Shiree Schumacher – Words are for Sharing
Each of us has stories to tell and I wonder how many amazing stories haven’t made it into books because the authors never wrote down the words swirling in their heads. I have friends bubbling with hilarious novel ideas, a couple with fascinating or scandalous family histories itching to be brought back to life, but there are so many reasons why we all put things on hold. Before I started my book, I sat before a sea of children’s literature, heaving with decades of authors touting their wares in a saturated market. I wondered, does the world really need another book? I decided to write mine anyway and hoped the answer would come to me even when there seemed to be more reasons not to write.
If I’d really stopped to think about the technicalities of publishing a book, the commitment, the logistics and gulp, the marketing, I may have procrastinated even longer. Also, there’s an imaginary fellowship of serious writers and illustrators perched on your shoulder sneering at you when you start something like this. It can make the process a daunting one. As a first-time author and a first–time illustrator, I had my work cut out for me. But in the end I had little to lose and just my readers to please.
My book was inspired by my children’s sources of comfort in a frightening ever-changing world and the things which make their lives brighter. I didn’t want to wait too long and lose that connection. Amidst the sadness, terror and unpredictability in the world, life is to be appreciated for all the magic it does have to offer. This is a feeling I have channelled into my book in picture and in word.
So while plenty of time was spent on the illustrations, many an hour perfecting the rhyme, these are not the aspects which give my book heart. This story is not only a tale but also a precious moment in time, the age where children’s imaginations carry them away. I know other parents will agree there comes a stage in your children’s lives where you just want to hit the pause button, keep them that way longer capturing the spirit of the moment. I wanted to harness their innocence in not knowing what was real and what was fantasy – and the magic in the beautiful possibilities.
It’s dedicated to my storyteller father. He didn’t live to see the book published, but he saw it along the way. One of my fondest memories in childhood was the magic carpet stories, he a bricklayer by trade, would tell me – off the top of his creative head. He was an avid reader but never sat and read a book to me. Instead, he told me bedtime stories, which he made up along the way. Sometimes he’d fall asleep half way through and I’d prod him and he’d wake with a start and say, “aaaaand then” while he thought up the next line. I loved them. I wanted a story to tell my boys. I never had the gift of the gab; but storytellers come in all different forms. I need the written word and a sprinkling of colour.
So whilst I’m aware how very many brilliant children’s books are already out there, enough to make each library burst at the seams, I realised during the process of creating my book, why we do always need new ones. Simply because there are always new stories to tell in a changing world with new readers whose lives might just resonate with them in some magical way. There can never be too many stories. They’re legacies and in other people’s words, we can explore our own imaginations. In books, children can become curious, entertained and comforted –even if sometimes the act of being read to brings more pleasure than the content of the book.
I’m very proud to be part of a group which had the desire to write their stories, the perseverance to finish them and the courage to share them. So I’m a little bit chuffed to present my first children’s book at the New Zealand Independent Book Festival. It’s written and illustrated with a lot of love and has themes, of attachment and loss, fear and comfort, magic, adventure, brotherly love, and a clever pet who saves the day – The Hunt for Polar One.