A CRY FOR THE OCEAN (Author Interview)

A CRY FOR THE OCEAN looks like a great children’s book with a wonderful message.  Any plans to release similar books?  

Not yet. Although I think Sukara, the heroine in my story, could definitely go on more adventures, and help to save the world from some of the many other pressing environmental issues we are facing.

How did you come up with the story in A CRY FOR THE OCEAN?  
I read about the plastic gathering in the gyres 7 years ago and was shocked. Originally I planned to write a short story for adults, but as I did the research this children’s book idea took hold. The inspiration for the mermaid’s tears was when I read that it was a term beachcombers use to describe the small pieces of plastic you find on beaches after larger pieces of plastic have broken up. I loved the irony of something so beautiful and ugly at the same time.

What will readers get out of your book?

I hope it will educate readers, both young and older, about how much the ocean is suffering, and call them to be more aware of their plastic use and reduce it as much as they can. I believe there is a sense of urgency right now in the world that we need to act, and I hope that this book helps to communicate that.

What inspired you when writing A CRY FOR THE OCEAN?   

I read everything I could find on plastic pollution including a Plastic Ocean, a book by Charles Moore, an environmentalist who in 1997, discovered the world's largest collection of floating trash—the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The more I read the more I realized what a problem it was.

I was inspired to publish this book seeing Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future strike for climate movement. My character Sukara is a fictional Greta, and I am so excited to see how much Greta has achieved in such a short time. I tell my kids she is the Martin Luther King for our climate crisis.
When did you decide to become a writer?

I started teaching writing in school to elementary students about ten years ago, and loved seeing them engage with their imagination, and then took some courses and stated to take my writing more seriously, so I could be a better teacher. I always read voraciously as a kid, and would write a diary, poems and short stories.

It was only recently that I was pushed into publishing, as one of my students challenged me on all the books I was publishing for other people, but never published my own work. Thanks Argi!

When writing A CRY FOR THE OCEAN did anything stand out as particularly challenging?  

Yes, it is such a sad and desperate situation, and I didn’t want to make it too awful for children, so finding the right balance between showing the harm and being hopeful was difficult.

What do you like to do when not writing?

I love to teach. I have a dream job. I work with newcomers in Toronto schools and teach them creative writing, My students write their own chapter books and I help to publish them. I love to see their imagination come to life, and the biggest challenge with this project is to get them to stop and finish their stories. Some of them write A LOT. I had one grade 8 student this year write an excellent 400 page novel!

Where can readers find out more about your work?

I hope to publish more books, my own and other authors. I have a website www.bluejaypress.ca where you can find out more about plastic in the ocean. There are discussion questions and activities relating to my book, and other lessons, activities and information from some amazing organizations working for the ocean. I am constantly adding to it, so please check back often.

Tell me about your illustrator

Working with Tamara has been an absolute joy. I sent her the text and very little direction, and what she came up with was exceptional. I feel like she added a whole new dimension to the story, especially the way she communicated the relationship between Sukara and the mermaid. I feel very lucky to have worked with such a talented and dedicated illustrator. She lives in Serbia, and we have never met, but I hope one day we can meet in person.

A Cry for the Ocean is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other bookstores now in soft or hardcover.  Accompanying the book are free activities, lessons and more information for parents and teachers to download on the website.