By Agatha Rodi
Katerina Nika Manou comes from Litochoro, Peiria in Northern Greece. She studied pedagogy for preschool and school-age children at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
While studying, Katerina was also writing kids books and theatrical plays for school shows, in order to prompt kids and teachers to take an innovative and creative approach classroom learning.
The talented author has been awarded in Greece and in international competitions for her outstanding kids' books that help both teachers and students.
Her book 'The Day Starts Again' won the first prize in the Orthodox-Child Book Competition held by the Holy Metropolis of Piraeus and her projects ‘When the stage floods with Light' and 'At Easter I am waiting for an embroidered poem' were awarded the first prize for a children’s theatrical play and poetic work respectively by the Greek Literary Union.
Katerina took some time to chat with GCT about her ongoing aim to write books that will encourage kids' learning.
How did writing children’s books come about?
When I started working as a Kindergarten teacher I was delighted to give a chance to my students to participate in creative activities expressing themselves. In 1990 I wrote my first book “ A Performance for me” to share my classroom experiences with other educators, pinpointing the students’ joy and liveliness, once they are motivated in doing so.
Is there a book that has influenced you as a writer?
I started writing during my school years. It was an internal need to transform my daily life into poetry. I admired nature’s beauty-I used to live under the Olympus mountain shadow, in Litochoro, Northern Greece, along with the difficulties and adversities of that time writing was an outlet. While growing up, my admiration for poetry grew as well. I especially showed great interest in Greek poets, like Kostis Palamas and “Anthology”, Odysseas Elytis and his work “ Aksion Esti”.
What inspires you to write?
I get my ideas from various places, there is a beauty of creation around us, the hidden beauty we can’t perceive with our own eyes and we need to discover it through our heart’s deep sensations, even from kids’ joyful eyes, while other times from their sad eyes.
I try to present every cause through my books, focusing on daily life with colors of hope and love.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends on the book. I needed some years for my book “When the Stage floods with Light!” because it includes theatrical plays that came alive in a class. So the plays were presented on stage, we added music and then they were written in the paper. It was a procedure that took some years.
On the other hand, there are books written in a short time but they still require a certain amount of maturity, since the majority of them, depict my life’s path.
How do you try to gain kids' full attention in class?
Every book, its initial thinking, its theme consists of a source of inspiration, in order to find ways to speak to the kids’ hearts. As an educator, I have been involved in various types of classes, I find joy in visiting schools and organizing reading events. I choose mainly whiteboard storytelling because kids get so excited and the theatrical play with which the books’ heroes liven in an amazing way.
Which are your recent books?
I had two children’s books published in 2019. “The Child and the Eagle” from Ellinoekdotiki Publications. A book with allegorical meaning written in poetical form referring to each kid’s value as a human being, coming to the world to show the hidden potential and to rise high!
“Rise High” doesn’t refer to his knowledge, his performance, his abilities, his special skills, his mind training but mostly to his mental wealth that fills both his heart and the adults with joy, internal fulfillment, and life!
My second book “ Yiagia sto Tetragono,” Ear Publications, is written with every gratitude for Yiayia. The book’s hero describes with humor a love for Yiayia and has three important reasons calling them “Giagia sto Tetragono!”
What’s coming up next for you?
I am set to publish two more books, one regarding Santa Claus, that promises to keep kids' company more than one day a year and an Easter story that presents the scenery of Greek Easter referring to a very sensitive topic at the same time. I'm also writing a Poetry Anthology for adults.