Interview With Karen Richard
Karen Richard – Founder, Author & Literary Director of the Coldstream Tales, and Speech-Language Pathologist. Why she’s a newly self-diagnosed “Multipotentialite,” why she left her career to start a children’s book series, and why you belong in Coldstream.
Karen says she was painfully shy as a child yet always got in trouble for talking too much. Knowing that, it’s not surprising she chose a career helping children find their voices. After more than two decades working with children, why did she leave her career to try something and completely new? Let’s dig into her “why.”
Okay, what the heck is a “Multipotentialite”?
It’s a new word to me, too! I heard of it recently from a Ted Talk from 2015 by Emilie Wapnick called, Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling. The term describes people who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime instead of one “true calling.” They find and follow what intrigues them and get all-consumed by that interest until they master it. Then they get bored. They usually persist for a while because of the time, energy, and money they’ve put into it. Still, eventually, it all gets to be too much. They let it go only to find something else unrelated but incredibly exciting – and on and on it goes.
How do you feel you relate to that definition?
I feel like I’m a textbook definition of a Multipotentialite! I feel so seen. After high school, I did all of the “right things.” I went to university, got my degree, got into graduate school, then landed a job in my field. But I never truly felt settled. I joked that I stumbled into being a Speech-Language Pathologist, which I sort of did if I’m honest. But it was never something I felt drawn or called to do. I took course after course and even changed jobs a few times to keep things interesting, but once I “got it,” I felt the itch to move on to something entirely different. Until now, I always picked a new focus that was within my field.
What was it that pushed you to quit your job as a Speech Pathologist?
I was never thrilled with my career. That feeling nagged at me, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The more we talked about Coldstream Tales as a project, the more I felt compelled to work at it full time. It reflected who I am and how I want to live my life moving forward. I’m not typically all about signs from the universe, but everything kept pointing me in this direction. I finally started paying attention and listened.
How did you get started with Coldstream Tales as a project, and what inspired you to take it on?
It started as a late-night off-handed comment to Jesse about wanting to write children’s books. The idea rattled around in our heads for a while before we came up with the idea that seemed more feasible. In my head, the dream of being an author is about as likely as being a rockstar – rare and unlikely – and not a risk I was willing to take. But the more Jesse and I worked on refining our idea, the more I felt the push to quit my old job. And I did, finally, in the fall of 2020.
I have always loved certain parts of working as a Speech-Language Pathologist. It let me dive deep into different aspects of the field that interested me, and the research and strategies for working with clients evolves constantly. I’m passionate about working with children and families and I’ve always loved teaching parents how to help their children at home. But I’ve always been interested in children’s books. I’ll spend more time in the children’s book section of the library or bookstore than any other area. So once we figured out a way to combine my wide variety of interests with my education and training, it became clear to me that we could use this project to help even more children and families. Just in a different way.
What do you think your experience brings to the project?
I get to create stories that have a purpose – so children see themselves represented in our universe. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I learned about and helped many unique and unforgettable children of all abilities. I know a lot about child development and am a self-described “neuro nerd,” so this project lets my Multipotentialite flag fly. I get to explore ideas that interest me, dig deeper into the concepts and current research, and connect and collaborate with specialists in other disciplines to create truly unique and fantastic books, ultimately helping even more children and families than I could reach as a clinician.
What is your hope for the project?
I talk a lot about my “BHAGs” (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and the list grows by the day. Ultimately, I want Coldstream Tales to be entertaining for children. To connect parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, and clinicians with the science, research, and information that we know is best for developing children. To make it easier for them to put research into practice in their daily lives. And I want everyone to feel like they belong and that they fit in somewhere within the Coldstream Tales universe – regardless of their uniqueness, ability, or accessibility challenges.
And because I love children’s books so much, I want to help all children develop a love of books and reading. Not all children take to books the same way, but we can help them learn to use them to start conversations, explore worlds and concepts beyond their personal experience.
What have been your biggest challenges with the project?
Every day I’m learning something new. And it doesn’t seem as though anyone has done quite what we’re doing, so we’ve had to define ourselves, who we are, and what we do. We’re not quite a “book”; we’re not quite a “publishing company.” So there’s no script to follow. No single process to make it all work. There have been many false starts and constant pivots, and I’m learning to embrace my mistakes as learning opportunities.
Where do you see this company in five years?
In five years, we’ll have an extensive collection of books with an entire cast of characters and will regularly be pushing out new offerings each month. We’ll have expanded into chapter books, graphic novels and young adult fiction. We’ll have a nonprofit organization devoted to helping children. And we’ll have a community of children, specialists, parents, clinicians, and teachers who love the Coldstream Tales universe as much as we do, where they feel seen, represented, and supported.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will be working on multiple projects within Coldstream Tales simultaneously, connecting and working with people from a various disciplines and backgrounds from around the world to make this project better each day. To speak publicly about why we do what we do. And maybe even to present my own Ted Talk.
What is the most rewarding part of working at Coldstream Tales?
Do I have to pick just one? The freedom to follow my passions, inspirations, and interests. And to connect with others to ultimately help children grow and develop.
If you had one thing to tell parents about Coldstream Tales, what would you say?
I want parents to know we created the Coldstream Tales universe and stories for their families and children. They belong here. We know parenting can be challenging, even at the best of times. We see them, their struggles and will be here to help them celebrate their successes.
Although it was a long time coming, Karen seems to have finally found her fit with the Coldstream Tales universe. Not all roads go straight from Point A to Point B. But without the detours, mistakes, and learning opportunities, we might not get to where we belong.
Do you have a question for Karen? Do you want to collaborate with her on a future project? Leave a comment or question below or submit a collaboration request here (link).