Arie Paton used to think published authors were “special humans” – until she became one herself.
“I always carried this belief that writers are not actually normal, they’re a cut above us and they can do magical things,” she said.
“And I think now I’ve realised that probably lots of us have stories to tell, it’s just actually whether you have the patience to get it out there and get it done.”
Arie grew up in Kihikihi and now teaches at Kihikihi School, which she attended herself as a child. It was there that she first discovered her passion for writing, at about age nine.
“We were writing haunted stories and I remember thinking oh my gosh, this is so much fun,” she said.
The Te Awamutu resident has been penning stories and poems in her spare time ever since, and had always planned to write a book “one day”.
But that day came sooner than anticipated, after she wrote a story for one of her students, Darcy Jenkins, while teaching at Leamington School in Cambridge last year.
“One day I found out that Darcy had some warts on his feet – which I had never noticed – and he was quite upset about it,” she said.
“And that just made me think, oh my gosh, we all have these things in our life that we really focus on and we think that other people are really focused on and we let that stop us from seeing all of our great things.”
She went home that night, wrote the story on A4 paper with “not very good” stick figure illustrations and gave it to Darcy the next day.
Those stick figures have now been replaced by full-colour cartoons drawn by the expert hand of illustrator Mykhailo Ridkous, after Arie won a publishing contract with User Friendly Resources, a New Zealand company that specialises in developing materials to support teaching programmes.
Her book, Darcy the Brave, has just been released for sale. It tells the tale of a mighty knight who is hiding a terrible secret: an infestation of fugwumps on his left hand. These unsightly creatures, which burrow their sharp noses into his skin and leave their round, brown bums poking out, cause him serious embarrassment until he eventually manages to overcome his insecurities in the bravest act of all.
The real Darcy, who is now nine years old, loved the story.
“It was really nice and cool,” he said.
Arie, who is about to go on maternity leave for the birth of her first child, is now working on her second children’s book.
“I really believe in the power of stories and that the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves and about each other – and even about our society – really change the world,” she said.
Arie’s book – warts and allDarcy the Brave is available at www.userfriendlyresources.co.nz.