ROTTERDAM – Deb Manikas Male, a retired educator and administrator, has finally stepped into a profession she’s always wanted: writer.
“I always always wanted to become an author,” Manikas said.
Her first book, called “Where Will My Shoes Take Me?” was published recently by Outskirts Press and follows a young boy as he puts on different pairs of shoes to go on all kinds of adventures.
Manikas, who grew up in Rotterdam, taught in the Mohonasen Central School District for years before becoming an administrator in the district in 2003. She retired from her position as principal of Draper Middle School in 2017 to spend more time with her grandchildren.
In a sense, her first book was written for all nine of them, though she initially had the idea for the book years ago, when her children were little.
“He’s a young character so he goes on regular adventures. He goes to the beach, he goes outside into the snow, he has to wear different shoes. He goes to his grandma’s birthday party and wears special shoes for that,” Manikas said. “He goes in a pond and hunts for turtles and frogs, just regular things that any child might do.”
The writing process was more challenging than she expected.
“I found that I had to cut back on the wordiness of what I had written,” Manikas said. “That was a more difficult process than I had thought.”
Fortunately, illustrator Robin Boyer helped with that process, adding things to each illustration that allowed Manikas to cut down on the word count. Manikas also used repetitive words to make it ideal for young readers, ages 8 and under.
“Repetitive phrases are very important so that the beginner reader, who wants to read the book or is being read to can learn the words,” Manikas said.
There are also interactive elements to keep the reader engaged.
“There’s a frog on every page so little ones can look for the frog on every page, one page is particularly difficult,” Manikas said. “The other thing is with each pair of shoes there are a pair of footprints to where the character’s going, to the beach or wherever children can follow the footprints. So it’s important for little children as they’re being read to that they can be interactive, too.”
She hopes that families will use the book as a springboard to get children into reading.
“The one thing that people can do for any child in their life is read to them and encourage them to read . . . because that’s the one thing that impacts their whole educational career. It’s the one thing that kind of levels the playing field for kids,” Manikas said.
“Where Will My Shoes Take Me?” which was first published in late November, is just the first that Manikas hopes to write. While she’s training to become a contact tracer, she has several other book ideas that she’ll be fleshing out in the coming weeks.
“I just love it. I feel like when you go through different phases of your life, I never thought I’d be retired but you have to find your joy and that’s [mine],” Manikas said. “Writing just makes me really happy.”
The book is available online at outskirtspress.com, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.