Zoe the fairy is taking children on adventures to popular places in TT. Who is Zoe? She is a Trinidadian fairy, and her creator Liseanne Martin-Subero told WMN the idea to write a children’s book was inspired by her three-year-old daughter Zoe.
She said it was her intention to write something exclusively for Zoe, but it evolved into something she wanted to share with other children.
“I wanted the book to be local and not something that already existed. I wanted the fairy to connect with the age group, so the character is small girl who loves adventures and learning new things," Martin-Subero said.
The book, Zoe the Fairy’s Discoveries: A Trip to Maracas Beach, is the first of many others Martin-Subero plans to release for children up to seven years old, highlighting various places and adventures in the country and exploring the five senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
“I tried to expose children to their five senses. Throughout the book Zoe would be using her senses to have a full experience.”
Martin-Subero said the book targets local aspects of TT and hopes it will encourage children to read and parents to read to their children.
A Visit To Maracas Beach is colourful with drawings highlighting the different aspects of the beach such as the sun, sand and sea, bake and shark and a drink of coconut water – things most people look forward to at the beach. While the covid19 restrictions have taken away visits to many places, Martin-Subero said the book is interactive and can help children use their imagination and bring to life the adventure.
Martin-Subero, 30, began her career in graphic design 12 years ago after completing her associates’ degree in graphic design at the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of TT. She told WMN there were some challenges along the way in her career, with a major one being the viability and opportunities for artists in TT.
Martin-Subero grew up in Cocoyea, San Fernando with her parents and four older brothers, who were all very artistic, but making a career in art was something that worried her father.
“My mom was a teacher and she also taught art. Growing up we drew a lot, and we appreciated a lot of artistic type content at home. With all of that in mind I did art as one of my subjects for the CXC exams.
“My father was worried about the job prospects in TT for artists. He did not expect me to make any kind of real money going into art or anything art related. I tried to find different avenues to get creative and graphics really appealed to me.”
While pursuing her degree, she started to work at the San Fernando City Corporation, as a graphic artist, and after seeing her work there her friends and family encouraged her to start her own business.
“I was 19 years old at the time when I started my company, Phixate Studios, which operated out my home. I started to get a lot of referrals and the business grew into what it is today.
“I eventually moved and rented an office space in Cocoyea, but then I outgrew the space and had to move into another in Padmore Street, San Fernando. Because of covid19, we closed that space and now the business operates out of my home.”
Martin-Subero said it is unfortunate Phixate had to downsize and her staff had to be laid-off.
“I had to let go most of my staff, it was really difficult the first year because we weren’t getting much work to sustain the business operations. The initial scare also forced us to limit our interactions and have people come into the office.
“The business was able to reopen sometime after, but it was just designs and not any of our other services like printing was done because all of our supplier were also closed. The design work also dipped.”
She said she and her team worked on new packages and pricing options, but business remained slow till this day. Being at home for the lockdown periods, she said, was difficult since she was not able to generate any income and went into depression.
She said it was during this period she was forced to face and deal with underlying grief and trauma she had hidden by working constantly.
“A few years ago, I lost one of brother and then my mother. Being in business constantly I mentally blocked all the pain and really having to deal with it. When everything slowed down, it just hit me all at once. I did not want to do any work; I was not motivated and was sad.
“Seeing myself go down this path, I had to pull myself out of a dark place because I needed to work to help support my family. I decided to take some time off and recuperate and find myself again.”
Martin-Subero said the time off was a fruitful process and blessing as being around her daughter more than usual, was where she found inspiration to write the book.
She remembered how her mother had created individualised books for her and her brothers via an online platform and thought of doing the same for Zoe.
“I read to my daughter a lot and she loved it. She was also asking me to draw her. We enjoyed spending that time together and I remembered the time my mom had with us just like that.
“I started to look into ways to create something to generate income because things were so slow and then I thought I could write a children’s book.
“Zoe likes adventures and I thought this could be idea behind the book. We love fantasies and fairies and Disney, but I wanted to do something that was local and unique. I wanted the readers to experience something they know with people like them. So, I created a fairy named after my daughter and a visit to Maracas beach was born.”
Martin-Subero said after writing the book and scribbling the artwork, the process came to a halt for about four months because she did not have the right tools to create the graphics.
She said there was a clear concept of how she wanted the graphics and illustrations but the graphic tools she had in her possession were not able to do what she wanted.
On her birthday in April, she said her husband, Christopher, a mechanic, surprised her with the graphic tools for the book.
“He worked really hard to buy me the procreate software and the iPad air for me to achieve this dream. I was really excited about it and was finally able to get the look that I wanted. I had the images in my head and knew exactly how I wanted it to look.
“It was challenging though because I had to learn how to use the software on my own. This took a few months because it had to fit it in between work and my responsibilities as a mother and wife. It felt like I went back to school.”
The next step was publishing the book which she explained she knew nothing about and finding the right information was challenging.
Locally, she said many of the publishers did not offer what she was looking for and had to resort to publishing with Amazon.
“I’ve designed books but never published any. I did not know what to look for or go about the process. I want to do a series of books and really hoped that it can be a wholly local production. So, I hope I can get a local published for the others.
“Hopefully by next year the second book will be released. I want to capture the essence of our First People and learn about their culture and traditions.”
She said it was too early to determine sales, but the responses have been positive, which have given her the encouragement to continue.
“I need to push more marketing, so far about 30 copies have been sold and hopefully there would be more.”
Zoe the Fairy’s Discoveries can be ordered via Phixate’s Instagram page @getphixated or from Amazon.