For Ziadah, writing is a calling. She’s one of the authors of 15 illustrated children storybooks series recently published by Australia–Indonesia partnership program, INOVASI. The storybooks were selected from the series of competition activities celebrating the 2020 International Literacy Day organized by the University Lecturer Association of NTB teacher training institutes. Earlier this year, the books were printed so that more children can enjoy reading them. Her book, entitled ‘Ijo Balit dan Sepasang Sungai’ (Ijo Balit and a Pair of Rivers), focused on a character who successfully brought water in his drought-affected village.
“It was my first experience to join such writing incubation program together with great mentors. The tips on writing children’s books were given during the training and were very useful for me. The tip I remembered the most was that to write a children’s story, we must start from the closest (topics) to their daily lives,” Ziadah reminisced.
Not only prizes, Ziadah and the other writers got the chance to join a writing workshop mentored by children’s storybook writers under the auspices of the Forum Lingkar Pena. Through several meetings, they were provided with knowledge on how to write for children. The writings were also adjusted to meet children’s levels of need.
The story ‘Ijo Balit and a Pair of Rivers’ that she wrote was about Ijo Balit, a man who managed to bring water to his water-scarce his village. Driven by grief after losing his wife and child when she was fetching water, after years of sheer determination his hoe cracked open a water source on the ground.
According to Ziadah, the inspiration came from a real story from Lombok Island. Local wisdom is central to this story, and for her, this was an essential element for children to learn about their closest surroundings.
“It will also bring a certain pride for the children about their region, their culture, and their origin,” Ziadah said.
Writing itself has already become an essential part of Ziadah’s life. She believes that she was born to write. Other than children’s stories, Ziadah has had a long experience in writing various genres. At the beginning of her career, she was a travel writer writing about interesting tourism destinations. After some years of working on that genre, Ziadah could not find personal satisfaction in her writings.
She then tried to write in other genres, including starting to write stories for children. When working as an elementary school teacher in an international school in Mataram City, the urge to write children stories started to grow. She saw that in the school where she taught there were vast selections of children books for various levels of capability. She saw that such facility was not accessible by most children in Indonesia. Generally, in schools, there are not a lot of books, especially leveled books for children. The situation compelled Ziadah to become a part of the solution.
When she found out further that the literacy condition in NTB was far from ideal and there is a shortage of level appropriate story books, it solidified her commitment to become a children’s book writer even more. This year, she received a scholarship from the Government of Australia to continue her study there. When the pandemic is more manageable, she will be soon on her way to start her studies in a postgraduate degree in Sydney, Australia. The subject she chose is Applied Lingustics and TESOL at the Macquarie University.
“The university I selected was the only one to have a major on Children’s Literature in Australia. It will be a great opportunity for me to add more knowledge, and at the same time introducing Indonesian children’s stories there, especially those I authored“, Ziadah concluded.
While waiting for her departure to Australia, Ziadah has written many new children’s stories.
“There are quite a lot of the children stories I have written during this pandemic, about 18 stories. In addition, three books had been published this year in which I am involved,” Ziadah said. Not stopping there, along with her colleagues in the creative community in NTB, Ziadah and her colleagues have made many audiovisual books widely deployed in schools within the province.
Writing for children has become a path of destiny that Ziadah will continue to take. Whichever way she goes, she has determined that writing will always be a part of her life.
Click below to read her book.