by Donna Sealy
Ten years ago, Aisha King started out on a journey.
It was one filled with twists and turns and along the way the author of the Zana Series of children’s books had an epiphany.
To hear her tell the story of her journey from the Cayman Islands where she was working at a 911 emergency communication centre to the US and then finally to Barbados, is interesting because of what her heart and mind was tugging at her to do but she didn’t listen, at least initially.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY she said when her daughter was three years old she decided to leave that 911 job as it was becoming difficult to manage the 12-hour shifts she had and take care of her baby.
“At the time my mum was living in the States at the time so I decided to just go over there and just relax. In that move the image of Zana came to me but I didn’t know what it was. I had always had a love for art, I did art at CXC in school [and got a Grade 2 at General] but I had never really tapped into it in my adulthood as I went straight into working.
“My mum was in Louisville, Kentucky and when I got there, this thing kept popping into my head so I decided ‘let me sit down sketch this out’. Now, I hadn’t picked up a pencil to draw anything in 12 years so I just decided to see what would come out of it. I drew 10 illustrations and coloured them and then I wrote the first story which was The Funny Little Mystery at Zana’s Back Door,” King recalled.
And even though she had no idea what to do with it, she tried to get a literary agent but she wasn’t successful. She packed up and headed to Barbados where she put the books on pause and found a job.
That one story led to two and today there are three and now she speaks about plans for a television show all starring Zana, but let us go back on the journey.
“It came back to mind while I was at McEnearney. There was a friend of mine, we went to school together, that used to draw really well. I didn’t know how to use photoshop but I figured he would so I found him and showed him what I had done on paper and he did the first set of illustrations.
“After that I still didn’t know where to go, what to do. I was in Barbados as opposed to the States where I could search on the Internet and see which agency I could go to, here it was a little different. So I approached the NCF and I had an interview with them, Mark Welch, … who read [the book] and told me to bring it home. When he said that I didn’t know what he meant. He said to put Barbados in it. I didn’t think of that.
“He said to put something in it that the children could relate to because I had written it in the States and it was in that frame of mind with pumpkin pies so I had to change. I ran with that. I sat down and changed it. By this time I had left McEnearney and was working in offshore banking.
“One day I was sitting in my office and it was like an epiphany. Everything just came running like an overload of information just one time. I sat there and did a business plan, everything that I could do with the character. I decided to gear everything towards the environment because the initial story was about Zana throwing her garbage out the back door.
“By the time I had finished the business plan, I had 10 ideas for 10 different stories and I had done things on the business plan about how to get sponsors, trying to see if we could do television. I just started just getting on the phone, pounding the pavement. I was still in offshore banking but I could feel at that point that my time there was coming to an end because my interest had now changed,” she said.
What is noteworthy is that her position at that company was made redundant and she was free to pursue her love.
One thing led to another and the entire story started to be written. One opportunity led to another and she had her first book sponsored by BNOC Zana and the Ambians, which focussed on renewable energy.
“From there I launched the book at Agrofest. It was great. I was surprised at the response of the children when they saw the book, from there I rolled with the momentum. An idea popped into my head that maybe I should try to get it animated but I didn’t know where to start with that.
“I didn’t know who to call or what to do. It just happened one day that I was sitting reading the paper and there was an ad for animators,” she said with a laugh.
“I was like ‘Oh my God, You’re working. I sent in my application by that time I had learned to use photoshop, the ambians was my first shot at using it. I was self taught and when I got the call it was a Mr. Corbin who was opening his studio. I did the interview, I got the call and we started training and I learnt so much from the people while I was there from the people who trained us.
“I learnt how to animate, you also learned how to use the software which is called Harmony and I also took the time to redesign the character. Zana took a different shape, a different form as opposed to the first illustrations that came out in Zana and the Ambians,” King said.
She said that unfortunately Mr. Corbin died in the middle of training and the company cut staff and she was among the 10 that went home.
The author did not despair as a grant she had applied for through the non state actors panel facilitated by the European Union she got.
So the Zana series moved forward with the $25,000 she received and two other books were published which including Zana Drives to Town, a story about air pollution.
“The grant is also allowing us to create the mascot, which we’re right now in the middle of doing. The head dress has been completed but we’re finishing up the costume. What I do is dress in full costume and go into schools an do some story telling. Once the mascot is complete the children will get to meet Zana,” she added.
Her next step is the animation of the character and she has applied for another grant through the same agency as she is ready to take her Zana Series, which are available in book stores and on Amazon, further.
King’s goal is to teach children about the importance of taking care of the environment but that’s not all she intends to do.
She has formed called Trek-Voy Art and Literary Services and under this she has a charity -Trek-Voy Art and Literary Endowment for the Naturally Talented or TALENT, – which would allow her “after I’ve completed this project” to help other artists who are talented but sit on their skills, those who are “in the 9 to 5”.
It is now 2013 and the author, who is a graphic artist, (she worked with Annie The Clown’s book) is no where near the end of the journey she started in 2003.
King is more than ready to continue along the path that Zana will take her. [email protected]