Imagine going through childhood feeling less than because of the characters portrayed in storybooks. That’s a tale experienced by many, including Saccheen Laing, who decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world by writing stories that were reflective of her own image: black and beautiful.
A writer of eight self-published books, Laing told Flair that while she enjoyed writing short stories and poetry, she never pictured herself becoming an author.
The digital marketer shared that the idea was initiated by dreams of having her own books. Fuelled by sheer satisfaction of learning new things daily, writing allowed her to broaden to creative horizons. “I started out with my first poetry collection, which did poorly in sales because I wasn’t so confident in selling and the book lacked proper structure. We live and we learn, right? I knew I wanted to share my thoughts. I always have something to say about everything. So, I thought it was time to tell my stories to the world. I wouldn’t sleep properly until I published my first book,” she said.
The children’s books, Laing said, were inspired by her childhood. “I was never a princess in the fairy tales as the characters looked nothing like me. Therefore, I wrote my own.” The Curly Hair Club, according to the author, documents Carly’s journey to loving and appreciating her natural hair, “…and everything that comes with it. It was created to encourage more love and embrace natural beauty. I hope little girls will find acceptance in this book and grow to love their hair as well.”
Boys are also included in this self-discovery and realisation of self-worth. Her book, Thrones not Cells, tells the story of 11-year-old Anthony McIntosh who struggles with loving his dark skin. “He doesn’t have any friends and believes he’s unattractive. In fact, his mother makes him cut his afro because thick, natural hair is considered to be ‘unacceptable’. Yet, his substitute teacher and a special friend helped him overcome his struggles. Anthony quickly learns how to use his experiences to help bring change to his entire school and community,” she revealed. She also incorporated more positive reinforcement when it comes to image with Thrones & Curls Colouring Book. The beautiful illustrations are taken from both The Curly Hair Club and Thrones not Cells.
The other books in her writing collection are: The Voice of Jamaica, which speaks to island issues affecting the country, The Poet’s Escape, Stripped Souls, and Poetic Queens. They explore the topics of black relationships, mental health and daily struggles. Tears are my Ink is Laing’s latest collection and she is quite proud of the project because it showcases the complexities of love and heartbreak.
Writers develop their own rhythm when it comes to the artistic process. Laing confessed that for her, she starts out with the titles first before she pens any words. And the narratives are inspired by her own experiences, as well as, from others and the world around her, attained through observation. “I love the joy of seeing how every letter becomes words and words become paragraphs. I marvel at how I start off with a thought and in the end, an entire book is filled. My favourite part is when people tell me just how impactful my words have been to them. Nothing beats that feeling.”
Laing is also aware that writing takes time. It’s a reality check, but the journey has taught her to brace for criticisms, constructive and otherwise, and to keep the passion and reason at the heart of it all. Financing her projects and obtaining sales have proven to be difficult, but she presses on in faith and lets her talent speaks for itself. “The more people come across my books, the easier the next publication comes. I always say that just keep writing and it will all come together,” she added.
So what’s next? The good author is currently working on a novel set in Jamaica. She would also like to write a television series that brings the stories of her children’s books to motion picture, “For now, I will continue writing and trying to change the world through words.”
Her advice to budding writers who dream of becoming authors is to just start. “If you have a story to tell, just start writing. Also, If you decide to write to receive glory rather than to make an impact, you may never fully tell the story that needs to be heard. Do not be afraid of rejection. No one should ever be able to tell you that your story isn’t worth telling. It is your story!”
Her books are available at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Bookshop and on Amazon.