Over the course of the last seven years, English teacher Caryn Umetsu has written and published three separate books, including two fully illustrated children’s books and a poetry book. Umetsu designed the books in an effort to share her love of reading with children and adults alike, by incorporating fun and easy-to-like characters and illustrations.
“I think that writing books, my own books, gives me a feeling of ownership and satisfaction. I believe that every person has a story that dwells in them. I just like to share,” said Umetsu.
Umetsu developed her passion for reading early on in her childhood. “I have always loved to read and my dad was my source of inspiration. He always took my sister and I to the library every Saturday, allowed us to borrow as many books as we wanted and then he would buy us shaved ice as a reward,” said Umetsu.
In 2010, Umetsu published her first book with the support of her friends and father. “When I wrote my first book ‘Naughty Nathan,’ I was trying hard to pursue my dream. My friends encouraged me and said that it was a highly competitive market but worth a try,” said Umetsu.
To write the book, Umetsu chose to look back on her own life for inspiration.“‘Naughty Nathan’ is actually based on a compilation of different incidents that happened to me at Kaahumanu Elementary School,” said Umetsu.
Umetsu pulls details for her books from her memories and daily observations. “I can’t help but remember small things, sometimes big things. I love new places and traveling. Many writers carry small notepads with them to jot down images or ideas, words, that come to their mind,” said Umetsu. These details allow readers to become more immersed in the setting of the books. “It has a good message and a ‘local’ feel,” said colleague Sheila Yuasa.
In writing her books, Umetsu uses her children’s lives and personalities as inspiration to draw upon. “My second book ‘Little Liar’ is about a little boy that makes big lies to get his mom and family’s attention because of his new baby brother. It is based partially on truth though because my oldest son had a very naughty streak in him and he would tell the tallest tales,” said Umetsu.
Working part-time at her eldest son’s school gave her the opportunity to spend more time with her children and involve them in the illustration of her second book. “That’s when my oldest son and I would make our own books, he would draw some and I would draw some, the middle son would scribble what he thought were pictures and I would write the words,” said Umetsu.
Umetsu’s goal is to spread the joy that reading and writing brings her. “I hope that the audience can take away a love for reading. I didn’t really focus on a moral or anything, just a love for reading,” said Umetsu. She strives to bring joy and wonder into her books and the lives of those reading them. “Umetsu’s children’s books are fun and whimsical,” said colleague Lori Tsukamoto.
During a rough time in her life, Umetsu decided to write a poetry book to better capture her feelings. “I have always loved and still love poems. It somehow speaks to my soul. Poetry is like words on a string, so lovely to look at and so fun to manipulate and piece together,” said Umetsu. “In writing poetry, it allowed me to get away from the real world and to interact with other poets on the web.”
Umetsu hopes to continue creating books and experiment with other forms of writing and production. “I am setting up to take a sabbatical. During this time, I will enroll in some creative writing classes which might once again reignite the spark to write children’s books or poetry,” said Umetsu. “I have always wanted to design my own set of greeting cards with poems in it. In the future, maybe during my sabbatical, I will take a few online art classes so that I can eventually fulfill my dream of writing and illustrating my own children’s book.”
Umetsu plans to further her writing career by selling her books in stores, hoping to attract a larger audience.