Can a book take you to fly far into the land of mystery? Of course, it can! And that’s what happened to me. It all started with the suggestion of a favorite editor for me to audition for the author of a children’s book organized by Yayasan Literasi Anak Indonesia (YLAI) for a joint project with Room to Read. I was not confident! At that time, I was just an article writer in various media and never once wrote a story for children, let alone a book! However, there is no harm in trying. And then I sent a short script. However, I received no news for several weeks ….
Until one rainy afternoon in December 2014, I received a phone call from YLAI announcing that I was chosen to attend a children’s storybook writing workshop. Surprised? Of course! And at the same time my heart was pounding as if I were entering a completely ‘new world’ which was totally bizarre. So, my adventure began. I was so awkward in the midst of dozens of famous children’s book writers, so embarrassed to have to read out the scripts I made at that time and so confused by the various children’s writing terminologies. I was also confused to summarize long sentences into short sentences without diminishing the meaning of the story. Honestly, writing a children book was not as easy as I had thought before!
At that time, I really missed Owlet, my pet owl at home. So I was inspired to write a story about Owlet. The Cepuk character was originally called Owlet, but then the YLAI editor asked me to replace it with a more local name. I chose the name ‘Cepuk’ because my pet owl is a species of owls Celepuk which is endemic in Indonesia.
The illustration process was also astonishing. I sent a picture of Owlet to Jackson, who illustrated this book. Honestly, I cried when I first saw the illustration of Cepuk made by Jackson, the illustrations were very much like Owlet!
After ‘Waktunya Cepuk Terbang’ was published, I received various feedbacks that Cepuk was quite impressive on the hearts of the children who read it. A very moving thing I experienced when Owlet died due to his old age. I received many condolences for Owlet/Cepuk from children, even from various countries, touched by this book! I never thought my first work would be so loved by these young readers.
It is undeniable, in a way, that it was Cepuk who brought me flying to other countries, starting with the award achieved at Samsung KidsTime Author’s Award 2016 in Singapore. Then, Cepuk took me to England to join in a writer’s residency for 1.5 months with the full support of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the KBN (Komite Buku Nasional/National Book Committee). Cepuk is also my main review to illustrate how vibrant the world of children’s story books in Indonesia is today, when I became one of the speakers with the theme ‘Indonesia’s Children Books and Its Development’ at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017.
What a memorable experience and of course all this can not be separated from the support of Room to Read mentors, the YLAI editors, designers and illustrators who make Cepuk so ‘alive’ and accepted by many children! My cooperation with YLAI continues. ‘Ketika Paman Kala Diam’ became my second book published by YLAI in the following Room to Read project. There are also 2 new titles we are working on. Please do look forward to having these books!