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Cybille St. Aude On Writing Her First Children’s Book Elsie

Cybille St. Aude has a heap of reasons to be proud. She is the author of the kiddie illustrated book Elsie, published as part of One More Book’s Haiti Book Series. The book has plenty of Kreyol words thrown in to help young children absorb the language, and pretty bold illustrations from illustrator Marie-Cecile Charlier.

Born and raised on Long Island, St. Aude is a graduate of the University of Maryland, having filled her brain with all sorts of intellectual goodies from that institution’s African American Studies Department. One hopes that this will be the first of many books to come.

So, you’re actually related to this guy named Magloire St. Aude. I had to do research about him for an article on the site. How cool.

It’s pretty awesome! I hadn’t been informed about the legacy of Magloire until a few years ago and I was immediately inspired. I have a lot of compelling relatives that have made serious impacts on Haitian history, which is really cool. Growing up, I was constantly reminded about my mother’s side of the family—my great uncle is Raymond Cassagnol—and their accomplishments so when I found out about Magloire and another prominent St. Aude, Rene St. Aude of Haitian band Super Jazz des Jeunes—which is my father’s side—I was just excited to be able to trace back some more of my roots. It’s actually a tab bit intimidating but I try not to think too much into it all!

What’s the hardest thing about being a creative person?

Letting go is really hard for me, specifically in terms of writing. There’s a fear associated with creating art that I’m still trying to get under control. In order to do that I have to learn to let go…and it’s really difficult. I make a bigger fuss out of my writing than what is considered healthy and that’s fear slapping me in the face. I’m mostly worried about not putting out good work. I’m sitting on material that I’m just not ready to part with because I’m simply afraid of it. No one wants to suck at anything. Nowadays people are so quick to judge and criticize. They’ve made assumptions about you, your life, your passions and your capabilities before they get through the first paragraph of your work. So being able to to create without shame and being able to tap into all this energy I have is somewhat of a struggle.

The book that you wrote for the One Book series…would you mind discussing how you were hit with the inspiration for it?

I had just returned from a trip to Haiti when I wrote Elsie. My writing experience was very moderated by all the feelings I had while out there. I was volunteering with an organization called the Sanneh Foundation that facilitated soccer workshops and health clinics for kids in Cite Soleil and Delmas. It was my first time traveling to Haiti without being surrounded by family so my trip was unique in the sense that it wasn’t coming from a space of familiarity. It was a new narrative for my travels to Haiti that I was able to transform into a story about some of the people I met along the way. Soccer in Haiti is a pretty big deal, but we didn’t see a lot of young girls participating which was a little upsetting and a major point of inspiration for me to make a young girl the forefront of this particular story.

What can we do to encourage little kids to read more?

I think making literature more of an all encompassing experience might entice children to want to participate more. I’m a purest at heart about certain things but I also acknowledge that kids these days appreciate a more interactive approach to learning and reading, so I think if publishers and companies spent more time and resources on creating a digital platform to co-exist in a way to not destroy the integrity of the longstanding traditions of the print industry then we might be able to find a way to make reading both important, fun and relatable to target audiences. How cool would it be if children could read Elsie the book in school and then go the nearest computer lab to participate interactively by seeing what life in Haiti is like for kids their age, learn some history and do some other fun things, all centered around the story they just read in class! Finding a balance between reality and the digital world could be a huge way to get kids more interested in reading and learning.

Any tips for those who would like to write for the juvenile book market?

I would say that letting your imagination soar and not being afraid to be daring or different could do wonders for your writing and publishing experiences.


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