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 struck in fall of last year, the Cree author and illustrator set to work writing The Way Creator Sees You.
“This book started off as an artistic outlet from the pressure of editing my novel,” Raine says.
“I wanted this children’s book to be free of those pressures … so I could write with a positive mindset and clear intentions to pass on that good medicine while also getting my message across in a fun and captivating way.”
The Way Creator Sees You is Raine’s first published book, and it was released independently this month. The book is intended to inspire Indigenous children who may be struggling with their identity, and to help them to embrace who they are, says Raine, who is from Maskwacis, Alberta.
The poetry book features a Plains Cree boy who faces adversity at school and finds himself struggling to accept his Indigenous features. His Kokom brings him on a lyrical adventure to help him find appreciation for his heritage.
“Children are gifts given to us from the Creator, and they are blessings,” says Raine.
Raine tells IndigiNews that she has always wanted to write a children’s book that empowered Indigenous kids because it’s something she never saw when she was younger.
Raine says the title of her poetry book, The Way Creator Sees You, came from a poem she wrote about her partner.
“It was at the very end of the poem. I asked him, ‘Do you see yourself the way the Creator sees you?’ and it just came so naturally to me,” she says. “I just 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 rhyming scheme. Raine says there is a common rhyme scheme of “A,A B,B” throughout the poem which flowed naturally as she was writing it.
The book includes illustrations by Anwar Hussian as well as by Raine. It is dedicated to Raine’s nephew, Nakomi Bellerose-Raine.
Not giving up
Raine says she took a poetry class at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), before pursuing her children’s poetry book in September.
“I like writing, I like poetry and I’m currently working on a fiction novel right now, that will hopefully be published later this year,” she says.
She says her biggest challenge has been finding patience in the process of writing and the sometimes-long process of going through edits. Her hopes are to overcome those challenges while working on her novel.
“I feel like as writers we struggle a lot with imposter syndrome, and I feel like a lot of times, we have writer’s block and have these challenges,” Raine adds, “I think it’s important to remember your why — why are you writing?”
“I feel like my ‘why’ was, it helps me reconnect to my childhood dreams of being a writer.”
She says her advice to new writers is to believe that you have a greater purpose behind your writing.
“I will show up and do this work because there’s a greater purpose behind it, but, like, also the universe has to show up for me too,” she says.