ROBERTSDALE, Ala. -- An active imagination and passion for learning, plus the nickname of “Little Miss Sassy” from people in her small rural community of Corozalito, Belize, gave Sherryl Lynn Chavarria the inspiration to write two children’s books based on her childhood adventures.
Recently having a book signing at Page and Palette in Fairhope and visiting Robertsdale Elementary School on Tuesday reading both of her books “Little Miss Sassy” and “Little Miss Sassy’s Fantastical Adventures”, Chavarria said she feels like she has found her niche in writing and feels right at home in Fairhope since moving there in 2007 with her husband of three years, David RaBren, who is originally from Bon Secour.
“It has a seaside atmosphere like Belize and people have been so welcoming to me. I love living here among all the artists and authors,” said Chavarria.
Taking a year to self-publish and draw all the illustrations of both books, Chavarria said she tried to bring in different cultural elements of the area like oak trees and pirate ships when creating her stories about Sassy and all the different characters that live in Sassy Land.
“I lived in a very rural farming community with a one room schoolhouse. We were very poor and didn’t have a lot. My aunt was a teacher and I loved school and learning. I would sneak away to the library and crawl into a hole and read for hours and let my imagination run wild. I started drawing at seven years old and the character of Miss Sassy was born,” Chavarria said.
Seeing her talent, Chavarria’s aunt entered her picture, drawn on scraps of notebook paper taped together, in a countrywide competition and she won first place. That spurred Chavarria to continue drawing and creating stories based on childhood friends and pets she had. “I couldn’t hurt an ant and at our school, we would have bats and bees coming through holes in the celling and I had a pet rooster and dog. I love animals.”
“All my stories have encouraging messages and I want kids to know they can do anything they put their mind to and their imagination is the building block to the mind. I loved learning so much I would teach all the kids at the school including my brother. We would do everything together,”Chavarria said.
Going on to high school and one year of junior college, Chavarria was determined to do something more than work on a farm the rest of her life. She moved to the coast and began singing at a hotel and continuing to write her stories.
She met her husband, David, a ship captain, when he heard her singing one night. He had moved to Belize to recover from a n accident and they moved back to Fairhope nine years later to be near his mom, who was in bad health.
“I love to tell stories with pictures and that’s why I did the publishing and illustrating myself. I wanted to control what went in the stories and get a feel for how to publish a book. It was very hard work and I went through a lot of ups and down during the process but I got it done. The next book in the series (Little Miss Sassy and the Evil Conquistador’s Treasure) I am going to get someone else to publish though,” said Chavarria, laughing.
In addition to the books, Chavarria also makes handmade “Little Miss Sassy” dolls and jewelry too. “I had to make my own clothes growing up and so I just decided to make Sassy dolls too.”
While living in Belize, Chavarria recorded several music CD’s and wrote political poetry as well as paint folk art pictures. “I tried to capture the Belizian culture in my poetry and art and want to try and display some of my work at the various shows and festivals in the future.”
“I plan to continue writing and sharing more of my stories in the future, for I have so many stories and pictures of those stories bottled up in my head just waiting for their chance to jump out onto the paper,” said Chavarria.
Both books are $10 each and the handmade doll is $45. All items can be ordered through the school at (251) 947-4003 or online at sherrylsartandbooks.com Chavarria also has a facebook page as well.