Helping youngsters confront their fears in our lockdown era

A new book will help youngsters face their fears, anxieties and monsters in these deeply-troubled times.

Friday, 24th April 2020, 6:55 am
Alexia Pinchbeck
Alexia Pinchbeck

Samuel and the Monster has been self-published by Alexia Pinchbeck at £9.99 and is available at http://www.alexiapinchbeck.com.

Alexia, aged 38, who lives in East Wittering, said: “Samuel and the Monster, a picture book for two to five-year-olds, is a short, simple story with brightly coloured, bold illustrations that overnight put a stop to my four-year-old son Samuel’s nightmares and broken nights. It is written and illustrated by me.

“After experiencing six months of horrendous nightmares and disrupted nights with my then three-year-old, Samuel, as well as the demands of a newborn baby, I was beside myself with sleep deprivation.

“Then, one night, everything changed. Trying a completely different approach, I got Samuel out of his bed, told him take a deep breath and declare with conviction ‘There are no monsters!’

“We repeated this until he was giggling, happy and in a relaxed state, when I asked him to repeat the mantra ‘I am Samuel, I am Samuel, I am Samuel and I am amazing!’

“By the end, he was a different child, and went back to bed relaxed and happy. Overnight, his nightmares disappeared. And, rather than reclaiming my night’s sleep, I went down to the kitchen and wrote and illustrated this simple story between 2am-6am.

“It was very spontaneous, with no planning whatsoever, and the words and illustrations have altered little since that initial 2am version. By the time Samuel woke at 7am, I had a story and pictures to accompany it and I read it to him. He was thrilled. And, more importantly, he has slept through the night since.

“When I saw the incredible turning point Samuel experienced just by reading out the words and actions in the book, I felt like any other parents out there experiencing nightmares, monster fears, or more general anxieties with their children, needed the book in their hands.

“With everything that is going on currently, I questioned whether now is the right time to launch, but after much thought I realised that now more than ever we need a book which provides a discussion point for fears, anxieties and our monsters for youngsters between 2-5 years old.

“I believe this book now has more relevance to a child who might be experiencing greater anxiety around their existing fears, or new worries. That, and of course all of us parents at home are needing more books to read with our children than ever before.”

Alexia added: “The actual experience of writing and illustrating the initial idea was exciting. It is a simple story and idea, with brightly coloured illustrations and loveable characters. Even the monster. The whole time I was painting I was full of energy from 2am-6am, motivated by the possibility of helping Samuel to sleep and, by association, the rest of the family.

“It then took a year to get to this initial point through to publication, some points of which have been really quite challenging. It took me many months to come to the conclusion that I would self-publish, namely after a conversation with a friend who has both published and self-published books made me realise that, even if successful in eventually getting an agent, it could be two years before I would then see the book on the shelves.

“So, having run a – very different – business already, at the beginning of the year, I made the decision to self-publish. I got my website up and running, worked with a graphic designer and a book designer to turn the book into a book of the standards of a traditionally published book, explored all of the print, production, packaging and postage.

“I am over the moon with the final result, which is as bold and brightly coloured as initially envisaged, and that children are already really enjoying. Seeing videos of parents reading it to their children, and the children declaring the words themselves, is incredible.

“Samuel and I are working on a sequel to Samuel and the Monster together, as it turns out there is more to the story that we are learning about at the minute. As he is home with me homeschooling, we’re using it as an opportunity to work on our writing and storytelling skills. His tales are marvellous.

“With dozens of other ideas in various stages of completion, including several series, I don’t anticipate it being more than another three to six months before I release a second book, although not necessarily in the same series as Samuel and the Monster.

“Samuel and the Monster’ is my debut picture book and will be followed by many more. I am working on dozens of other ideas and intend to self-publish them all. I am also working on a longer form novel at the moment, which will likely be in the Young Adult genre, although I expect this to take some time to come to fruition.

“I’ve always written and drawn illustrations. I’ve journaled since I can remember picking up a pen and discovering the joy of the blank notebook.

“But it was only a few years ago, shortly after having my first child, Samuel, now nearly five, that I actually got really honest with myself about wanting to write and illustrate books. “Whilst initially this was children’s books, recently the desire to write something longer form has started to niggle at me, so I’m finding a few minutes every day to start to write that.

“If not writing, the words start to build up in my head, and its almost like they curdle into something negative if not siphoned off for good purpose.

“After the initial declaration of my dream, I worked slowly on one idea for a couple of years whilst looking after Samuel.

“Then, following a brilliant picture book course in Spain called Picturecamp, where I reviewed my work with several authors and a publisher, I switched to a different idea, and worked on that again for another year and a half. Completing any one idea was a struggle at that point.

“It was only after many years, and with the motivation of solving my child’s pain (and my own by association – it’s incredible what sleep deprivation will drive you to do) that I finally managed to complete an idea, and even then, it still took to look like a proper book.

“The feeling writing gives me is addictive, whether analogue: a gorgeous black pen spooling out across a smooth blank page of a notebook or, slightly less satisfying but still enjoyable nonetheless, letting out a flood of words on to the blank screen of my computer.

“The process is far from easy most days, and all sorts of mischief and resistance regularly crop up, manifesting as various misbehaviours, from getting cross with my husband to going down an online wormhole. But these days I’m much better at calling myself out on this.”