Through the pandemic, one creative output is a book for children by a few Raleigh residents including a mother-daughter duo.
“The World’s Locked Up,” is a story by Alnita Coulter and illustrated by her daughter and well-known Raleigh artist Dare Coulter (see her #DareToDissent mural in Downtown Raleigh). It’s designed by April Taylor.
This emailed interview has been condensed for length.
Raleigh Convergence: What’s the genesis of this project, and have y’all collaborated before on a project like this? How did the collaboration work?
Alnita: On April 14th, Dare and I were talking about the current state of everyone sheltering in place and the world being locked up.
During the conversation, Dare said, “What about a story about a kid trying to find a key to unlock the world.” A couple of hours later, I headed upstairs, and while laying in bed started writing the story. …
Dare and I are always discussing ideas about everything: paintings, stories, inventions, life. We actually have other stories that we’ve written together, but that we haven’t published.
Last year we did create an extended Happy Mother’s Day book card … (and) another extended book card called “All For You,” a poem from a Mother to a Child about all of the things that she would do for her child including facing some of her biggest fears.
I have 12 children’s books that I’ve written. There are a couple that Dare and I did together.
Originally, Dare was not going to be able to illustrate this project. … Dare was able to get the project that she was working on finished. I personally believe that it was God blessing this project. …
She started working on the illustrations and shot back the first illustration. We were blown away. Her illustrations took the story to a whole new level.
I was actually talking to my oldest Daughter about the illustrations and how they took the story to a different level. She explained that it was like that because I didn’t have to explain it to her because she knew exactly what I meant. I have to agree with that.
… Then April Taylor did the layout of the book in three days. Each little piece just took it to a whole new level.
We went from Dare and I having the conversation about a kid looking for a key to unlock the world to having a completed book in 2 weeks, and 2 ½ weeks from that initial conversation, Johanna Colon, the little Girl that went viral dancing to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” was reading it.
We thought about trying to get it published through a major publisher, but we thought that although there’s a great likelihood that some of these effects will still be being felt, but the discussions will have shifted, and a project like this could easily fall through the cracks.
April: This particular project started for me on April 18th with a text message saying “I have a question. Let me give you some quick background. Hopefully, I can finish before you say no.” I think she already knew that I would never turn the opportunity down.
RC: Could you describe, briefly, the synopsis of the book for those who haven’t read it yet?
“The World is Locked Up” is a heart-warming story of a kid that wants to go outside to play, but their Mom reminds them that the world is locked away.
It invites the reader to go on a journey with the kid as they go on a quest to find the key to unlock the world.
Along the way, the kid discovers a lot of wonderful things that make it great being locked in with their family.
This book also includes activity pages and places for the reader to record their own experience for additional fun!
RC: What details were important to you to include in the book?
Dare: It was important that our kid felt like they could be anyone, because there was a lot that happened (good and bad) during this quarantine that really could have happened to anyone. So the objective was that something beautiful could happen to anyone, too. This kid realizes that this time had been happy, even while being quite unexpected.
Alnita: While this time has been quite daunting, I’ve noticed that although we have been socially distancing from each other, in a lot of ways people have become more connected. You have families doing things that they perhaps would not have done before or as frequently. I wanted to remind people of the good that has come from this time. Also, the bears in the windows was a shout out to my neighborhood.
Dare: We focused on something bright and happy, as far as quarantine is concerned. There are a lot of people who have not been and will not be okay after and during this time. That reality exists permanently for everyone that it is the case for, so we didn’t feel the need to make it the thing we focused on. We went for a silver lining!
RC: How does this mirror your experience? How is it different?
Dare: My specific experience was quite strange. My sister’s husband died a week after shutdown, and an hour and a half after she called I was on a plane to her. … This has been a difficult, horribly stressful, and painful time, but there have honestly been a lot of really good moments here, too. Some really special things happened in my career.
So simultaneous highs and lows. Finding light in the dark has been a big part of the day to day in this situation. Sorting a grieving process with someone has some really dark and scary moments. But I got to reconnect with my friend, because my sister is that to me as well. And as complicated as this all was I’m genuinely glad I got to have this time with her! See, silver linings.
Alnita: Dare and I have these types of discussions daily. … During the time of this pandemic, I have found myself delivering balloons to celebrate the birthdays of neighbors that I probably never would have had we not made a point of embracing, supporting, and encouraging each other.
I’ve gone on bear hunts with the kids, I’ve hidden Easter eggs in my window. Now mind you, all of my kids are grown.
Plus, I’ve attended virtual happy hours and had video calls with alumni from my high school. I have delighted in these new and unexpected connections. I wanted to make sure that those wonderful things didn’t go unnoticed.
April: I think this book mirrors a small part of everyone’s experience to a certain extent. Regardless of perspective, we all have felt “locked in” by our circumstances at one point or another in life. We all have experienced change in our everyday lives that we have taken for granted. These moments remind the world to appreciate the small things that may have been lost or not appreciated in our busy day-to-day routine. It brings communities together in ways that had never been done before which is highlighted in the book.
Many children could relate to this book long before COVID-19 began and many will for different circumstances long after it is over. For some, this book will provide comfort to those that cannot leave their circumstances, whatever that may be. For others, it will provide the memories of what it was like when “The World is Locked Up.” (continues below)
RC: What do you hope people take away from reading the book? Parents and kids?
Alnita: I’ve actually said that this is my version of a hug for the world’s heart. I hope that long after this if over that people remember the wonderful connections that they made during this time. I hope that some of the fun activities that they participated in while the world was locked up will find a permanent place in their lives. More than anything, I hope they remember even in the midst of crazy and not so happy moments, that there are good things that can be found.
April: I hope they realize that this book extends way beyond the shelter in place order and could depict many life situations where someone is “locked-in” to their situation or circumstance. I hope that parents and kids both take away a feeling of hope. It is easy to only see the negatives when faced with a frightening situation. I hope that people realize the importance of not missing all the little things that are happening around you every day. To celebrate and focus on those memories, moments and connections in life to get through the tough days. There is far more good than bad in the world and if people continue to come together and choose to see the positive instead of the negative, miracles can happen.
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