By Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, The Discourse
Shayla Raine was sitting at her desk, looking out the window at an eagle’s nest and a view of the mountains, when she came up with the idea for a new poetry book for Indigenous children.
After inspiration last fall, the Cree author and illustrator took to writing The way the creator sees you.
“This book started out as an artistic outlet under the pressure of publishing my novel,” says Raine.
“I wanted this children’s book to be free of those pressures…so that I could write with a positive mindset and clear intentions to impart this good medicine while getting my point across in a fun and engaging way.”
The way the creator sees you is Raine’s first published book, and it was released independently this month. The book aims to inspire Indigenous children who may be struggling with their identity and help them embrace who they are, says Raine, who is from Maskwacis, Alta.
The poetry book features a Plains Cree boy who faces adversity in school and struggles to come to terms with his Aboriginal characteristics. Son Kokom takes him on a lyrical adventure to help him appreciate his heritage.
“Children are gifts given to us by the Creator, and they are blessings,” Raine says.
Raine tells IndigiNews that she’s always wanted to write a children’s book that empowers Indigenous children because it’s something she never saw when she was younger.
Raine says the title of his poetry book, The way the creator sees youcomes from a poem she wrote about her partner.
“It was at the very end of the poem. I asked him, “Do you see yourself as the Creator sees you? and it just came so naturally to me,” she says. “I stuck with that when I started writing my children’s book.”
The Way Creator Sees You contains 11 illustrations and 11 pages of free verse poetry with an informal rhyme scheme. Raine says there is a common rhyme pattern of “A, AB, B” throughout the poem that flowed naturally as she wrote it.
The book includes illustrations by Anwar Hussian as well as Raine. It is dedicated to Raine’s nephew, Nakomi Bellerose-Raine.
Do not abandon
Raine says she took a poetry course at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), before pursuing her children’s poetry book in September.
“I love to write, I love poetry and I’m currently working on a fictional novel which hopefully will be published later this year,” she says.
She says her biggest challenge has been finding patience in the writing process and the sometimes lengthy editing process. Her hopes are to overcome these challenges while working on her novel.
“I feel like as writers we struggle a lot with impostor syndrome, and I often feel like we have writer’s block and we have these challenges” , adds Raine, “I think it’s important to remember your why – why do you write?”
“I feel like my ‘why’ was, it helps me reconnect with my childhood dreams of being a writer.”
She says her advice to new writers is to believe you have a bigger purpose behind your writing.
“I’m going to show up and do this job because there’s a bigger purpose behind it, but, like, the universe also has to show up for me, too,” she says.