Inspired By Her Time at ESU, Alumna Writes Children’s Book Filled with Lessons About Growing Up
Kristyn Fedich was home after work on April 30 when her doorbell rang. She wasn’t expecting anyone and couldn’t imagine who was at her house.
As she swung the door open and got a glimpse of what was being delivered, it hit her. The children’s book, “Seamore the Starfish” she had been working on for more than four months, had arrived earlier than she expected.
“I flipped out,” the East Stroudsburg University graduate recalled of the moment she saw her book in print. “My dog probably thought I was going crazy. I was just beside myself. You work so long on it and then you see this printed copy with your name on it, and it’s like, ‘Wow, is this really my book?’”
Indeed it is. Fedich, who went by Kristyn Pede (her maiden name) when she received her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and then her master’s in 2011 from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, capped off last summer by writing her book. Before school started at Mountain Villa School in the fall, part of the Allamuchy Township School District where she is a first grade teacher and reading specialist, Fedich settled in on their patio set on the deck to write.
There was no computer, no iPad, no laptop. Fedich simply used a Mead notebook and a pen to write her book in about a week’s time.
“I’m old-fashioned,” Fedich said of her approach.
Maybe the way in which she puts her thoughts on paper is, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the illustrations or the lesson in the book, which centers around a shy starfish named Seamore who is worried about how he looks and about trying new things. He learns that with courage and confidence he can do anything he desires.
“I’m not bashing today’s society, but I feel like the world today’s kids are growing up in is more difficult than when I was young,” Fedich, 30, said. “There are more challenges for them and they can be more self-conscious. I want them to know that it doesn’t matter what they look like. All that matters is if they tried their best. I’ve seen kids cry because what they’ve done isn’t perfect, but there is no reason to be perfect. I want them to know it’s good to try new things. You might be good at it and you might like it.”
Fedich wrote the book to be geared toward children from kindergarten through second grade and hopes that teachers and guidance counselors will use it as part of their curriculum or to help kids understand what bullying is. She’s already read it to her students and they’ve read it to her.
“They lose their football game at the end of the book,” Fedich said. “When my husband read it (before it was published), he said, ‘Why did they lose?’ I said, ‘Because you don’t have to win.’ Then the responses I got from friends and families and parents of students this year said they really liked the message. Life isn’t all about winning.”
Although none of the names have a special connection to Fedich, she was seeking alliteration, hence the names Seamore the starfish, Rayna the ray, Sally the starfish and Eli the eel. And since she loves the ocean and starfish have always been her favorite animal, making those the main characters in the book were a given right from the start. But you can’t help but wonder why Seamore isn’t spelled the traditional way, Seymour.
“Seamore is more phonetic for children,” she said. “Students chunk up words in first and second grade, so it’s easier for them to read and pronounce when it’s spelled Seamore.”
Fedich said writing a book has always been her dream, but she never was sure she could take on the challenge of not only writing the book, but self-publishing it (she did it through CreateSpace).
Stephanie Romano, Ed.D., ESU associate professor emerita of reading, never doubted Fedich’s ability to go through the tedious process of writing a book.
“She always gave it 110 percent in the classroom and her projects were exemplary,” Romano said. “She always put more than was necessary into them. She was passionate about children’s literature. And it was obvious she had both the knowledge and the persistence that you need to write a book and that’s truly what it is. I’m really happy for her. It’s just so good to see these young teachers who are carrying the torch for us.”
Fedich said her ESU professors, such as Romano, gave her the extra confidence she needed to start the arduous journey.
“I had professor [Victoria] Principe (a former part-time instructor in ESU’s reading department) and I loved her and all the knowledge she had,” Fedich said. “She was someone in the back of my mind the whole time. Dr. [Jesse] Moore (professor emeritus and former chair of the reading department) definitely instilled the love to continue reading and writing. Dr. [Mary Beth] Allen (professor of reading) and Dr. [Rhonda] Sutton (assistant professor and chair of reading), too. And Dr. Romano was just a beautiful light during my time at ESU. She was just such a positive influence.”
That’s exactly what Fedich is hoping her book will be to all the children who read it.
NOTE: The website for Fedich’s book is seamorethestarfish.com. Seamore is available directly on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. The links are on the website. To pose questions to the author, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.