Swift Cur­rent chil­dren's book author re­leases sec­ond book

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

Chil­dren's book author Jes­sica Wil­liams is brim­ming with new ideas for sto­ries and af­ter pub­lish­ing two books this year she is al­ready look­ing for­ward to the re­lease of the next one.

“I have a lot of chil­dren's books that are in var­i­ous stages saved on my com­puter cur­rently,” she said. “I have an­other one that's com­ing out prob­a­bly within six months, prob­a­bly a lit­tle less than that, be­cause I get im­pa­tient, but I think as long as I keep get­ting ideas, I'll keep do­ing this.”

She grew up in Bri­tish Columbia, but now lives with her hus­band and fiveyear-old daugh­ter in Swift Cur­rent. Her most re­cent il­lus­trated chil­dren's book, The Meal­time Mon­ster, was re­leased in early Oc­to­ber. It fol­lowed only a few months af­ter her de­but book, Mama's Cloud, which was pub­lished in early July. She ac­tu­ally wrote The Meal­time Mon­ster first, but the il­lus­tra­tions for Mama's Cloud were com­pleted sooner.

“I was get­ting the il­lus­tra­tions for them at the same time and it just hap­pened that Mama's Cloud was done first, and I think it worked out for the bet­ter to have that one out first,” she said.

Both books have been writ­ten for young chil­dren in the three to seven years age group. Mama's Cloud takes a sen­si­tive look at men­tal ill­ness in fam­i­lies and it can be used to start con­ver­sa­tions with chil­dren about the is­sue.

“I think it re­ally fills a void in chil­dren's lit­er­a­ture in that there aren't many books out there that deals with the topic of men­tal ill­ness in a kid­friendly way,” she said. “There doesn't seem to be much out there. So I think it filled a niche that has been empty for quite a while.”

It is a story about a won­der­ful re­la­tion­ship be­tween a mother and child, but then a dark cloud set­tles over Mama and the child imag­ines dif­fer­ent ways to get rid of the cloud.

“Then they re­al­ize that they have this abil­ity to just give love and that's all they need to do and it won't nec­es­sar­ily fix the prob­lem, it's not a child's job to fix their par­ent's de­pres­sion or men­tal ill­ness, but just giv­ing that love can be help­ful,” she said.

She feels it is im­por­tant to talk to chil­dren about the is­sue, be­cause statis­tics in­di­cate that one in four peo­ple will be af­fected by a men­tal ill­ness at some time in their lives and many of them will be par­ents with chil­dren who do not un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing.

“So it's a thing that I think needs to be brought for­ward and brought into un­der­stand­ing, just even broach­ing that topic, mak­ing it more re­lat­able and some­thing that's not so scary to talk about,” she said. “It's a thing that par­ents can maybe broach with their chil­dren and not bur­den them, but just give them a bit of an un­der­stand­ing and I think the cloud is a good, easy to un­der­stand metaphor. Chil­dren know what it's like on a sunny day when they feel great, and then on a cloudy day when they can't have fun.”

She was able to write about this topic be­cause of her own ex­pe­ri­ence with de­pres­sion and she had post­par­tum de­pres­sion af­ter her daugh­ter was born. She has re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­back from par­ents about the book and also from men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als.

“They've been us­ing it as a tool for their coun­selling ser­vices and those sort of thing to help par­ents have a way of de­liv­er­ing that im­por­tant mes­sage with their small chil­dren,” she said. “There's a ma­ter­nal well­ness group in Regina that has picked up sev­eral copies to share with their pa­tients so that moth­ers that are suf­fer­ing from post­par­tum de­pres­sion can have some­thing to help their fam­i­lies ad­just and un­der­stand what's hap­pen­ing.”

Wil­liams also has a per­sonal con­nec­tion to The Meal­time Mon­ster, be­cause she was a picky eater when she was a child. It is a story about a lit­tle girl who does not want to eat her vegeta­bles, but then her wish comes true and a veg­etable-lov­ing fluffy pur­ple mon­ster ap­pears to solve her prob­lem, but she soon re­al­izes it is not pos­si­ble to just eat ice cream and treats all the time.

“The feed­back I re­ceive from kids have been awe­some,” she said about her lat­est book. “They re­late to it and they en­joy the rhyme and the pace and they like the il­lus­tra­tions. The il­lus­tra­tors that I've got on both of my books have been out­stand­ing.”

She was sur­rounded by books when she grew up and she be­came an avid reader. Her pre­vi­ous writ­ing has been more per­sonal. She cre­ated some po­etry and also blogged sev­eral years ago.

“When my daugh­ter was born I got back into kids books, which I've al­ways re­ally en­joyed,” she said. “We started read­ing a lot of kids books and I started get­ting ideas from them that I think I can do this. So I started one day.”

It can be a chal­lenge to write a chil­dren's book, be­cause it must ap­peal to chil­dren and par­ents, who do not want a lengthy book for bed-time read­ing.

“It's tricky in that you have to make ev­ery word count,” she said. “So it needs to be short and to the point and en­gag­ing all in one.”

Wil­liams is a mem­ber of the Saskatchewan Writer's Guild and she par­tic­i­pates in the guild's author read­ing pro­gram, through which writ­ers can be in­vited to do read­ings at schools, li­braries or to writ­ing groups and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions. She has al­ready done a num­ber of read­ings and talks to chil­dren at schools.

“That's been heaps of fun,” she said. “The ques­tions and the ideas that I get from the kids are ex­cep­tional. ... They just tell me things and they'll say you should do this, you should do this, and maybe I will.”

Her two chil­dren's books are avail­able at Phar­masave and Bub­ble Tree Baby Bou­tique in Swift Cur­rent and on­line from Ama­zon and Chap­ters/Indigo. She can be con­tacted for a book read­ing by send­ing an e-mail to: info@all­write­here­pub­lish­ing.ca

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

Chil­dren's book author Jes­sica Wil­liams reads from her lat­est book The Meal­time Mon­ster at a read­ing event at the Swift Cur­rent Branch Li­brary, Oct. 20.

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