Medicine and faith intertwine in Dr. Erin K. Coney's new children's book

FLINT, Michigan — Flint native Dr. Erin K. Coney recently released a new Christian children's book titled The Tree That Stood on Calvary that's rich with moral lessons for children and parents alike. In the book, she merges her love for creativity and spiritual devotion to tell the compassionate story of a tree that would soon become the cross.

In her interview with Flintside, Dr. Coney spoke enthusiastically about the story’s main character and how it found its purpose through a journey of growth and perseverance. She also discussed faith, her personal relationship with God, the role her parents played in nurturing her and her twin sister, and how people can begin to use their gifts to thrive. And she teased that there may be a book series and a personal biography in the works for her audience to look forward to. 

Flintside: Where did the idea to mesh and interconnect faith and children’s books come from? 

Dr. Coney: "The idea actually came sporadically and organically. It might sound strange but I came up with the idea to write a Christian children's book from seeing an image that looked like a "cross" on the hardwood floors of my college apartment. I had to study a lot while I was in pharmacy school so I was often stressed and I would always speak to God while going through my college tenure to get me through, so naturally, I came up with the idea of writing a Christian book.

I wanted to write and illustrate my book on my own but then I had gotten the amazing idea to get a childhood friend from my hometown church to illustrate it, named Carla Harden. I just knew she would be amazing at bringing my book to life. My parents have instilled a strong sense of faith in my twin sister, Lauren, and we would go to church pretty much every Sunday — my twin sister and I have always had a healthy and strong relationship with the Lord. I came up with the concept during the Spring of 2017 while in pharmacy school."

Flintside: What are some key takeaways that you would like to see kids and families incorporate into their lives once they’ve read your book?

Dr. Coney: "I want children and families to take away the meaning of 'finding your purpose.' My main character is given a simple name of "Woody" but the name also has a strong impact because this story is all about how the tree became the cross that Jesus was crucified on. This story is one that many of us who grew up in the church know all too well but I wanted to give 'life' and 'character' to the cross who helped to carry Jesus to our salvation. Woody is just like all of us — he doesn't know what his purpose in life is when he gets knocked down and taken away from the environment that he has grown up in all his life and has gotten used to but when he is going through the change of becoming a 'cross,' he begins to realize that his purpose is bigger than himself."

'The Tree That Stood on Calvary' is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Flintside: How did you come up with the title of your children’s book? Was it more of a spontaneous creation? Or was it something that you spent a lot of time on?

Dr. Coney: "The original title of my children's book was a bit odd and pretty humorous but when I further contemplated the title, I knew that I wanted it to rhyme. I started to think about how to make the title familiar but also catchy so I knew putting the word 'calvary' in the title would resonate with those who have grown up as Christians. After Jesus was crucified on the cross, we all remembered how he was crucified on Calvary so I came up with 'The Tree That Stood On Calvary' since that was Jesus' resting place for our sins."

Flintside: Is there any advice you’d give to other professionals and creatives who are chasing their dreams in uncertain times?

Dr. Coney: "Ever since I graduated in 2020, I have learned to become more vulnerable. I have become more vulnerable and working to become comfortable in being nontraditional. I am nontraditional in the sense that I chose not to become a 'traditional pharmacist' by working in retail or a hospital. I knew upon graduating from a very streamlined profession that I was going to innovate my own path and utilize my 'right brain' and 'left brain' to create the career that I wanted. Continue thinking outside of the box and don't worry if you're doing something different from the rest of the crowd. I am still learning this but every day, I start to see the fruits of my labor come together naturally."

Flintside: What was the creative process like while writing the book?

Dr. Coney: "When I sat down to write my book initially, I formulated my concept of simply writing a book from a different perspective. So, I sat down at my computer and I came up with my first sentence of how I wanted the book to start off,  then after that, I made a second sentence that rhymed. You would be surprised at how you can formulate a story by just taking a few extra seconds or minutes by coming up with your next stanza by thoughtfully rhyming. For anyone that is wanting to create a story, I’d suggest writing out thoughts on a piece of paper or typing them out because once you get a good rough draft down, you’re able to edit and piece together your story."

Flintside: How can we as women begin to find a productive and healthy work-life balance?

Dr. Coney: "I am still working on creating a healthy work life balance but I would recommend to start looking within to see what matters in your creative life. Are you someone who wants to find a solution within your community to make it better, more productive, or more beautiful? Sometimes, within our work and life, there are creative opportunities that present themselves that allow us to be creative in our day-to-day lives. For me, it was allowing God to speak to me while I was in school. He knew exactly what to give me in order to feel fulfilled by creating a story that helped to relieve stress from my day-to-day." 

Flintside: Can we expect to see more children’s books from you in the future? 

Dr. Coney: "Definitely! I have already thought about some new concepts that could turn into a series. I also have thought about a personal autobiography. Whatever God has in store for me to write and create, it will most definitely shine with great effulgence. I would be remiss if I didn't thank my boyfriend Adrian Walker for connecting me with a childhood friend of his who started a publishing company called Colorful Waves. If it weren't for my boyfriend's willingness to help my book come to life at the time, this story would not have seen tangible pages. Thank you to Ashley Kellum for believing in this book and bringing it to market."

Find Dr. Erin K. Coney on Instagram and Facebook. 'The Tree That Stood on Calvary' is available for purchase on Amazon.