WHEN British writer Paul Willis and Dutch artist Edie Pijpers left Brooklyn for upstate New York, they could never have envisaged the immediate impact it would have on their creative lives.
The couple, who had lived in New York for 10 years, wanted to make the change partly so their four-year-old daughter Alice could have a closer relationship to nature, something not always immediately available in the Big Apple.
But it was that breath of fresh air that inspired the couple to create Stories for Being, a new children’s book collection that focuses on mindfulness for kids.
“I love New York above all other places, but you miss nature there,” Willis says. “And that’s a big loss because nature is a great teacher. Lots of the ideas that we wanted to communicate in these books are there in nature.
“For example, if you want to think about being grounded go and sit by a river and watch the current flow around a submerged stone, or if you want to learn about being present try locking eyes with a deer and feel how completely in the moment it is.”
The collection is made up of a series of seven picture books inspired by mindfulness practice, a technique for bringing acceptance and awareness to what is happening in the moment.
The books, a year in the making, have been launched via a month-long campaign on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter.
“We wanted to create something a parent and child can enjoy together at the end of a busy day, something that’s going to help them feel a little more in the moment,” Pijpers says.
The idea for the collection came after Pijpers self-published a children’s book, Here You Are, in 2016, which was made up of poems inspired by mindfulness.
“A lot of the people who bought it told me that they felt they needed it as much as their kids,” she adds. “It made us aware that there’s a real thirst for things like this right now.”
Stories for Being focuses on a positive quality a child can develop through being more present in the here and now.
There’s Oliver’s Angry: A Story for being Emotional, while other stories in the collection deal with Being Grounded, Being Loving, Being Open-minded, Being Brave, Being Present and Being Amazing.
“I feel that there’s something special about the bedtime reading experience,” says Willis. “It’s this peaceful moment at the day’s end. It made sense to us that it’s the perfect time to introduce mindfulness.”
The couple, who wrote and illustrated most of the collection themselves, also collaborated with two other artists: the Brooklyn-based, Kristiana Parn, and Malou Zuidema, a Dutch artist living in Sydney.
Willis has a simple ambition for the collection. “If they help one kid feel a little more connected to herself, her body, her world, then I feel like our work is done.”