Yunita Harahap is an author and former editor from Indonesia, now residing in the US. She describes her journey as a children’s writer in this interview, condensed and shared with permission of fellow Indonesian author Fida Abbott.
Q: Why did you want to be a children’s book author?
I am a children’s book lover and cannot stop buying them for my collections. They always bring comfort and joy with their simple stories and good teachings. I want to make children happy with my stories by creating a character that can be a good friend to them through educational, simple and fun stories.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your Coki children’s books.
Coki is a loving, kind young pigeon carrier who is curious about everything and dares to take risks for his friends’ sake. In Coki’s stories, we can see his many good traits. Coki makes mistakes but is willing to learn from his mistakes to become a better bird. We can see the nature of children in Coki’s heart. He loves to play with his friends and is often tempted to delay his tasks.
Q: Where do you get inspiration to write children’s books?
Sometimes I got ideas by walking at a park or around my house. As I heard birds chirping in trees, my heart was tickled and I wanted to know what they were “talking” about? If I saw a bird fly quickly overhead, my heart wondered, “Why is this little buddy in a hurry? Is there an important message that it wants to pass to its friends?” My imagination and my observation blended together to develop the stories.
Q: What are important keys to make stories interesting for children?
I intentionally begin Coki’s stories with the setting at home near Coki’s family to stress the importance of family. Children love to be surrounded by their families, so that will attract young readers. The other key is to add humor because children love to play and have fun. In each book, I add a simple game so the readers can have fun playing the game while enjoying the story. Another key is the stories’ cute illustrations. I am so blessed that I met Yoseph Jee, a talented, dedicated illustrator for children’s books.
Q: How do you participate in making your books available to children?
In Jakarta, I occasionally joined a ministry to an orphanage where we could tell stories to the kids and introduced Coki to those children. I also gave Coki books to the street kids I met every day on the bus. If my friends were going to remote areas of Indonesia, I entrusted Coki’s books to them so they could give them away to children or school libraries. In 2012, when Coki celebrated his 12-year anniversary, I invited Coki’s fans to donate books to libraries in remote areas of Indonesia or give them as gifts to children they knew.
Yunita’s books are available online from Bina Kasih publishing house (in Indonesian).