Natasha Withers
Biography of a Children's Books Reviewer

Natasha Withers
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My name is Natasha Marie Withers. I’m twenty-something-years-old…and I love children’s books.

I’ve been an only child all my life and though I was surrounded with many cousins who lived nearby (my mother has six siblings, so we’re a big family) I found myself alone most of the time in my early years. So I turned to individual activities (most of which are still my best hobbies) like arts and crafts, writing, and reading books, upon books…upon books. My mother was a big advocate of my reading education and would always take me to the library (I don’t even remember my first library card), have books sent to me in the mail, and generally get me as many books as she felt I needed. She would read to me and then as I got older, I would read to her. I love her so much for that.

Even as my years in late middle school, high school and even early college began to take me away from my love of reading children’s books, I believe to this day that it was all still there, just waiting for something to trigger that spark in me again:

Enter Creative Writing 3010, spring semester, 2011.

College life had begun to suck all the joy I had for reading and writing: I was writing uninspired essays about uninspired essays, reading books that seem to repeat the same information over and over, and I don’t think there has ever been, or ever again will be, a class that tested the strength of my religious faith like Introduction to Philosophy (though now that I look back at it, I became much stronger in my beliefs after taking that class). I nearly began to dread writing altogether. I was a junior student stuck with a major that I honestly did not like, but felt needed because of how well-paid I would be in the future. It was a way of thinking that did not suit me at all. And then, in my last semester as a junior student after finally deciding to seek another major, I quite accidentally took a class in Creative Writing.

I won’t bore any readers with all the details, but I have to say that it was like being born again. Even after experiencing the sheer happiness that came with leaving that soul-sucking major behind me and pursuing something that I loved and would make me happy as a person, I still had not rekindled my love for reading or writing. Creative Writing brought me back to literature and fiction and finally, on my own, I remembered my love of children’s books. I took out a nearly abandoned children’s story I had been working on, but had always felt too drained by school and work to finish and, well, finished it! I gave it to my professor to look over (I was a bit embarrassed because we only read and wrote adult literature in class). She offered me some advice about what needed work and praise about what was working already. She really inspired me and I was so happy to have someone other than my mom (who is still my biggest fan) love my story that I decided to make it into a mini series of three books which I am still working on.

Now, as I enter my fourth year of college, I feel more like myself than I have for three years. Even though I’ll have to stay in college a bit longer after changing majors and the future is not as certain as it once was, I’ve never been happier to say that I am now pursuing a degree in multimedia studies with a focus on computer animation. I’ve started reading children’s books again and have taken to encouraging my youngest cousins (boy, age 13 and girl, age 10) to get into reading as well. They probably won’t be too thrilled to know that I will only be getting them books for Christmas from now on. Among many other favorites, I’ve currently become intrigued with the children’s books written by Neil Gaiman. I’ve started writing again as well and will hopefully finish my first book series soon so that I can write even more for children and their families. Until then, fellow readers, keep reading, keep writing, and keep imagining.

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