Earlsfield Talks: to Clare Luther, founder of Head 2 Heart Books
Clare, welcome to Earlsfield Talks, please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks so much for inviting me to write a little about who I am and what I do.
I live in Earlsfield with my husband, two teenage girls and Wotsit, our smooth haired black & tan dachshund. I run a dachshund hotel in our family home (inspected and certified by Wandsworth Council) and I'm a children's author writing rhyming books for 3-8 year olds.
Earlsfield is very much home for me, having lived locally all my life. Before becoming a full time mum and turning to writing I worked as an Occupational Therapist for the military, I ran my own company as an Ergonomist assessing people's workstations and trained as a Life Coach. These wonderful and varied client-led careers allowed me the privilege of working alongside people, affected by physical or mental health problems, in a very personal and caring way.
People are my fuel and from a very early age I have always wanted to care for others and help where I can.
Why did you choose to set up Head 2 Heart Books?
I was introduced to Maria Floyd, illustrator, eleven years ago whilst I was on a summer holiday on the North Cornish coast. We soon discovered we had a shared interest in children's books, me in writing poetry and Maria drawing and illustrating, so we started working together.
Over time we began to create characters and centred the stories around animals, told in rhyme and illustrated in colourful pen and ink drawings, working at night and around our busy family lives.
In 2018 the small publishing company Head 2 Heart Books LTD was set up which allowed me to be responsible for the whole process of the production of our books. The name Head 2 Heart Books was chosen because it encapsulated what my books are about - gentle stories addressing head and heart matters to do with wellbeing, mental health, emotional wellbeing as well as some associated physiological and social issues too. For me, children's emotional well being and mental health matters as much as their physical health.
My thoughtful rhyming stories aim to help young children explore their thoughts and feelings and get conversations started early. Each book is crafted alongside psychologists, teachers, parents and the children themselves to ensure the language is accessible and the stories can be well understood. I have five books in The Little Paws Hotel series; each book tells the story, through the eyes of different breeds of dogs, about a specific worry or fear.
Olive - separation anxiety (https://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/book/17409/Olive-by-Clare-Luther.html)
Gus - fear of new experiences
Fig - worries and fears about making mistakes
Dudley - thoughts and feelings about being bullied
Peggy - thoughts and feelings about being the bully
What has the highlight of your career been?
As a therapist my highlight was working 1:1 with patients who had suffered brain injuries or head injuries. It was incredible, and extremely humbling, to be part of their rehabilitation where I'd be so closely and personally involved in their re-education and re-learning of everyday life skills. When working with these courageous people I learnt very quickly that clear communication, compassion and empathy needed to be in place before anything else could get started...which is what I carry with me today.
As an author my highlight so far has been seeing first hand, in my workshops, children as young as 3 years old up to 8 years old relate to and recognise their thoughts and feelings through the dog characters in the books i.e. validation of their emotions and empathy.
What does running a business in Earlsfield mean to you?
My community, my neighbours, my friends and my family are all invaluable to me. Running a business in Earlsfield allows for deep connections in a very palpable way because the books tap into so many different groups of people here. Local parenting, childcare and support networks, nurseries, mainstream primary schools, special needs primary schools, the library, local shops, churches, charities, markets and fairs, coffee shops for meetings.
Earlsfield just keeps giving..... I have lived here 21 years and it is the most wonderful hub of skilled, caring and loving people on my doorstep.
What are the best parts of your job?
There are two aspects that I adore - i) creating stories that enable children to start talking about their thoughts and feelings in a safe and comfortable way and ii) running my storytelling workshops with the children in schools.
And what are the biggest challenges?
1) Being a small independent publisher working against the tide of big publishers.
2) Not getting caught up in the 'Compared To You' syndrome and staying authentic to my passion and purpose.
3) Keeping calm and taking things one step at a time.
Who or what has inspired you?
My Christian faith inspires me everyday and my deep desire to help people connect with each other. I long for children to have a story that permits a safe space where they can sit with an adult to read, explore, talk, tell, share, discuss and empathise.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Gifts and strengths evolve at different stages in your life. Be open to opportunity, allow failure to teach you new things, be thankful and ALWAYS encourage others.