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Kreative Circle — Lucia Matuonto

Hello Lucia, Welcome to Kreative Circle! You’ve been writing for at least twenty years and sharing your life insights through magazines, blogs and books. What type of topics do you entertain for magazines and blogs? How did you transition to writing children’s books?

The topics I used to write about were healthy lifestyle, travel and funny short stories about women’s real life experiences. Since I also like to paint, during the quarantine I had enough time to create new characters, most of them are animals. This is when I got the idea to give life to these characters in a series of books for kids.

In your opinion, is one form of writing easier than the other?

I started to write fiction, which I find it easier than what I was previously writing about because I like to use my imagination and be free to create new words.

Do you recall the first book that you read as a child? What impact did it have on your imagination and personal values?
​Did it inspire you to believe in something new?

Yes! I was 8 years old when I read a book called “The Boy with Green Thumbs” from Maurice Druon. This book tells the story of a boy who turns into beautiful plants everything he touches and with this superpower he is able to give happiness to many people. It influenced me a lot, because I learnt that we should always do our best. I believe that what you plant you will harvest later.

As a writer whose childhood emanates from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, how are those childhood experiences reflected in your writings for the Zoe the Crab series?

The best memories from my childhood are from the days I spent on the beach in front of the Sugar Loaf. In those times I used to be fascinated by the marine life and all the interesting little creatures on the beach.

Character development in storytelling is a layered process dependent upon the main character’s personality and values. The book’s theme endorses inclusion, strength and friendship. How did you decide which strengths and weaknesses will reside in Zoe to communicate your book’s message to the audience?

I was inspired by my little patients and by my personal experiences while growing up. I always admired the strength of my patients who were making every effort to overcome their fears and challenges to make new friends and to be seen as the other kids.

Zoe the Crab is the youngest of siblings. She has two older brothers that test her patience while challenging Zoe to find her inner voice. Lucia, from your childhood experiences, how did you learn to speak up and stand up for yourself?

It took a while to learn how to defend myself and how not to care too much about other people’s opinions. I was an only child for 8 years and my parents over protected me, which caused me to be afraid of confronting other kids. When my sister was born I had to start fending for myself also at home and this improved very much my fighting skills.

Tapping into our inner voice is a process which isn’t easy for many people yet necessary for survival in life. What advice do you have for children seeking an effective outlet to communicate their feelings while confidently claiming their self-worth?

My suggestion is always to believe in yourself, to have positive role models who inspire you and to express yourself openly, specially in the relationship with your parents and closest friends.

The character Zoe is a handicapped crab that is challenged by how she is perceived; at the same time how she is restricted in mobility due to how she walks. How do you define the word challenge? What advice do you have for children who need to learn and appreciate that people come in different forms from all walks of life?

In my opinion a challenge is what makes you grow daily. A life without challenges will not give us any strength or learning. My advice to children is to always be open to people who are different because diversity opens our mind and enables us to experience many different aspects of life. A world where everybody is similar would be extremely boring.

As a professional physiotherapist working with children hosting motor and cognitive disabilities, what have these children taught you about resilience in life? Is there anything surprising you’ve learned about these kids in the process?

They taught me that we are all capable to reach unimaginable goals if we set a clear target and work relentlessly to reach it.
I learnt not to give up with trying. There is a specific episode that happened with me when I was working at a school for kids with special needs in Dubai. We were organizing the end of the year show and we had to learn a choreography in very few days. I was worried that there was not enough time to do it, but the kids were very engaged and pushed me to drop my fears and doubts and just use that energy to focus on reaching the target. And we did it!

Zoe the Crab series celebrates the main character’s unique traits instead of validating conformity in society. Zoe’s perceived set backs (from her handicap to her dominant siblings, for example) serves as a set up for success by teaching her how to exercise courage to take pride in being different. How can parents and caretakers nurture the self-esteem of children? How can they override the resistance from children when they are afraid to engage with their social environment?

My advice for the parents would be not to remove all the challenges for the kids but to give them reasonable targets and to teach them, not to give up until they reach it. By reaching the goals and proving that they can do it, they will automatically build their self esteem and learn that everything in life requires effort and problem solving skills.

Lucia, you’re also a painter. At what stage of life were you introduced to art? Are there any pieces of art, produced by others or yourself, which holds special meaning?

I have been fascinated by books and art since I was exposed to them in school. I still remember the first time I went to an art museum in Rio and I was impressed by the huge colorful paintings which gave me unexpected emotions. Since I started painting, I tried different styles inspired by the famous paintings that I had the fortune to see during my travels around the world. In the last year I was influenced by the paintings of Arcimboldo and Gustav Klimt. Two very different styles that inspire me in my work.

You’ve lived and traveled among several countries. If you had to add another country to the list and make it your ‘home’, which one would it be and why?

I would add New Zealand because I believe that their nature is unique and pristine.

Will there be more stories added to the Zoe series? Are there any new projects on the horizon?

Yes! Zoe the Crab is a trilogy and i will release the third book in November. The project after that will focus even more on people with special needs and will target an older age range.

Finally, do you have any tips for parents spending time with children during quarantine? Are there any activities you recommend for children to remain focused and engaged with their local environment?

I would advise the parents to engage children with art and creativity in a playful way. One suggestion is also to create targets and incentive the learn of new skills for the kids. In fact there are online many classes that the parents can follow with the kids and support them during the learning process. Since I found that there are not many courses specifically designed for kids, I am creating different online classes to combine writing, painting and foreign languages to engage the kids in a playful way and to give the parents a break.

Please share with audiences how they can support your work.

The best way to support my work is to follow me on the different platforms, to read my books and give me honest feedback and maybe ideas for topics that the readers would like me to talk about. These are the different links that the readers can find all the materials. Please subscribe to my website so you can get my newsletter and some giveaways.

Lucia Matuonto @ https://www.luciamatuonto.com
Instagram: Luciamatuontoauthor
Twitter: Luciamatuontoauthor
Facebook page: Zoethecrab
Books: Zoe the Crab — Lost on the Beach
Zoe the Crab — Mystery Island

Originally published at https://www.kreativecircle.com.

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