Eighteen-year-old Sydney Sunderland didn’t set out to be a published author when she took on her Capstone Project last year, but here we are.
The Mark R. Isfeld grad and first-year student at Thompson Rivers University has written and illustrated a children’s book, titled I am Everything In Between.
The book hits the market next month.
“We had to do a Capstone Project for our graduation, so I decided to do a children’s book,” said Sunderland, who turns 19 later this month. “At the beginning, I didn’t really have any plans of publishing it, I just wanted to share it with some teachers and possibly the school library, but it just kept building and building (momentum).
“It began as just a school project but then I realized that I felt really passionate about the topic that the book is about…. After I finished it I received a lot of feedback from my teachers and peers, encouraging me to publish it. So I ended up sending my copy of the book to several publishers, and one of them liked it.”
I am Everything In Between is described on the publishing house website (Rebel Mountain Press) as a book that “… highlights kids who don’t fit into stereotypical gender ideals. This book celebrates children and how they gender identify by sending a positive message that regardless of biological gender, it’s okay to feel like a girl, it’s okay to feel like a boy, and it’s okay to feel like ‘Everything In Between.’”
Sunderland says there is a personal angle to the book.
“There is sort of a personal connection to it; when I was growing up, I didn’t necessarily know what gender identity was, but I definitely did present myself in ways that were different than how a typical little girl would dress and things,” she said. “I sometimes got negative comments and negative reactions from that, and that definitely affected me when I was younger, so I am hoping that the message can get out to any kids who might be feeling that way, because I know I would have really appreciated something like that.”
Her mother, Becky Sunderland, said the book shows a side of Sydney that everyone who knows her sees every day.
“The strength that she has always had in her own character, and in knowing who she is, is spectacular,” said Becky. “Then, wanting to share that and confidence she has in herself, and showing other kids that it’s OK to literally just be yourself; that star shines so brightly in her.”
According to the BC Curriculum guide, Capstone is “an opportunity for students to further develop and showcase their strengths, passions, and learning journey to a relevant audience. As a celebration of their learning journey, the Capstone is a place where students are encouraged to share successes both in school and out of school, including their reflections on Core Competency development, their contributions and aspirations, and their plans for post-graduation.”
Sunderland said she didn’t totally buy into the concept at first, and begrudgingly took part only because she had to. The finished product turned out to be a lasting legacy.
“At the beginning, before I knew what I wanted to do, I thought ‘oh, this is a waste of time - why are we doing this?’ But then sometimes it can turn into something bigger, which I think is part of the idea of the Capstone. It can turn into something that you can go into in post-secondary, if it’s something you are passionate about.”
Sunderland said that while she has no immediate plans for another book, she hasn’t discarded the possibility either.
“I am not sure about that. I am hoping to maybe create more books in the future. I don’t think that’s going to be the only one. But I don’t have anything planned right now.”
Sunderland has had a busy freshman year at Thompson River University. She is studying for her bachelor of arts and has been a regular on the pitch for the TRU Wolfpack soccer team.
“It was mainly the soccer program that got me up here, for sure,” said the former Riptide soccer player. “We had kind of a rough season, but I have been enjoying it a lot and the team is really awesome.”
Release date for the book is March 15. Pre-orders are being accepted now at bit.ly/3oAPhhz
It will be available locally at Laughing Oyster Book Shop in Courtenay.