When the children in the Breadfruit House program ask me what I love to do, I always tell them I love writing stories. My love for writing is, most likely, very much related to my passion for reading.
As a child, I remember being disappointed by how many books you were allowed to check out at the library. Consequently, I visited the library at least once a week, as reading was my favorite pastime. Especially books with only text were my favorite. I enjoy creating my own images of the story in my mind. Illustrations of pictures would only interfere with that.
Reading is a fun and easy way to explore people, places, learn new words, and get more confident in reading and writing in your own time. Nothing nicer than sitting down with a big cup of tea and a good book. And if it rains, that will only add to the cozy feeling.
Oliver’s story needed to be written before I could finish my own. I will continue writing that now, in addition to all other activities. Curious about my book, check it out here.
Yes! I am a published author now.
I just published my first children’s book in English. If you had told me that 10 years ago, I would have looked at you and laughed. That’s how unlikely it was to me. English was not my best subject in high school, to say the least, in the beginning, that is. My English teacher introduced a pen pal program, which helped me tremendously. Writing the first letter was nerve-wracking, but my pen pal in England was supportive and diligently corrected my letters. It aided in passing my final English exam with an 8 out of 10.
When I visited him and his family before I moved to Dominica in 2016, he pulled out all my letters, and I mean every single one. The first one was from 1975, let me tell you, that letter was adorably clumsy. I enjoyed reading some of my old letters, and even then, it showed my love for writing.
We have been friends ever since, close to 50 years now. He is a loyal supporter of Breadfruit House, and however reluctantly on his side, our snail mail correspondence has changed to email now.
The writing process.
The idea for my children’s book came from a video I watched where someone was reading a story to children about emotions. This was in the middle of the pandemic, and I thought how lovely it would be to do something similar for the children in Dominica.
That thought evolved into writing my own story and making it relatable to children in the Caribbean. The title came to me soon after, “Oliver and his big bowl of feelings.” With nothing to distract me, I started typing away, and the story unfolded effortlessly. I didn’t know how it would end until the final chapter. To my surprise, I even made an appearance in the book, a bit like a cameo.
Living and working in an English-speaking country has improved my language skills immensely, and I am fluent now. Yet, I wanted the story to be edited professionally. It is incredible how the right people cross your path when needed. I am always astounded by that and grateful as well.
That also applies to the adorable illustrations. I searched for the perfect illustrator and couldn’t find what I wanted. Feeling somewhat discouraged, I turned to my local women’s circle. One of the ladies told me to contact her daughter; she is an illustrator.
I forwarded her the story, and she made a few draft drawings. I knew I had found the best illustrator for my story in Kibibi Stephenson. Her cute and relatable illustrations brought Oliver to life. And the small details also make it so relatable to children here.
Our lovely illustrator Kibibi Stephenson.
An online program.
With the pandemic was still far from over, I wrote, narrated, and set up an online program based on Oliver’s story. The intention was that every child in Dominica would have access. For various reasons, it didn’t get launched. The program is fully operational in a safe online environment. It includes Oliver’s story, of course, but also assignments and exercises around different emotions and feelings.
It was fun narrating every chapter; sometimes, I had to start over 10 times before doing it in one go. Later I discovered the pause button, which was a great help. I did not save the bloopers; now I wish I had. It might have been fun to show the children that making mistakes is no big deal.
My love for writing now has me writing an Oliver workbook with all the assignments and exercises from the online program. The idea is that children reading the book will explore their feelings and emotions and write or craft about them. The exercises can help them get energized, calm down, or simply breathe.
I learned a lot from setting up the online program, and the many bloopers while narrating gave me an excellent idea for the next book in the series. Nobody wants to make mistakes, of course, but we all do. I have noticed that some children are almost frantic about making a mistake. My goal is to show that mistakes happen to everyone, and there is no need to panic.
The cover of Oliver and his big bowl of feelings.
The book is finished; and now what?
Finally, the day came when my book was finished, fully edited, and all the illustrations in place. Now what? I had already decided to self-publish the book on Amazon, which means you have to do all the work yourself.
And I have to admit I felt overwhelmed initially and had no clue where to start and how to do it. Fortunately, a friend told me I will guide you, but you will do the work yourself. In hindsight, it was less complicated than I thought.
It was extremely exciting when the website stated that the upload was successful when I sent both the text with illustrations and the cover. My love for writing and my dream of becoming an author has materialized. Soon I will be able to hold my very first book, and I cannot tell you how amazing that feels and how proud I am of how far I have come.
Learning how to express yourself is essential for children. In the book, Oliver finds the courage to talk to his parents, but it can be any trusted adult. And he also has the experience of creativity as an outlet, the basis of the Breadfruit House program. As Breadfruit House has funded the book, all book proceeds go to the Foundation. Ordering your copy on Amazon is easy; simply use this link.
Promotion and marketing.
The first step was to write and publish the book; promoting and marketing the book is the next chapter in this journey, pun intended. Especially since all the proceeds go to Breadfruit House, selling the book is important.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a local sparring partner, and we devised many ideas. Readings sessions at schools, and outside venues, even a book tour. Selling the book at the local bookstore and possibly donating to libraries. My love for writing has taken me a long way.
Returning to where I started this Blog, I am proud that despite my poor language skills earlier in life, I am now a published author in English. I hope it inspires children to dream big and know that fear does not have to stop you from pursuing your passion.
1 comment on “My love for writing.”Add yours →
Great book and great post Marieke as always