We recently sat down with award-winning author, Peta-Gaye Nash to discuss family, writing and her latest story, Bushyhead, available on Amazon.
Congratulations on your new book, Bushyhead. Talk to us about the book and why you choose to write this story?
Thank you very much. I’m passionate about this story and the important messages in it. I believe the story helps instill self-esteem and a sense of self-worth in children. Children need to know they are valuable people just as they are.
A few years ago my father nicknamed my youngest daughter Bushyhead when she went to Jamaica one summer. She was running in the garden with her wild, curly hair fanning out in all directions. We thought her hair was simply glorious and I wanted to ensure that my daughter had a completely different experience with her hair than I did growing up.
Interesting. What was your own experience like with “bushy” hair?
I was surrounded by societal messages that straight hair was better and those messages are still in force today. My hair was chemically straightened by age 11. The message I got was that curly hair needed fixing. It needed to be tamed, straightened. I stopped chemically straightening my hair when I was in my twenties and then I stopped using a flat iron a few years ago. Since releasing Bushyhead and my blog post about why I wrote the story, many women have contacted me about their own struggles with their curly hair and the negative comments people have made. Not long ago, I heard that my nieces were teased at school and told they couldn’t be princesses because princesses didn’t have curly hair, I knew this was going to be a book. When my daughter Meadow was told she had doo doo hair and other negative comments, I felt I had a duty to write this story.
The book is about embracing the hair on your head, whatever hair it might be. The character in ‘Bushyhead’, Miranda May, doesn’t always love her hair. Her bald father keeps telling her to be glad she has hair. The father in the book is based on my husband who is bald who is always saying just that, “be glad you have hair”. Then when my niece Jisele donated her curly hair to make wigs for children, I knew I had the full story. I was really proud when my daughter Meadow also donated her hair. She said the book inspired her to do it.
You’ve written 7 children’s books to date. What have you learned about writing and about yourself over that time?
I’ve learned that I can overcome self-doubt. I wrote these books for a reason: to share valuable lessons with other parents and children. In Essie Wants an Education, Essie the squirrel learns to cross the street safely. My own son ran across the road when he was very young. I thought that other parents could read this story to their kids and the kids would remember Essie the squirrel, how amazed she was when she learned that you have to look both ways and be careful when crossing the road so that they would be careful and be safe. That’s important for all of us parents, to know our children will make wise decisions about their own safety.
With my book Juliet Malevolent, Juliet is born into a world where everyone is evil but she wants to be kind and compassionate to her friends. That’s the message right there. The world may be one way, but you can be different. You can be caring, thoughtful and forgiving. Every time I feel reluctant to promote the books, I remind myself that I’m not only doing this for myself and my family, I’m doing this for other parents and children. I’m doing this to make our world better.
I love these books and the lessons they teach – about having manners and spending time with family. Learning through stories is one of the best way to learn. I hope kids think my characters are memorable and learn from them.
You are married with four kids? Tell us about your family and the role they’ve played in your writing career?
I’m incredibly lucky to be married to someone who supports my writing. Sometimes when I’m writing for over an hour and I hear him doing all the things that need to be done (cooking, laundry, looking after the children), I feel guilty. I feel like I’m not doing my part. I become consumed with this guilt for not being the perfect wife and mother, which becomes a distraction and then I can’t produce. Thankfully, my husband Dominique always reminds me to focus and that all the other stuff can wait. Plus, he’s a fantastic editor, catching both typos and story flow. Without my children, I wouldn’t have these children’s stories. At one time when they were all very young, I used to get frustrated and think my family life and the demands of being a mother were preventing me from accomplishing my goals as a writer. I’ve since learned that the only person preventing me from anything is myself with those negative thoughts that tell me I can’t do it, it will take too long or it’s not worth the effort. Now I know better. If I have those thoughts, that’s okay but they won’t prevent me from taking action and putting in the time. As a matter of fact, my greatest accomplishment has been the raising of my four children. I’m sure parents out there will agree with me when I say that raising a family is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. There are challenges at every stage.
Peta-Gaye Nash never imagined herself as a children’s author and it wasn’t until she had children of her own that she began writing stories. Born in Jamaica, she lived and travelled all around the world and now calls Canada home. All of her stories have important messages like road safety, being yourself and the importance of education. In 2015, Peta-Gaye won the Marty Awards for Emerging Literary Art and in 2013, got an honourable mention for the same award. She currently teaches English as a Second Language during the day and writes at night.