Silly Stories for Serious Times

By Manon Cadenaule 

Madigan Kent is a psychotherapist who is used to hearing about a wide range of problems, but in 2020, the trouble was more significant. The world spoke about the same problem, the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19. 

Kent began to write for fun to process this absurd situation and release emotions. Her writing journey started in March 2020 as a therapeutic way to exorcise the bad and keep the good during this dark, introspective period. It was a moment of non-verbal therapy until she decided to show to the world her work since it might help people. 

  1. Can you speak a little more about your journey as a new writer since you started?

“Exploded out of nowhere. I hadn’t done any arts or writing for maybe 20 years, within a week of lockdown and all my kids being sent home from school, a lot of visual and emotional content started pouring out of me and so I started to write it down. Some images started coming to me, sort of like dreams. It was very unclear.” 

  1. Which specific event made you click and start writing? Why write now and not before?

“I remember having a story written and sitting on my porch and telling a friend I had written a story about the lockdown and about people not wearing pants. 

“I have been that week in my bedroom drawing and writing, and I remember laying everything out. Things bubbled up during the remote school days because [the kids] came home full time and we were just told that they weren’t going back to school on Monday and I had no experience teaching or anything. We didn’t have computers. We were just stunned. 

“The school week would start and I was like, ok I can do some school work and then I am gonna go hide, I am gonna write and I am gonna draw. It must have been my way of releasing everything that was happening inside because it was just so choking.”

Book cover of “Sillypants: How to Dress for a Pandemic” by Madigan Kent and her 4th grade daughter Belle Kent. Photo courtesy of Madigan Kent.
  1. How was it to write your first book? What did you want to achieve? 

“I was trying to express the feelings that I was having, and I wanted to communicate what it felt like; this sort of Dadaist upside world that it was. It was funny but also dark and sweet because everybody was trying to make it work. It was just absurd. 

“It was therapeutic to draw these absurd pictures and joke about the different people in our lives that were going through it.” 

  1. How do you connect therapy and writing? Did you try to use your therapy skills to fix things?

“As a therapist, the situation was absurd and humbling. My clients were doing therapy in bunk beds and closets, and laundry rooms. Couples sat on bedroom floors talking about feelings. 

Therapy is verbal right? And non-verbal by communicating with somebody. It is sharing an experience, being there with somebody and holding that space, so nobody is alone, and parenting is not so different. We have all this time together, and none of this situation is making sense cognitively but emotionally, we are going through this very big wave of scary stuff and uncertainty, and we don’t know what one day to another is going to look like. All we have is right now when we are sitting together drawing solved that problem to a degree. 

“It was less important for me to be a good therapist for my kids than it was to stay regulated myself and above water myself so they would not pick up on all my stress. I noticed so quickly that if I was overwhelmed, then they were overwhelmed. Being a therapist to them is really not what they needed; they needed me to hold a lot of space for them, so we weren’t falling apart.” 

  1. Why did you also choose to illustrate your work? Which illustration is your favorite? Why? What does it mean for you?

“Because I was doing it for fun, if I was a professional at it and I wanted to create the best product then I would have chosen the part I was best at but it would have changed the vision I guess. I was trying to send a message, and the message included the visuals. The illustrations I like the most are portraits. I like the piano teacher portrait, and I like the farmer, I like the grandma in the third book, I like Sammy in the bathtub, Sammy as a cowboy going down the stairs. They are all conveying something emotional. They are comforting and funny.”

The piano teacher in the book “Sillypants: How to Dress for the Pandemic” by Madigan Kent and her 4th grade daughter Belle Kent. Photo courtesy of Madigan Kent.
  1. What can you say about the self-publishing journey? What is it like for you? Do you find more liberties? Or more restrictions?

“I am still in the process of turning it into the final product. It’s an extensive process, and I am proud of myself for having a final creation and pushing myself to make that happen, not giving up on the technical side of it. It’s very freeing, it’s kind of cool these days you can have something in mind you want to share with the world, and without bankrupting yourself, you can share it. 

“And I don’t know if it would have been the same case if I would have sent the manuscript to an editor and have a different person illustrating it. I don’t know if I would have been proud of that process, they would cut various things, and by self-publishing, I don’t have to fit into a category.” 

  1. Who is your favorite character and why?

“The joy that Sammy experiences when he is happy is contagious. He is so raw, and every emotion that he feels is very unedited, very pure; you feel it when you are with him, and you want him to succeed because when he does, he feels so good about it. So, I think it’s Sammy.” 

  1. What are your upcoming plans? Where do you see your writing career in a few years?

“I will keep doing it. I think I will wait for an emotional moment that strikes me. The life journey with my son is probably where the most emotional processing happens because it’s just so raw, and the way he sees the world is unique, charming, and creative. 

“Continuing to process really difficult emotional material with kids by being there with them in a hard moment. Continuing to convey strong feelings and emotions that’s where things bubble up for me and I do use them as tools to connect with my kids and to talk. Just to conclude, I will be working with more Sammy, more school, and more absurd.” 

Kent is currently working on the remaster of her first book, “Sillypants Goes to Remote School,” and will release “Sillypants: How to Dress for a Pandemic” and “Sillypants: Which Do You Like Best?” in the next month or so. The books will be soon available on Amazon

You can follow the author on Instagram @sillypantsbook or her website

The Guardsman