At the young age of 16, Alaska native Kiowa Richardson recently published her first book, "The Christmas Kangaroo." The book, based on the concept of acceptance, was written two years ago while Richardson and her mother, Betty Laws, were living in a one-room cabin with no television or running water.
In December 2010, Richardson and Laws were asked to set up a nativity scene at their church, New Life Assembly of God in Kenai, Alaska, for a Christmas event they call a "Happy Birthday Jesus Party." As they were gathering stuffed animals to use to act out the Christmas story, they joked about including a stuffed kangaroo, the only toy that didn't fit the theme.
While they didn't include the kangaroo in the nativity, Richardson was inspired to write and illustrate a children's book about the situation from the animal's perspective. She then submitted her writing for Children's Literature category at the Alaska District Fine Arts Festival. In previous years, Richardson has submitted short poems or short stories to the festival, but not a large writing project such as her book.
While thousands of youth submitted writing material for their corresponding district festivals, only 16 authors, including Richardson, made it to the 2011 National Fine Arts Festival in Phoenix, Arizona.
Although she didn't win the top spot at Nationals in August, Richardson is still proud of her writing. While recently reading the book at a church event, several church members encouraged her to publish her story. Richardson and Laws worked with WestBow press to get the book approved, and 500 copies were printed for distribution. The books are currently selling for $8 each, and Richardson has sold 115 copies. Eventually, they would like to see the book sold in bookstores.
Richardson, who has attended New Life for 11 years, is active in the youth group and its worship team, also helps out with Sunday School and volunteers in the church's "The Way Café" to help feed the homeless. She says there is a simple message she would like readers to take away from her book: "God will always hold you in His heart," Richardson says. "He loves you and He will never ever leave you even though it might seem like He has."
For more information about the book, contact Richardson at email@example.com.