Student voice 4 Feb 2021

The power of the pen: how one CIS student wrote her first book at age 10

By CIS Communications
Photograph by CIS Communications

Shriya S (Lakeside grade 5) may only be 10 years old, but she has big dreams — and an even bigger heart. In January 2021, she realised her dream of becoming a published author, with the release of her new book “Unicorn Adventures: The Dark Forest”. She has also pledged to donate book sale profits to the Singapore Children’s Society. We sit down with this promising young author to find out more about how she harnessed  her creativity to make a difference to society. 

Tell us about your book.
This book is about friendship, skills and adventure. The story is set in the magical land of Unitopia and follows the adventure of three unicorn friends: Miso, Milky and Mocha. The three friends each have a special skill and, using their combined skills and smarts, they try to overcome the various challenges in the cursed dark forest. Do the unicorns succeed in lifting the curse from the dark forest? You’ll have to read the book to know more.

Why did you decide to take such a big step?
I love reading and have always been fascinated by authors like JK Rowling and Shannon Messenger. I was talking to my father about a story idea I had, and he encouraged me to write my thoughts. When I started writing, I didn’t think that we could get the book published. As I kept working, the story took shape and became a proper book. So, what seemed like a big step was actually just a series of small steps. 

What inspired you to pledge your book sale profits to a charity that supports education for underprivileged children? 
As I embarked on this writing journey, I also became aware of how many children around the world don’t know how to read because they don’t have access to education. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in school closures and classes being shifted online, and this shift has affected underprivileged children the most. Without internet access, they are unable to continue classes and as a result, their learning is impeded. That was how I decided that the profits from my book would go towards a charity to support children’s education. With that in mind, I made this book an easy and enjoyable read for all children.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I was — and still am — fascinated by magic and mystery, which became the themes for my book. With that in mind, I came up with the idea of the three unicorns with different skills, inspired by my wonderful friends and our experiences. I then thought of adding elements like riddles, maths and magic to create some challenges that would make for an interesting storyline. 

How long did you take to write and illustrate it? What were some challenges along the way?
The process from start to finish took about nine months. I started writing the book early last year and finished writing it in October. There was a bit of delay since 2020 had many COVID-19 related challenges, online schooling, relocating to Singapore from China, and more. 

Once the book was written, the next step was publishing. My father had to do a lot of research to find a publisher and professional illustrator. I then worked closely with the editor and illustrator to create the final version of the book. This was a challenging but interesting process as I had to share the description of the characters with Rebecca, our illustrator, to really bring them to life.

What was your writing routine like?
My routine was to write regularly in my diary; I used to do this on weekends. I first decided on the overall story and then structured and divided it into chapters. I worked on the book by chapter and built on the story on a weekly basis. It was quite a challenge to keep myself motivated while moving countries but with the support of my parents, I kept writing.

Who helped you during the process and how?
This book wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family. My father was my primary motivator; his constant encouragement kept me going. He also helped to transfer my handwritten notes to the laptop to simplify the editing process. Once the first draft of the story was ready, my mother helped to structure my thoughts and words. My brother — who is an award-winning writer himself — kept me inspired and provided me with feedback on the book before it was sent for publishing. 

How did writing a book change your life as a student?
In the process of writing this book, I believe I have become more systematic in thinking. I am able to better organise my thoughts into words. While looking for better ways to bring my point across, I learned how to express ideas with more descriptive words and broadened my range of vocabulary in the process.   

Did it teach you any handy life skills?
I guess the biggest life lesson I’ve learned is that even if a project seems very complex or difficult, just taking small steps regularly can help to get it done. This means that one should not be afraid to take on challenges, because with consistent effort most challenges can be overcome.

What are your future plans as a published author?
To be honest, the fact that I’ve got a book published under my name is still sinking in. I will be happy if the book sells and I am able to raise funds to support childhood literacy for underprivileged children. This is a big motivating factor for me and if I am able to make a difference, that would be the biggest achievement. In the future, I will continue to write as a hobby.

Thank you Shriya for the inspiring chat, and our heartiest congratulations on your new book! You can buy her book here. Book sales profits will be donated to the Singapore Children’s Society.