and there will be effort put into radio, local news, and participation at events, perhaps setting up a table with display materials.   

Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz


15. What do you like to read in your free time? 

(Deborah): Along with Molly Gloss and Jane Smiley, both of whom write wonderful horse books for people my age, I like a good mystery. My husband and I also read aloud to each other. For example, we read a series by Marlena De Blasi, a chef and food writer who married and moved to Italy. The first in the series is A Thousand Days in Venice. We loved this series. 
  
16. What projects are you working on at the present? 

(Deborah): The marketing of the Level 1 workbook, writing the Level 2 workbook and creating posts for the website. I’ve also just completed my first MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) titled ‘How to Learn Math; for students’ offered by Jo Bolar at Stanford University. I’ll be signing up for more math courses for sure. 


Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz

17. What do your plans for future projects include? 

(Deborah): Horse Lover’s Math is going to keep me busy in the year’s to come. I have three more workbooks to write with plans for apps and games, a YouTube channel and more!

18. What are your goals and intentions with Horse Lover’s Math workbooks? 

(Deborah): Horse Lover’s Math is a vocation, a calling. I hope to show kids that doing well in school can lead them to a career with horses, even if they've never owned or ridden a horse!    

19. What is your day job and how has it helped to bring your ideas into a published book? 

(Deborah): When I first started up Horse Lover’s Math I was working two jobs. I have my own gardening business and I was working for an online research company. The research work has helped me tremendously with finding content and information on the web.


20. Where can readers find Horse Lover’s Math Workbook and do you offer anything else with your workbook? 

(Deborah): The workbook is available for order on the website at www.horseloversmath.com. The website also offers memberships to the Horse Lover’s Math Club. Some of the content on the website is open to everyone, but members get access to the answers pages and the Question of the Week. There are future plans for a Horse Lover’s Math app, a game, calendar, t-shirts, and more.  


Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz
Horse Lovers Math illustrations by Minaz Jantz

THANK YOU, Deborah Stacey, for the wonderful opportunity to offer my drawing services to enhance your ingenious Horse Lovers Math workbook. Now I need to read it page by page and brush up on my math skills and learn all about horses! 

Giddy Up with Horse Lovers Math, Minaz Jantz

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