Swift Current children's book author releases second book
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.