Spring Issue 2001
KotaPress Journal

This issue we are talking with Max Haynes, children's author and illustrator. Max has written many children's books, and his latest online creation, CampHeaven, caught our eye and simply wouldn't let go. We're honored to share Max, his words, and CampHeaven with you here Behind The Scenes.

Chatting with
Max Haynes

Q. What does writing for children mean to you?

A. Children are exciting to work for because they are willing to suspend their version of the world to open themselves up to new ideas.

Q. When and why did you start writing children's books and stories?

A. My Mom quietly nurtured the idea over many years, until I finally got the hint and created my first book in 1988. It was published in 1990.

Q. What exactly is CampHeaven?

A. CampHeaven is a cyber brochure for a wonderful piece of Heaven. It's designed for those who intend to be with children when they die and those who have to wait to join them.

Q. How did you come up with the ideas for CampHeaven?

A. CampHeaven is about giving folks a path through the dying (and grieving) process. It is based on the idea that if the spirit survives, what can a young spirit expect to do? The idea of sitting on Jesus' lap for all eternity doesn't appeal to me very much. Or to Jesus, I bet. So Camp Heaven is a place for a vigorous spirit to have some fun.

Q. Did a personal event cause you to create CampHeaven?

A. Two experiences have informed my ideas about this. The first was my mother's murder in 1993. She was stabbed by a stranger and left to die, alone, confused, afraid, and in pain. This is part of a collection of ideas about her death that haunt me.

The second experience was with my father-in-law who was dying after one and a half miserable years in nursing homes after suffering a stroke. I went to visit him one day by myself when he was very ill.

I said, "So, what are your plans?" He gazed up at me in puzzlement. I went on, "What are you going to do first? Head up to the cabin and do a little fishing with your folks? Maybe play a little cribbage after a nice walleye dinner?"

He smiled his first genuine smile in many weeks and died that night with a place to start his journey.

Q. Can you say a few words about what you are offering to readers who visit CampHeaven?

A. For children I am offering a more concrete and realized idea of Heaven and a path. For their parents a moment's solace and a place for their child to be in their hearts. I hope parents will use the site to discuss the afterlife with their terminal child. So many times, the child is left to wonder what will be next because the parents can't bear to accept that their child is dying, even in a hospice setting. Hopefully the ideas about CampHeaven will help them open the dialog. Death is part of the human adventure and should be a part of a life richly lived.

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