One local native (and former St. Albert Gazette writer) is hoping that her experience in newspapers and magazines will help her burgeoning career as a children’s author.
Shelley Arnusch, now 39 and living in Calgary, has returned to this city today to set off on a four-day tour to promote her new book, Too Many Teddies, published earlier this month. She’ll be making appearances around the metropolitan Edmonton area, including one stop that holds a special place in her heart. She went to elementary school at Leo Nickerson and is hopeful that she can pop in later this week to do a reading.
“I just thought that it would be really cool to read at my old elementary school,” she admitted, clearly hopeful that the dream pans out.
She’s already living the dream though. Writing is in her blood and she couldn’t imagine doing anything but.
Arnusch received her journalism diploma from SAIT and interned with the Gazette in 2002 before moving to Whistler to become the entertainment editor of The Pique for three years. When she moved back to Calgary, she took a job with Swerve magazine, the weekly entertainment supplement of the Calgary Herald for another three years. She has written for Skier magazine, Mountain Life and the Ski Press too.
“I always had this appreciation for words and storytelling and so I gravitated towards journalism.”
She eventually became a staff writer for the Calgary edition of Avenue Magazine and has won a National Magazine Award for her efforts. She also writes for up! magazine and still takes other freelance writing gigs but last year, the inspiration and the opportunity presented themselves for her to write a children’s book, her first.
“I think I always, in my mind, thought I might do something like this. I enjoyed reading so much as a kid and I enjoyed being read to so much as a kid. With two younger brothers, I read to them a lot. It feels pretty good!”
“The story just came very naturally to me. It was a very natural process. It was just something that came out one day and I got it down.”
The tale is a lovely little story of a young girl named Trixie who gets a teddy bear for her first birthday. She calls it Boo Bear and loves the stuffed animal so much that she gets more and more with every subsequent birthday. Pretty soon, there are too many of them in the house and the solution is pretty charming and heart-warming.
She said that it was partly based on her own experiences and those of a friend’s daughter. Arnusch admitted that she had many stuffed toys as a child.
“I was one of those kids that had a million teddy bears. When I would go to bed at night, they were all on the bed. There was basically a tiny little slot for me to lay in. I was talking to a friend who was telling me that her daughter was the same way.”
The story also makes a point about teaching children to give, something that the author feels is a lesson that could use a little amplification in our culture.
“Kids these days – even if they’re not extremely well off – they tend to have way more toys than they even know what to do with. A lot of times they don’t even play with the stuff. I think that this is something that a lot of parents can relate to. Having this way to open a discussion … that if you have so many toys, maybe it’s better to give them away instead of having them in your life.”
She said that she knows people who lost everything in the devastating floods in southern Alberta last year. She said that this book could be an opportunity for parents and caregivers to talk to kids about their possessions and how giving is a good thing. The book is geared toward kids aged 2 to 8.
“There are kids out there who have no toys. I think that’s an important line of dialogue to open with young kids. They’re not too young to think about generosity and their own concept of philanthropy.”
This is something that she’ll have to experience in her own life too. She ended by mentioning that she’s pregnant.
“It looks like my life is going to have a little bit of a kid focus for the next little while. Maybe there will be another kids’ book in the works. We’ll have to see about that.”
As part of her tour, Arnusch will have a book signing at Chapters in West Edmonton Mall. That takes place on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.
Too Many Teddies
By Shelley Arnusch
$14.99 (paperback) or $12.09 (hardcover)
Be That Books Publishing
Available through www.bethatbooks.com.