Oak Bay eight-year-old earns local library spot

GVPL Emerging Local Authors a jump start for small publishers

Oak Bay’s Isla Shaykewich

Oak Bay’s Isla Shaykewich

First-time author and illustrator Isla Shaykewich, 8, insists illustrations will not be part of her next book.

The Oak Bay girl still bears the annoyance of the 17 or so illustrations required to augment the tale in Runaway Mittens, a book included in this year’s Emerging Local Authors Collection at the Greater Victoria Public Library.

Much as she enjoys drawing, the images required a certain amount of work.

“I couldn’t just draw pictures of cats and then put them in places of the story where they wouldn’t make sense,” she said. “My next book’s not going to have any pictures, and it’s going to be thicker.”

Written when she was seven, she started the project last May.

Her friend Caleigh (who merited a mention in the acknowledgements) was writing a story about cats so Isla did too. She had the storyline all laid out about kittens who love to knit mittens and dislike another kitten who steals mittens.

Then they meet this “enemy.”

“They get to meet him and he’s really nice,” Isla said.

Mom Sue Doner helped with spelling and grammar and encouragement along the way.  She offered an early incentive – when book was complete they’d publish one for her and one for her to gift to her teacher at Maria Montessori Academy. The motivation worked.

“By the time we were finished she printed copies for everybody in the family,” Doner said.

Several times she flagged throughout the process and mom would remind her of the end goal. The book came to fruition last fall.

“We learned a lot about the cost of publishing,” said Doner. A passing idea was to use the book to raise funds for the SPCA but the prohibitive cost of publishing made that impossible.

Cost aside, the youngster learned the value of the work that fills her bookshelves at home.

“I realized how much work it would take to make all those books,” Isla said.

Through word-of-mouth Doner, learned of the Emerging Authors Collection and submitted a copy of Runaway Mittens to the GVPL just under the deadline wire.

“This is the second year of the Emerging Local Authors Collection, and the library is proud to support our thriving creative community,” said Rina Hadziev, GVPL collections and technical services co-ordinator. “We’re glad to shine a light on emerging authors and illustrators in Greater Victoria.”

The 2016 collection features 162 books by 127 authors and illustrators from the south Island. The books, published between 2011 and 2015, include self-published, independent and small press works, on display in the Central Branch for one year. This year, the collection also includes 68 ebooks, available for download at gvpl.ca.

“It’s astonishing this book was written by such a young girl,” Hadziev said of Runaway Mittens. “It is really well done – the plot is intriguing; the characters memorable; the illustrations charming. We hope the experience of having her book in the library collection inspires Isla to keep developing her craft.”

A voracious reader – Isla is more than half finished Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series – she’s also an avid creative writer.

“When I’m finished it makes me proud to look at what I wrote,” Isla said.

She has ideas at the ready for her next book, sans illustrations of course. “I’m sure she will (keep writing), she’s got an active imagination,” Doner said, noting her daughter’s a prolific journaler, keeping one by her bed.

“I will need to get one or two more journals,” Isla said.

Get your name on the wait-list for Kittens Knitting Mittens online at gvpl.ca and peruse the rest of the Emerging Local Authors Collection.