I was pleased to interview mother-son duo Christine Ko, MD, and Owen Whang. The two co-wrote the children’s book Sound Switch Wonder, published by West Margin Press, which tells Owen’s story of living with a cochlear implant through illustration and imagination.
Zakeerah: What inspired you to co-write a children’s book, Sound Switch Wonder, with Owen?
Christine: Owen has taught me much about listening, and I thought it would be nice to share some of what I have learned more broadly.
Zakeerah: When did you get the vision to produce this book?
Christine: This was a long five-year process. At first, the idea was to have a picture book with a main character who has cochlear implants, and it grew from there.
The Process of Writing a Children’s Book
Zakeerah: Christine, what was the process like of writing with Owen?
Christine: It’s always fun to hear what my kids think about different things. For Sound Switch Wonder, the plot was inspired by our lives but also a product of my imagination. When Owen agreed to be an author, it wasn’t necessarily easy to take his critiques – writing and editing can be a sensitive process. Talking about each line in the book improved each line, and I genuinely feel it was a privilege to talk about our individual perspectives on hearing sounds.
Zakeerah: What lessons have you learned from writing and promoting your first book that has helped you in “Sound Switch Wonder”?
Christine: I’m learning to be patient – it can take time for readers to find your book, and that is okay; it’s not easy to accept, but it’s okay.
Zakeerah: How do you feel Owen’s story will inspire other writers to author children’s books focusing on disabilities?
Christine: The more diverse stories there are, the more we can recognize that we are all unique. I hope Owen’s story will start positive conversations about our differences.
Differences in Writing Children’s Books vs. Adult Books
Zakeerah: How is writing a children’s book different from writing for adults?
Christine: For a picture book, I think the illustrations are very important. I feel very fortunate that Katie Crumpton is the illustrator for Sound Switch Wonder – she did a phenomenal job bringing the words into pictures.
Zakeerah: What was the creative process like creating this illustration to work with the illustrator to produce the book?
Christine: It was exciting because I saw rough sketches in black and white before seeing the artwork in color. Katie was receptive to a few ideas for certain scenes, and she also had photographs of the sound processor, battery, charger, Aqua covers, and how the sound processor looks when Owen has it on, as well as when he lets the magnet hang down.
Zakeerah: What advice would you give to a first-time author who plans to write a children’s book?
Christine: It can be a long process, and I learned a lot. Be willing to edit many times over. Be persistent!
Thoughts of Child Author Owen Whang
Zakeerah: How do you feel to have authored a book and tell your story?
Owen: I think it is a good thing for people to start to understand what I experience every day.
Zakeerah: What was the process like for you working with your mom on this book?
Owen: My mom mostly wrote the story, but we discussed all the details together. It was a really good experience because we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having cochlear implants.
Zakeerah: In time, where would you like to see your children’s book displayed for other children?
Owen: Anywhere where someone could have the opportunity to read it.
Zakeerah: To conclude, what advice would you give to children who want to write a book?
Owen: It’s a really big endeavor, and it will help if a parent guides or helps you through the process.
To read an earlier interview of Dr. Ko on writing and publishing her first book for physicians, click here.
Christine Ko and Owen Whang
Christine J. Ko, MD, is a professor of dermatology and pathology at Yale University. Dr. Ko is the author of How to Improve Doctor-Patient Connection: Using Psychology to Optimize Healthcare Interactions, published by Routledge, and co-author with her son, Owen of Sound Switch Wonder. Dr. Ko is the mother of two children, and the integration of being a mother as well as a doctor has changed the way she sees patients. You can find her on Twitter@ChristineJKoMD and @ChristineJKo.