The original draft of author Leslie Davidson’s The Sun is a Shine was a handmade lift-the-flap book she created for her niece more than 20 years ago, inspired by the wind and the rain of Scotland.
Since finding it in a file filled with old writing, Davidson added scenes of different sky phenomena from all around the world and characters that say “thank you” in a variety of languages.
Though the locations aren’t identified in the book, Davidson based each scene on a real place.
In one draft, she described the gentle rains in Namibia. A friend, who had lived there, spurred Davidson to do more research when she said, “It never rains gently in Namibia; when it rains it comes down in torrents.”
On top of geographical accuracy, Davidson was also had to consider how to incorporate diverse groups of people without appropriating voices.
“How does one write diverse literature as a middle-aged, middle-class, white, Canadian woman?” she posed, correcting herself with a laugh. “Old, not even middle-aged anymore.”
The Sun is a Shine is her attempt at just that.
Illustrated by Slavka Kolesar and published by Orca Book Publishers, it is Davidson’s second children’s book.
|The Sun is a Shine will be released later this month. (Jocelyn Doll-Revelstoke Review)|
The first was published in 2016.
Davidson started it while paddling with her husband, Lincoln, on the Chilcotin Plateau, reminiscing about their adventures and looking forward to showing their grandkids the same things their children had learned on the water.
“When I met him he had a Volkswagen van with a red canoe on the top,” she said. “And it was love at first sight for the van and the canoe and a little bit later for the man.”
What started out as a poem grew longer and longer, until Davidson thought, “I practically have a book.”
She sent it to several publishers and Orca got back to her, saying while there was potential, her rhythm and rhyme scheme was strange, Davidson recalled.
“My first reaction was a little bit of defensiveness, but as the process evolved and I understood more, I realized that what I was being told was really good advice,” she said.
Davidson also writes literary non-fiction, which she said is much easier than writing for children.
In 2016 she won the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize for her piece Adaption, which she wrote to make sense of losing her husband Lincoln to Lewy Body Dementia, while she was dealing with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“The metaphor that works for me is I had to stand in this unpredictable ocean and keep scanning the horizon for the tsunamis or the tidal waves and keep readjusting my balance to brace for what is coming, trying to be forward thinking at the same time as appreciating the moment,” she said.
In a piece recently published by the Globe and Mail, Davidson shares her experience getting deep-brain stimulation surgery to manage dyskinesia, a side effect of a medication for Parkinson’s that causes perpetual movement.
|Leslie Davidson reading to her grandkids. (Contribute)|
On the seven-hour drive to Vancouver for the surgery, her Fitbit registered more than 10,000 steps, she wrote. Now, around five months later, there is no more involuntary dancing and she is excited to get back on her bike and to eventually sit through dinners at restaurants and movies at theatres without feeling like she is distracting people with her constant movement.
“If my writing helps somebody communicate with their family or their doctor, even makes them feel a little better about finding it a struggle, because it is a challenge living with the disease, then that would be great,” she said.
The stillness also makes writing easier. At one point, before the surgery, she had to buy sturdier kitchen chairs, as her constant movement was making the old ones squeak and driving her mad, she recalled with a laugh.
Nevertheless, she continues to write, a passion she has brought forward from childhood that allows her to deal with the things that haunt her, from the rise of overtly racist behaviour to living with Parkinson’s.
“I would really like to write something about living with a degenerative disease and being a grandparent, but not in a depressing way,” she said.