Chrystyna Edwards taught her children that imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts. She narrated farm animals as the kids rode with her in the car, told stories that kept them hanging on every word and came up with ways to make everyday things, like acorn caps, magical. Now that her kids are adults, Edwards has found a way to share her creative spirit with children across state lines.
Ten years ago, Edwards said she heard a sermon at The Lamb’s Chapel in Haw River that changed her life. She said pastor Brian Biggers taught the congregation about following the dreams God gives you - Edwards said she wasn’t sure what her dream was at the time.
“I went home and prayed about it, and God laid it on my heart that I was supposed to write children’s books,” she said. “That day, I sat down and I literally wrote five children’s books in one day – and I was really tired,” she added with a laugh.
One of those five books was Little Tree, the first of Edwards’ stories to become a children’s book sold to the public. The story follows a tree that finds joy in every season, from the frigid cold winter to the blossoming springtime. Edwards said the story is based on a real tree from her kids’ childhood that was always the first one with color-changing leaves and sprouting buds.
“We drove this same stretch of road pretty much five days a week,” she said. “There was this little tree in the cloverleaf of the highway and in the springtime that little tree would just outdo itself. It was always on the Head Start Program. I would always point it out to the kids, and I would say, ‘Look at that little tree over there! It’s just so excited.’”
Although she had the concept and the words of Little Tree, Edwards said taking the tale from a notepad to a storybook had its challenges. Edwards said she thought telling friends about the project might lead her to someone in the publishing industry, but no one knew anyone in the business.
Later, her husband encouraged her to self-publish her story. Edwards chose to publish through WestBow Press, a Christian self-publishing company out of Bloomington, Ind.
Before the story could be read by a single child, Edwards said she had to find an illustrator who could “capture her vision” for the story. She said her daughter, Meagan Edwards, was the perfect choice – even though she had never illustrated before.
“The scariest part for me as the illustrator was ‘how do I make it repeat’ because it’s not like the story is going to different areas or different rooms or different landscapes,” she said. “I had to make it consistent through the book.”
The new illustrator said she had also never drawn a full tree before. Instead, she drew half trees on the corners of pages, but her mother said nothing would change her mind. She saved many of her daughter’s scrapped drawings from the trash and later requested her “expressive” robots as characters for Little Tree.
“I told her, ‘I really want your robots to be the people because I really like your robots,’” Chrystyna Edwards said. “And because the story is about the tree not about the people. The robots just add to it – it’s whimsical.”
Although the pair struggled to collaborate while living in different locations, Meagan Edwards later moved to Mebane and finished the pictures in three weeks. She said she remembers the day the finished product was delivered and said the best part was seeing her mother share the moment with her father, who is overseas.
“It was really cool that my dad got to experience it with her,” Meagan Edwards said. “He had just called on Skype and then the doorbell rang and she got the book. That’s awesome considering he was the one that made her do it – she’s not a risk taker.”
She said she believes the project was worth “breaking out of (their) comfort zones” and is proud of her mom for “stepping out” to do what God asked of her.
“Even if we didn’t sell any books I think it’s worth it. You followed your dream, you went through with it, and you did what God told you to do,” Meagan Edwards said. “This is her heart and soul on paper, and I just love it.”
The duo said they love to see people’s faces when they read the book for the first time. Chrystyna Edwards said there is nothing she doesn’t like about Little Tree, but said one of her favorite things about the book is that its lesson applies to people of all ages.
“That’s the beauty of the story,” she said. “It’s for kids, but it’s really for adults too because it’s about finding joy in all the seasons, letting your light shine and not letting the old grumblers get you down. It brings joy and that’s what it’s all about.”
Chrystyna and Meagan Edwards will have a book signing at Chick-Fil-A on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 7 from 2-4 p.m. Little Tree can be purchased online at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, WestBowPress.com or in the pair’s shop, Alai-Gaw-Dai at The Little Shops of Mebane, located at 301 N. Third St., Mebane.