They say you should write about what you know. So I did exactly that with my debut children's book, Squirrel and the Three Bears.
In case you haven't read the previous blog, in short it is a story about a flighty young Squirrel who's having too much fun dancing in the leaves in autumn that she completely neglects to get ready for winter. In order to survive she has to pluck up the courage to ask for help...from the Bears!
I wrote this story because in making my first children's book, I needed to learn that it's ok to ask for help. And that I should be proud of my new-found abilities to reach out and graciously accept that people might actually want to help me (a concept that previously left me baffled). In making this book I encountered things I didn't know how to do on a weekly basis, so in accepting help from a range of skilled and wise people I have learned SO MUCH MORE than if I'd struggled on my own.
The three Bears show that help comes in many forms. I based the characters on three important helpers in my life...and I am so proud to share their stories with you:
1. Black Bear = My Dad
Black Bear finds Squirrel so charming that he can't help but offer his assistance in her winter preparations. Just like Dad, Black Bear prepares Squirrel for survival by gathering and burying food together in the nut safe. Dad always encouraged me to think ahead and prepare myself for life away from home. He spent hours helping me choose a course to do at university, and was always there to discuss what would be best to study at school, and he loved sending me job ads(!)
He always encouraged me to do my best and try my hardest. And he made me feel completely safe and looked after so I always had a strong base to come back to when I went out into the big wide world.
And he always made time for us to have fun together too...
In 2016 Dad was diagnosed with an agressive form of lymphoma (a kind of cancer) and he died in 2017. I was really sad about losing him for a long time. Really sad. But after a while I realised how lucky I am to ever have had such an amazing Dad at all. He always put us, his family, first and made sure we had everything we needed. He loved me completely and always did what he thought would make me happy...what more can a daughter ask for?
So, when Black Bear curls up to hibernate, Squirrel chooses not to feel down about leaving him behind, but instead she chooses gratitude for her wonderful new friend.
Feeling gratitude for the help and love that my Dad showed me is what keeps me happy every day, and shows that we can learn to be happy with everything we're faced with in our lives. Seeing his death in this way is a choice, and one I found difficult at first but am now very proud to have made.
Dad was also a real creative soul himself, he spent 15 years making beautiful landscape paintings (coming to art at the age of 50 having never picked up a paint brush before). He continues to be an inspiration in my persuit of a more creative life and I know he would be super proud of me making this book.
Thank you Dad for helping me be the awesome Squirrel I am today, I couldn't have done it without you.