Making a Big Splash

College Life Insight

Making a Big Splash - Zoe Gaetjens

By Catherine Sanchez, Publications Officer and
Liz Nix, Communication and Engagement Co-ordinator

Zoe Gaetjens began her journey at William Clarke College in early 2023, joining the English Faculty on a part-time basis. Her dedication to the subject and teaching, as well as her infectious enthusiasm for literature, quickly endeared her to both colleagues and students alike.

However, it wasn’t just her teaching prowess that caught the attention of the College community. Zoe recently added another feather to her cap with the publication of her debut children’s book, Little Angler. This delightful tale takes young readers on an enchanting journey into the depths of the ocean, where they encounter a myriad of fascinating sea creatures.

For Zoe, the inspiration behind her venture into children’s literature stemmed from a deeply personal experience – motherhood. As a new mum, Zoe came to understand the profound impact of reading to children from infancy. Recognising a gap in the board book market, Zoe decided to channel her creativity into filling this gap.

“I started writing during an extended period of maternity leave,” Zoe said. “I was working casually on and off but didn’t find it particularly stimulating and needed a creative outlet.”

Embarking on a learning journey of her own, Zoe delved into the intricacies of crafting children’s literature. She learned about the importance of narrative structure, the strategic placement of page turns, and the art of creating relatable child protagonists.

The culmination of her efforts resulted in this wonderful new children’s title, designed to capture the imagination of young readers and adults alike. The story not only entertains but also educates, offering glimpses into the wonders of marine life while instilling valuable lessons about family and friendship.

“The concept of the angler fish as the main character came from a competition prompt,” recalls Zoe. “One of the competition themes was frightening places so I thought about what children were afraid of, which led to thinking about the dark, which led to thoughts about interesting and surprising dark places. I decided on the midnight zone in the ocean which led me to choose an angler fish as my protagonist.” Although Zoe didn’t win the competition, she knew she was on to an original idea.

Although Zoe’s Little Angler manuscript was initially created as a picture book, her editor suggested that she transform it into a board book instead, with lift-the-flaps to best utilise the idea of Angler’s light. “We wanted to make something akin to Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo that encouraged interactivity as children guessed what was under the flaps,” stated Zoe. “I think we succeeded!”

Recently, the Preparatory classes at William Clarke College had the pleasure of experiencing a special reading session conducted by Zoe herself. The children were enthralled by the colourful illustrations and the enchanting narrative, with each student sharing their favourite aspects of the story.

Aarnav expressed his fondness for the heartwarming family depicted in the book, while Cecilia was drawn to the charming seahorse and Abigail loved the mesmerizing angler fish. Kiaan and Noah delighted in the playful antics of the jellyfish and the vibrant colours of the octopus.

Zoe’s passion for literature and her dedication to nurturing young minds have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the William Clarke College community. As she continues to inspire both her students and readers alike, her journey from English teacher to published author serves as a testament to the transformative power of storytelling.

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