by Donna Sealy
In about 12 hours, Gregory Skeete wrote A Day in the Life of Axel the Ant.
In the 12 hours that followed he had the illustrations done and the book was ready over Good Friday weekend.
The 25-year-old engineer, who works in the manufacturing industry, started writing as a “relaxing hobby to get away from the technical” things he did.
Growing up, he never really had an interest in English or writing preferring to work with Science, Maths, Physics and Information Technology.
The closest he came to writing anything like a book apart from compositions at school, he said, was at the age of 11 when he entered and won an island wide poetry contest his dentist organised.
“I guess I have a little bit of a natural gift,” he said with a smile.
But he did not act on his gift throughout his years at Harrison College, Barbados Community College or the St. Augustine’s campus of the University of the West Indies.
“About a year ago I just started writing not for the purpose of publishing but just to calm my mind. I would just write to put my thoughts on paper sometimes and it would be about thinking, setting goals, having belief and faith and that kind of thing. I would just start writing my thoughts on paper, just to keep them,” he said with a chuckle.
“I’m also working on another book which caters to adults about the importance of learning. [This book which] I started first, is about sharing a positive message … [about] setting your dreams and your goals, that’s where it started.
“The children’s book was an afterthought. That was the Good Friday weekend and I was just thinking ‘what am I going to do this weekend’. I was thinking about how to make an impact on children and share the steps of goal setting, and so on with [them] and the idea just came ‘why don’t I try writing a short children’s book. So that weekend I just did it, probably between Saturday and Sunday, and I said it sounds pretty good. From there I started to see which pictures I would use to make it interesting,” he recalled.
What is interesting about his first book is that his characters, are deliberately Barbadian.
“I wanted to make a series to communicate with children but also what can I do for Barbados because a lot of people in the USA and so on, buy books for their children to read so I thought about how I could merge the two things together and so I came up with the characters. I thought about the Coat of Arms, the Pelican, flying fish, which are two characters in the first book – Pilly the Pelican, and Flo the Flying Fish and then there’s Axel the Ant who wears a tool belt. …That’s a little bit of my personality, a hard working technical type of person,” Skeete said.
He sketched the characters in pencil and then turned them over to “some artists’ whom he met online. They turned them into digital images.
A Day in the Life of Axel the Ant, which has “20 pages with words and 20 photos” is available only on Amazon but he has plans to publish a series of books when the “capital becomes available” to do so. Skeete is hopeful that he can have his first one published by year end.
Pilly the Pelican, is the central character of the series and will be featured in every edition, wearing his blue and yellow jacket.
Skeete said more characters will “definitely” be added as he continues writing and they will have several adventures but you will have to buy the books to find out.
Family is also important to him.
“Actually the entire family helped with the book. I wrote it but my mum, Junetta, is helping promote it… My dad Steve is an agronomist and he actually will write a couple of the books that focus on teaching about plants and agriculture and my sister, Jeniece, who is studying accounts and IT at UWI (Cave Hill Campus) will use her experience to manage the social networking sites and the website as well as manage the finances with their mother.
One of the young author’s hopes is that the parents of those three to six year olds he is targeting, would buy his books and read to their children as his mother did to him when he was a child.
Skeete believes that reading creates that bond and enables children to read and spell.
“My mum is actually a lot of my inspiration because she passed up on her opportunities to study when she was younger to make sure she could take care of her family. She spent a lot of time reading to me and teaching me these types of things. She and my dad played a big role in shaping the person I am today. She’s been trying to find a job after completing her UWI degree last year, but no luck as yet,’ he said.
When he is not at work, writing you could find him taking photos around the island, spending time with his family or playing football, which is his “passion”. Although these days he said he doesn’t get to play much but when he does he plays with some friends at Harrison College, at the Banks grounds in Wildey or with the Cosmos team from Speightstown.
Oh and he hails for popular Spanish football club Barcelona.
He also works out at the gym because he believes that “life should be balanced. Friends, family, fitness, health from the engineering point of view. Just like you would perform maintenance on machines to keep them working you have to keep this body doing the same”.
“I was pretty quiet, pretty shy but I grew out it as I got a bit older. I do think that I can play a role in inspiring other young people to set their goals and aim to make a difference in the world,” he said.
He plays to continue writing and on his Facebook page, Pilly the Pelican, you can read about the book which includes 10 basic points about Barbados for the children. You should buy the book at Amazon or you can download the Kindle app and read it on your smart phones, laptops, and tablets.
Look out for Gregory, his mom and Pilly the Pelican at children’s events, at read-ins and for the next one in the series. firstname.lastname@example.org