W hen most of us hear the word “kiwi,” we picture a fuzzy, fleshy, sweet, slightly tart fruit (named, incidentally, for New Zealand’s national bird). Not so for Stacey and Eitan Battat of Woodbridge.
When, in 2005, the couple decided to create a publishing company out of their home, they named it Kiwi Publishing—not as a tribute to delicious produce but as a declaration of values: Kids, Integrity, Wisdom, Inspiration. It was also, we’re told, a fruity attempt to channel some of the mojo of legendary turnaround story Apple Inc., which by then had been riding high on successive versions of the iPod (and would soon enough soar higher upon a little thing called the iPhone).
Kiwi originally existed to help parents teach life skills to their children. Since then its mission has broadened, also aiming to hearten and motivate adults. The company’s paperback “Thin Threads” series, with entrants like Teachers & Mentors and Faith & Hope, is intended to encourage readers to be open-minded, embrace surprises, develop positive attitudes and use their gifts—as Stacey sums it up, “to bring a message of optimism and inspiration into the world.”
The books comprise collections of stories, usually ten in number, written by people from all over the country, often with spiritual undertones. Titles cover widely relevant topics like Grief & Renewal, Moms & Grandmas, Compassion & Giving, Recovery & Survival, Joy & Inspiration and Love & Romance. Each story within a collection typically carries a message based on a real experience, often focusing on a transformative moment in time, a life-altering incident meant to illustrate something more universal.
The opener of Teachers & Mentors, titled “Kisses for Mr. Castle,” has author Terri Elders recalling an eighth-grade science teacher who encouraged her to defy her parents’ (and prevailing society’s) belief that “girls aren’t good at science.” The fifth story in Faith & Hope, Milda Misevicius’s “The Alcoholic,” is downright literary. This is how it opens:
I watched him. I always watched him. As he stumbled; as he fell. As his nose bled and vomit dripped from his mouth. The front of his pants darkening with uncontrolled urination.
“He” is Misevicius’s alcoholic father, and the watcher is the author’s eight-year-old self, saddled with taking care of her supposed caretaker, somehow making it through.
From a cozy raised office nook overlooking her kitchen, Stacey Battat (pictured above) takes the lead compiling the stories that make it into these books. From there she also works on her messages as a motivational speaker, a profession which often has her sharing a podium with Joyce Saltman or Esther Russell, both of whom you might think of as humor and joy specialists.
Battat’s involvement with Saltman is a good example of a “thin threads”—defined by Kiwi as “moments, events, setbacks, crossroads or encounters that connect us to a person, place or opportunity and change our lives for the better”—moment. She had taken a class taught by Saltman years before and suddenly, out of the blue, found herself with a compelling feeling to call her. Though the latter was in Florida at the time, the pair committed to meeting once she returned to Connecticut. From then on, Saltman, the self-described “laughter guru,” was a natural source of support and inspiration for Battat.
The whim to make a phone call has produced a friendship now approaching familial status. Battat identifies Saltman as her own personal mentor, which is fitting given that the two collaborated on that Teachers and Mentors book. One of Battat’s favorite passages from it, by the way, is Michele Rae Eich’s “Middle School Miracle,” about a class of kids who turned a potentially cruel event on its head.
If you can think of a “moment, event, setback, crossroad or encounter” like that from your own life, a story that provokes laughter, empathy, understanding or inspiration, try emailing it to Kiwi via email@example.com. The company’s always looking for more of the fuzzy, fleshy, sweet, slightly tart stuff.
P.O. Box 3852, Woodbridge, CT 06525
(866) 836-7913 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Bonnie Goldberg. Photographed by Dan Mims.