Stephen Evans (Maldivian Stephen) is a man of many talents. He's head chef for the University of Missouri Athletic Dining, a Navy veteran, a world traveler and author of children's books The Bee Who Sneezed, The Rat Who Loved Math and soon to be released The Lizard in a Blizzard. He tells us how a volunteer trip to the Maldives led to him finding his calling as a writer.
What made you want to be a writer?
People always ask me why do I write and even more specifically, why do I write children's stories? It’s because I didn't want to grow up. I am 33 years old and still call adults grown-ups.
I don’t know if I ever really wanted to be a writer, per se. I write because it calls me.
Something inside me has something to say. About ten years ago when I purchased my first Blackberry phone I started writing what I called “one thumb poems.” From there it snowballed into a collection of children’s stories that are now being brought to life.
What inspires you to write?
The world around me, life and my experiences whether they are good or bad. Every adventure has a story that needs to be told even if it only happens in your imagination.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
In 2015 I started researching volunteer trips and found a sports coaching trip to the Maldives.
I was accepted as the first volunteer on the island of Olhuvelifushi. When I arrived I was greeted by a large crowd. Everyone was curious and excited to meet their first volunteer. Over the next two weeks we became like family. They treated me like one of their own, so I became Maldivian Stephen.
After a while I was approached by the school principal to give English classes. Due to the lack of a common language the students and I often had to resort to communicating by drawing in the sand or using body language. From this I developed the idea of writing a book in English to connect and stay in touch. My final leaving was very emotional and over the next twelve months I stayed in close contact with the island. During this time I wrote the Maldivian Stephen book, an English photo journal of my time in the Maldives. I had 60 copies of Maldivian Stephen printed to personally deliver to the students of Olhuvelifushi School. On the book presentation day an assembly was held and books handed out. Children smiled, giggled, and laughed as they flipped through the pages. Then one by one the students would read a page. Once we finished the book the kids all cheered and thanked me. Some of the children read my other stories, one being The Bee Who Sneezed. There was laughter and joy in the air, flowing through all of us. It was amazing. I knew right then and there why I had been writing these stories for so long. It is my calling. I returned home determined to bring my stories to life and in a matter of months The Bee Who Sneezed was published.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t stop writing! Even if you need to write about why you don’t want to write today. That’s a trick I use to get my wild mind moving.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
If you feel like you should be published, self-publish your work and get a taste of the author life. You may make a splash and publishers might start approaching you.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Pretty badly for the first five minutes. Then I lick my wounds and move on. In cooking and in writing you will never impress everyone so tough skin is almost a necessity.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
The isolation is something I have learned to appreciate and enjoy. It’s usually the calm in my day. I tend to write either early in the morning or late at night before or after a long kitchen shift. I can forget about the day and enjoy getting to explore my imagination.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Getting lost in the mix or not finding a way to stand out. I think it’s something like a book or two is published every few minutes. So, that’s a big sea to be swimming in and it’s hard for the little fish. But, just like in life, you need to keep growing.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Social media has been huge for me. It’s funny because I’ve pretty much avoided it for ten years. Now I use it every day. I can’t thank enough everyone who supports me and helps spread the word.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Write until you want to write every day!
You can find out more about Stephen via his Website, Instagram or his publishing company 2nd Tour Publishing. His books can be found at the following sites: The Bee Who Sneezed: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Rat Who Loved Math: Amazon, Barnes and Noble. As well as The Yellow Dog Book Shop in Columbia, Missouri and Spirit Winds Coffee and Gifts in Las Cruces, New Mexico.