An interview with Kristin Chenoweth
The Children’s Book Review
In this episode, I talk with Emmy- and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth about her debut picture book, What Will I Do with My Love Today?
What Will I Do with My Love Today? is a heartwarming tale about a young girl named Kristi Dawn, who shares her love through acts of generosity.
Kristin Chenoweth’s career spans film, television, voiceover, and stage. She received an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Pushing Daisies, won a Tony Award for You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and received a Tony Award nomination for her original role of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway smash-hit Wicked. Kristin stars in the Apple TV+ musical comedy series Schmigadoon! She also starred in the Netflix comedy feature Holidate, voiced the character Daisy in the HBO MAX film The Witches, and hosted the Food Network series Candy Land.
Kristin remains a passionate supporter of charities, including the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center Foundation in her home state of Oklahoma, where she launched an annual Broadway Bootcamp providing young Broadway hopefuls with the opportunity to learn from mentors in the field.
Listen to the Interview
- About Kristin Chenoweth
- About What Will I Do with My Love Today?
- Get to know Kristin Chenoweth
- Kristin Chenoweth talks about writing the book What Will I Do with My Love Today?
- The illustrations of Maine Diaz
- Things we have for which to be grateful
- Thoughts on creating books for kids
- Kristin talks about upcoming books, including My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves
- Kristin Chenoweth’s hopes for What Will I Do with My Love Today?
Read the Interview
Bianca Schulze: Well, hello, Kristin! Welcome to the Growing Reader’s Podcast.
Kristin Chenoweth: Hi, how are you?
Bianca Schulze: I’m really, really happy to talk to you about your new picture book for children, What Will I Do with My Love Today? But before we dive in, since most of us only think we know you from your Broadway and film and TV appearances, I thought it might be fun just to get to know a little bit about you first. So I want to ask you a couple of rapid-fire questions, if that’s okay? They’ll be easy.
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, I love rapid-fire questions.
Bianca Schulze: Okay. Ready?
Kristin Chenoweth: Yes, I am.
Bianca Schulze: Favorite color?
Kristin Chenoweth: Pink.
Bianca Schulze: Favorite food?
Bianca Schulze: Oh yum! Any particular kind of doughnut?
Kristin Chenoweth: I do like a Krispy Kreme.
Bianca Schulze: Mmm.
Kristin Chenoweth: I’m not being paid by them. So I do like them.
Bianca Schulze: Yes. All right. Favorite animal?
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, a dog.
Bianca Schulze: Favorite song?
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, easy. It’s My Funny Valentine by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
Bianca Schulze: Beautiful. Favorite book?
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
Bianca Schulze: Hmm. All right.
And then, what’s your preference for reading material? Is it a hardcover book, paperback, e-book, or audiobook?
Kristin Chenoweth: Hardback book. I like the real deal. I like a real CD or, in fact, a vinyl—I just miss those. I love that we can put things on an iPad, but I like the hard copies.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, I’m with you. I’m with you.
Okay, so let’s talk about What Will I Do with My Love Today? I want to say it’s so joyful and I love the rhymes. They’re so beautifully sing-songy, which I think makes sense since you wrote it.
Kristin Chenoweth: Yes.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. And I love that it encourages kids to look for ways to be kind and loving every day. But it’s also a meaningful celebration of adoption. So I want to know where the idea for the story came from and why you knew that you had to write it.
Kristin Chenoweth: I knew I had to write this book because, during the beginnings of COVID, I went from one hundred and eighty degrees to nothing just like the rest of the world, right? And I thought, what am I going to do with myself? That was kind of the very first question because the things that I do are the things we’re not supposed to do, which are hug, touch, love, hug. You know, I’m no saint. I’m just saying that that’s the way I am, you know? And then the question became, how will I show my love?
I rescued my dog Thunder five years ago, and she kind of looked at me one day and we went for a walk. She had on her doggie mask and I had on my mask, and I thought, what will we do with our love today? What would we do with our love today? I thought it was going to be a song, but it ended up being about how we can show each other, not just our family, but our chosen family and friends that we love and strangers that we meet on the street that need help—and showing our fears.
And since I’m an adopted person myself, I was like, gosh, she rescued me too, and I rescued her and it just kind of came together that way. And that’s how the idea struck me.
Bianca Schulze: I love that, and I’ve heard from so many people that when the world went into lockdown, they did wonder what they were going to do. And I love how so many people took their creativity and just channeled it into something so beautiful.
Kristin Chenoweth: You know, at first I was, I’m a person of faith, so I was like, okay, God, this isn’t funny anymore. Ignorantly, I thought this was going to be over quicker. And obviously, you know, we’re still in it. We’re still learning. And yes, things are getting better and all of that. But it’s tricky times.
I think about our kids and what I would have been like and how I would have handled it. And I think that it’s hard for them because the rug got pulled out from underneath them, too. And instead of wallowing and believe me, I can wallow, I can wallow. I just was like, this is a godwink to give you the time you’ve been so craving. To try to create, to write a song, to rehearse, to read a book.
You know, I’m just like everybody else. Everybody is looking for ways to help. And I just kept going back to the kids and how hard it must be for them and how confusing of a time it is for them. Oh, wait, we don’t even be around our friends. Wait, we have to be in a bubble. So that also was a big impression on my heart to write this book.
I’m so happy with the illustrations too. Can I just say I felt like I looked at many, many beautiful illustrators? And there’s so much talent out there, right? We know that. But I really wanted someone to capture the fun and the spirit of a little me and a baby Thunder. And when I found Maine Diaz, I didn’t really look at anybody’s name or anything; I just looked at what was speaking to me. I kept going back to her. She’s my other partner in this, you know, she’s my other partner in the illustrations and the pictures.
I don’t know about you, but when I was little, that was as important to me, if not more so than the words. So I’m hoping that this becomes a comfort and fun. And yes, it’s about adoption, but I hope it just asks the question to us all, how are we going to show our love today? And I hope it inspires everyone.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, absolutely. I’m so glad that you mentioned Maine Diaz’s illustrations because they just bring so much cheer and joy, and positivity. And I mean, your words are wonderful. And then, you know, like any good picture book illustrator. The artwork just elevates it.
Kristin Diaz: Oh, thank you. I wish she were on this call, and I hope she hears this. I’ve never met her in person, only by Zoom and email and all of that. But I adore her. I adore her.
Bianca Schulze: So the main character, Kristi Dawn, she’s adorable, and she’s super smiley with such a bubbly personality. And like we said, that just shines through with the illustrations. So I just have to ask, is Kristi you?
Kristin Chenoweth: Yes. Yeah, me, she’s me. But you know, at age 53.
Bianca Schulze: I was going to say, she’s you. But at the same time, she’s also like every child.
Kristin Chenoweth: Yes, it’s before we get the edit. You know, recently, a little girl—I have some, let’s just say a couple of different colors of hair that’s growing that’s not my actual color.
Bianca Schulze: I might too.
Kristin Chenoweth: Okay, thank you.
And she said, What’s that? That doesn’t match your other hair. And I thought that’s the beauty of a child. You know, if a child doesn’t keep you honest, then I don’t know what will. And I just laughed, and I said, okay, here’s the deal. And I told her.
I also do want to say this as well, and this goes to the parents or guardians who are reading this or going through this little book with children that we are all ageless, really. And there are no more rules at this time. Be in the moment like Oprah always says—there are no rules. I’m a big kid at this age still, and I hope the adults when they read the book, they can remember that about themselves.
It’s very easy, especially during these tricky times, no matter where you live, to get caught up. And, you know, be a Debbie Downer. Wah-wah. I mean, I have to catch myself. Don’t go there, Kristen. Don’t go there. There’s so much to be grateful for, and it has not been easy. I’ve had loss, just like a lot of people. I’ve had difficult times adjusting. I’m not alone. We’re all in the same boat, right? And I just really want the adults to just remember they were once a kid when there was no worry, except for maybe a thunderstorm, you know?
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. Well, I feel like, thankfully, there have been more and more much-needed discussions on mental health and mindfulness in recent times. So I found just the title itself, What Will I Do with My Love Today?, which is also the opening and closing lines, is just such an excellent choice for setting a daily intention. And Kristi is such a great role model for demonstrating how she shares her love and how to make love actionable. So do you want to just talk us through a little bit about how you decided which acts of kindness to include throughout this book?
Kristin Chenoweth: Obviously, you know, I love music, and I wanted to include my mentor—her name was Miss Birdwell. So in the book, she’s Miss Bird. And it’s about going to the park and being allowed to bark. And it’s about going to the grocery store with your mom and dad. And it’s about having fun with them. And it’s about being with your teachers and allowing them to inspire you. And I just basically took it from my own life, you know?
And also, when you talk about the title, I find it was the right thing to start with the question because when you actually ask yourself the question, no matter your age, what will I do with my love today?, it is a big question. It’s actually kind of deep, and it begs the question, if you see somebody crossing the street, they need a little help. And your gut says help them, follow your gut. That’s another big theme in the book.
I can remember the first night I got Thunder. We had a big thunderstorm, which is odd in New York because we just don’t have thunderstorms as much as we do in Oklahoma. And she was scared, so scared, and I was supposed to be crate training her. Well, that lasted about seven minutes? And I got her in the bed and said, It’s okay, it’s okay, Thunder Pup. I got you. I got you. And she looked at me. We have these long conversations where nothing is said with her eyes and my eyes.
And I realize how I sound right now like that cuckoo dog lady. But I just love speaking animal. I love speaking animal. And if you listen really hard and watch really hard, they will talk back.
Bianca Schulze: Yes, we actually got a COVID puppy at our house too. And it’s just been so wonderful how much joy she has brought to the family.
Kristin Chenoweth: I’m so happy to hear that. Yeah, happy.
Bianca Schulze: This is actually hard for me because you’re somebody who reads lines for a job, but I want to read a part of the book to you that just filled my heart. Is that okay?
Kristin Chenoweth: Well, I want you to. I want to hear what touches people. I really want you to. And I’m not judging the way you read lines, girl.
Bianca Schulze: Okay. Okay. All right.
You see Thunder, families don’t all look the same,
or talk like each other, or have the same name.
Sometimes extra love in your heart and your home
is waiting for somebody who’s all alone.
No matter how life has brought us together,
adoption means family and families forever.
We had lots of love in our family before
with you, Thunder Pup; we can love even more.
Kristin Chenoweth: You’re going to make me cry. So that, to me, is the crux of the book. You know, it was beautifully read, by the way. But I have to tell you, as someone who has been rescued, adopted, and I’m a person of faith, so I believe things happen for a reason. And I went to the family I was supposed to go to. But that being said, the more love you have for others, there’s no limit…. Families don’t all look the same….
My dad is a chemical engineer. I can’t do math. He should never sing. You know, these are things that I want kids to understand, that when you love somebody or when you choose your friends or family, those are your chosen family, and there’s more love to go around. … And yeah, that’s the whole point of the book right there. You just nailed it. That’s my favorite passage, and that’s my favorite message in the book.
Bianca Schulze: Okay, but just to be clear, it wasn’t me that nailed it. You wrote those words. So you nailed it, Kristen. You nailed it.
Kristin Chenoweth: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Bianca Schulze: As this is your first children’s book, I’m curious. Was there anything about this process, about creating books for kids, that really just surprised you?
Kristin Chenoweth: Yeah, I was surprised. You know, I am no Shakespeare. I’ve written a book before, a non-nonfiction book. And that was hard. It was. I always felt like I had a paper due. I just was stressed out. You know.
I feel so much for writers because I actually thought this was hard. Because I knew the message I wanted to get across but also, I’m very musical in just the way I speak. You know, my voice has got its uniqueness, and I wanted that to come through on the page. I thought it was hard.
You know, it’s the same misconception when people say, oh, you’ve done so much animation, animated movies or series, they think it’s so easy. You go in there with your sweats. Well, not me. You know, I go in if I’m playing a mouse or a poisonous frog, let’s say in Rio and Rio 2, I’m going to wear pink and I’m going to be that character. Because even behind a microphone and, in this case, even behind the words, I need it to resonate. I need it to make sense. I needed to keep it in a certain age category—like what they call the queue. Keep it in the queue. Keep it in the queue. And it was harder than I thought.
I was completely shocked because I thought, oh, this will take me a day. No, no, no. I kept changing it and rewriting it and rewriting it and took things out and put things back in for about six months. So to all the authors who have written children’s books, I just want to say I was wrong. And you guys and you ladies and y’all rock because I made an ignorant assumption. And obviously, I’m very happy with how the book turned out. But it wasn’t a forty-five-minute let me sit down and write this thing.
Bianca Schulze: I’ve written a couple of books myself too, and you know, sometimes they do flow out nice and easy. And then other times it’s like, you know what you want the core of it to be, but to get it just right, it takes a lot longer than you think.
Kristin Chenoweth: It does. And I’ve even been inspired by reading a lot of other children’s books and picture books, and I’ve thought, Oh, I would love for this to continue. I would love it. You know, I don’t know if it will, but I would love for it to be a series of Thunder Pup and Kristi take on New York. Yeah. You know, I would love it to continue. And Thunder Pup and Kristi learn about pronouns. I’d love to keep going because I’m still learning. I know we’re all still learning and we’re doing the best we can— most of us are. So I would love to continue.
My wheels have already begun to turn. The problem with me is I can’t turn my brain off at night. And so, being a night owl, I’m pretty sure I sleep upside down like a bat. But I just can’t turn it off. And this came at a very, very good time—this opportunity.
And then I found myself working on another book, totally different, and then I found myself working on a completely different kind of book altogether. So during this time, it’s been three books and this is the first one to come out. And I’m just so happy to get the opportunity to talk about, not just how families look different, and rescue, and me and my dog Thunder Pup, but just to have something that moms and dads or guardians can sit down with their kids and laugh, you know?
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, absolutely. Do you want to share anything quickly about the other projects you have worked on that are coming out soon?
Kristin Chenoweth: I would love to thank you. That really certainly wasn’t like a lead-in.
Bianca Schulze: I’m totally curious. I want to know.
Kristin Chenoweth: Thank you. In a couple of months, I have a coffee table book where I have partnered with the actress Kathy Najimy, the singer-songwriter Linda Perry and country music singer-songwriter Chely Wright and her wife, Lauren Blitzer. And it is called My Moment, and this was also born out of a question. And I have to say it was Shelley who said, Kristen (all four of us are tight), so do you remember the first time you ever took up for yourself as a woman? You know, being a woman? I said I had to think about it.
Well, two weeks go by. I’m still thinking about that question. So we began to ask our friends, many very, very well known, a lot more famous people than us, and a lot of people that nobody has ever heard of. And what we found was so powerful we decided to make it into this book. We sent cameras to everyone to take their own selfies or have their best friend or companion take a picture of them as they see them. And the book is called My Moment, and I am extremely excited for that to come out as well.
I want it to inspire not just women or those who identify as women, but everyone, because the story I tell is a story that is very, very hard for me to talk about, and also, I don’t know why shame or guilt was involved, it certainly wasn’t anything I did. But women, I think in particular, have a tendency to go there quicker. Anyway, that’s what that book is. We have everybody in it. I’m so excited.
And then the next book next year is a book I wrote; I’m almost done. The title is I’m No Philosopher, But I’ve Got Some Thoughts.
Bianca Schulze: Me too!
Kristin Chenoweth: Okay, so you get it. You get it. It’s more of an inspirational book. It’s more of the things I’ve learned so far, especially about being a Christian and also fighting for communities like the gay community that doesn’t always line up with Christianity— which has always been confusing to me. Just different groups and how I view it and what I’ve learned and how I’ve learned to share who I am and not just tolerate but accept and love people where they are in their lives.
And also, I want people to understand that this life hasn’t been rainbows, glitter, and unicorns the whole time. Not that I have a lot to complain about, but we are all human, and we all go through our own crap. And what the point is, what do we learn from it? And there are going to be some thoughts in there then not all people agree with. And that’s okay, too. How are we going to learn to disagree? We’ve got two ears and one mouth. Listen harder, speak less. So that’s the crux of the book.
Bianca Schulze: Yep, yep, absolutely. Oh my gosh. I feel like this human connection is just weaving through even from your picture book all the way through this. And when you were talking about My Moments, I got goosebumps. So I’m super excited for this new journey for you, Kristin.
I would absolutely love to finish off by having you finish this sentence. Are you ready?
Kristin Chenoweth: I’m so ready
Bianca Schulze: When a reader reaches the final page of What Will I Do with My Love Today? I hope…
Kristin Chenoweth: They hug the first person they see.
Bianca Schulze: Oh. Yes. I’m a visual person and I just saw grown-ups with their children that they care for reading it right before bedtime and that giant warm snuggle.
Kristin Chenoweth: Yeah, that’s what I want. That’s what I want. Yeah.
Bianca Schulze: Well, your book is such a gift to the heart, and the world certainly needs far more kindness and acts of generosity, and this whole message from your book, the more love we give, the more love we get back. So thank you, Kristin. Thank you.
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, just can I say thank you for your spirit, which comes through loud and clear across this phone? Thank you so much. Thank you so, so much for your time.
Bianca Schulze: Oh, thank you, Kristin. It’s been an absolute pleasure
Kristin Chenoweth: You, too, Darlin’ and take care. Bye.
About the Book
Written by Kristin Chenoweth
Illustrated by Maine Diaz
Ages 4-8 | 32 Pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson | ISBN-23: 9781400228430
Publisher’s Synopsis: A wonderful addition to children’s books by celebrities and picture books about love and friendship, Kristin Chenoweth’s whimsical adventure about adopting a dog reminds young readers they have an abundance of love and kindness to share with all of God’s creatures.
What Will I Do with My Love Today? is a sweet adventure picture book by celebrity Kristin Chenoweth, known for debuting the role of Glinda in Broadway’s Wicked and her Emmy Award-winning performance in Pushing Daisies. This heartfelt story follows young Kristi Dawn around New York City as she shares her love through acts of generosity—from singing in the church choir to helping a neighbor weed her garden. When she meets a lonely dog looking for a home, Kristi Dawn shows that adoption is one of the most loving and life-changing gifts of all.
Through delightful rhyme and examples of child-friendly (and pup-friendly!) acts of generosity and kindness, Chenoweth shares the powerful message that the more love you give, the more love you get back! This jacketed picture book
- is perfect for ages 4 to 8
- tells a meaningful story alongside playful illustrations from Maine Diaz
- is a great gift for baby showers, adoption parties, soon-to-be older siblings, and dog-loving kids
- is a meaningful way to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Dog Day, and National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day
- is a fun gift for fans of Kristin Chenoweth or other celebrity children’s book authors
An inspiring read-aloud, What Will I Do with My Love Today? encourages kids to look for ways to be kind and loving every day—because that’s the best way for love to grow!
Buy the Book
Visit Kristin Chenoweth at https://officialkristinchenoweth.com
Thank you for listening to the Growing Readers Podcast episode: Kristin Chenoweth Discusses What Will I Do with My Love Today? For the latest episodes from The Growing Readers Podcast, Follow Now on Spotify. For similar books and articles, you can check out all of our content tagged with Adoption, Love, Pet Adoption, and Picture Book.