Meet Indonesia's 8-Year-Old Author

Meet Indonesia's 8-Year-Old Author
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Celestine Jovanna Wenardy is no ordinary girl. In school, the 8-year-old learns her lessons quickly, and has received accolades for her performance in mathematics. But Celestine is also easily bored, and requires outlets to burn her creative energy, or large doses of books to satisfy her unrelenting curiosity. At age 3, Celestine started reading children’s books and learning English from her parents, and would borrow stacks of titles from the library, especially children’s fiction and science texts. She was also given writing assignments as early as kindergarten. She has already authored two children’s books, and is preparing for the official launch this month of “The Enchanted Spell,” a 27-page children’s book that her parents have helped her publish. “Apparently, all this time she has been writing stories,” said Delin Haryati, Celestine’s mother. “She even planned an outline of a long story, chapter by chapter.” The story of “The Enchanted Spell” follows a witch who ruins the friendship of three best friends, a ladybug, a bumblebee and a butterfly. The book is written in English with a compelling plot on par with other children’s titles from authors not nearly as close in age to their works’ target audience. Celestine, a third-grader at Binus International School in Serpong, Tangerang, said it took her one week to write “The Enchanted Spell” when she was in the second grade. She said she often writes short stories in a notebook — under her desk during class. “It was unauthorized, but I was bored,” she said. Celestine hid her writing, but her teacher eventually discovered her prose. When Delin and her husband, Buntoro Rianto, heard from the teacher of their daughter’s extracurricular writing, they were not surprised. Celestine started talking at an early age and showed an exceptional curiosity, especially when it came to books. Delin said they often went to the bookstore, and Celestine always wanted to bring home a pile of books ­— and not just children’s books. Celestine is also interested in anatomy and descriptions of how the human organs function. “I love science, math, English and BI [Bahasa Indonesia],” she said. “She learns very fast and gets bored very easily at school. At one point, she became an attention seeker,” Buntoro said. In kindergarten, Celestine displayed certain strange behaviors, such as a tendency to eat paper. The high-energy author-to-be demanded the full attention of her teacher. To settle Celestine, her teacher gave her a special writing project to keep her busy. And so her passion began. Celestine’s kindergarten teacher suggested that Delin and Buntoro publish Celestine’s stories on one of the many self-publishing platforms now available. “We decided to do it because we want to balance her right brain, and teach her about attitude,” Buntoro said. “We always ask her to point out the moral of the story.” They named their self-publishing company BlueShiningstar, a label Celestine chose, saying it is roughly the meaning of her name. Delin said they will initially publish “The Enchanted Spell” on a small scale, about 1,000 books. She and Buntoro also self-funded the cost of the publishing, and say 30 percent of the profits will be donated to the Books for Hope Foundation. “The Enchanted Spell” will be available at Jakarta’s Aksara bookstore starting sometime around mid-January for Rp 55,000 ($6). Celestine’s second title, “Hayley, Best Elf-Friends Forever,” is already completed. Celestine tackles the topics of friendship and family in her second book, which her parents plan to publish in February. Like her first book, Celestine had some ideas for what she wanted the book’s imagery to look like. Her family hired an illustrator and editor to work with her to bring the story to life. Celestine confesses that art is not yet among her many talents. “I can’t draw,” she said, embarrassed and hiding her face in her palms when her parents open her notebook to show her sketches. Like most writers, the 8-year-old is very particular about her process. Celestine said she writes when she’s bored, which is mostly at school. She said she prefers to write in English because it is the language she feels most comfortable using. “I don’t like to write at home because my parents may come into my room,” she said. “I can’t lock the door because my mom will be very angry.” Celestine said she finds inspiration in her school life and likes to write fantasy stories that are rooted in themes of friendship. She is well read when it comes to the prominent authors of the children’s genre, such as Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling. Celestine said she does not remember all their titles, but she remembers the names. “I’ve finished reading ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ four times now,” she said. “Goblet of Fire,” it’s worth mentioning, is more than 600 pages in length. Now that her parents are aware of her gift, Celestine said she is eager to write more books. Still, she does not like to show her writing to adults. “I always show my story to Flo [her best friend] first, because she can keep a secret and she is always right,” Celestine said. “If Flo thinks it’s good, I will continue to write. If she doesn’t like it, then I’m going to change it.” “Right now, I’m writing the sequel to my second book. I think my books can help my friends and other kids in learning English,” she added. When she grows up, Celestine does not want to be a doctor or an architect, which are among the more common aspirations for children her age. “I don’t know which one I want to be, a writer or a scientist,” she mused, looking at her father for approval or guidance. “Don’t ask me, it’s all up to you,” Buntoro replied. “Maybe I’ll be both, or if I fail to be a scientist, I can be a writer,” she said. Source: The Jakarta Globe

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