Meet Isaac Lewis! A junior from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Isaac is an Economics & Business double major, a member of the Varsity Baseball team, and the published author of the children’s book Sparrow in My Hands and Heart. An opportunity found right here at St. Lawrence, we asked Isaac to share a little more about the inspirations and outcomes of his experience writing his own children’s book!
Photo creds: St. Lawrence University
Q: Where did the process of writing your book begin?
It was originally a final project for my First Year Program class called, “Children’s Literature and Its Lifelong Lessons.” The assignment was to write your own children’s book and incorporate a local element from Canton, NY or St. Lawrence County.
Q: What inspired the story?
The inspiration for this book came from two former Canton residents and SLU alumni that I met during my first semester at St. Lawrence. They graciously allowed me to photograph the various bird carvings for this book in their home. The couple lived close to campus and would invite me over to chat. They told me stories about Hazel Tyrrell, the North Country women who carved around 7,000 wooden birds, including the ones in their home. Hazel Tyrrell depicted a true image of nature in the North Country and was a great influence in my book.
Q: Where did the illustrations come from?
Each of the birds depicted in the book are photographs I took of the original wood carvings done by Hazel Tyrrell which were then placed in various settings to tell the story. Many of her bird carvings were originally sold in the 1950s for a couple dollars, and now fetch well over one thousand dollars a piece at auction.
Q: If someone had asked you as an incoming First Year, would you have told them that publishing a children’s book was something you wanted to do?
I had no idea that I would end up publishing a children’s book during my time at SLU. I was happy to have been in the Children’s Literature and Its Lifelong Lessons FYP as I have always felt that children’s books play a significant role in the upbringing and growth of a child.
Q: What valuable lessons did you learn from this experience?
Firstly, I believe that this experience was a great example of a time when there is more to something than just what you see. Seeing these handcrafted life-like bird carvings up close was incredible. However, if it was not for the Canton residents that I befriended, I would have never known about Hazel Tyrrell and the remarkable life and legacy she left behind in the North Country.
I also gained some great experience about the publishing process. I developed my story idea through correspondence with local community citizens, made it into a presentable form, and then coordinated it with a professor, editor, printer, sales representative, bookstore manager, and communication publicist to get it published. It is very gratifying to see the whole process through from a simple idea transformed into a tangible productive piece of work. I am thankful for the support I had in the various stages of the project.
Q: What is it like to see your own, original work in the Brewer Bookstore?
It is a very unique feeling, one that I never thought I would feel. It is a very satisfying to see your hard work available to the public for everyone to enjoy. I am glad this book can provide a way for young local children to be aware of the work of Hazel Tyrrell and the important legacy she had in the area. Lastly, since it started as a local book project, I felt that the proceeds should remain in the community. I decided to donate 100% of the proceeds to St. Lawrence’s Campus Kitchens Project, which serves meals once a week to locals experiencing food insecurity.