Shining a light on a Calgary author’s journey to discovering his love for writing children’s books
It’s all about reflection for a Calgary author who just released his latest book.
Kivell credits many of his past experiences in life for sparking his career as an author, including being a tennis coach and working in emergency services.
Back in 2005, Kivell was given a journal by a tennis player he was coaching at the time so he could write down observations, and that act ended up being the start of his writing career.
“It was a 100-page journal and after the tournament, I had only written about two dozen pages,” Kivell says.
“I had another 75 to 80 pages to go. So, I just started writing journal entries and that was the exact moment when writing became an interest for me at the time.”
Using writing to escape
Kivell was suffering from mental health issues as a result of working in emergency services, so he began to use writing as a form of escapism.
“I wasn’t dealing with my reality. I immersed myself in writing 110,000 to 115,000 words in seven months for my first book, Munutu Terra,” Kivell says.
“It provided me with so much pleasure and distraction that I was no longer concerned about my reality, or my mental health.”
Once Kivell recognized this, he sought out help over the last few years and is now able to be creative for fun, instead of as a coping mechanism.
“The last year and a half have probably been the best, and writing became a form of joy and pleasure and therapy,” he adds.
A supportive life partner
Kivell noted that his wife was one of his biggest supporters throughout his mental health journey.
“She’s never read one of my books,” Kivell says, adding she isn’t much of a reader, but she has supported him in other ways.
“She has been very understanding of what I’ve gone through as an individual and has been so patient and compassionate.”
Once Kivell began to feel more like himself, he started recognizing his deep love for writing children’s books, though he still continues to write fictional novels, which he says requires more of his attention and time.
Now that he no longer writes as a form of escapism, Kivell has found writing children’s books more enjoyable than novels.
“I imagine I’m either the child or the parent reading it, and if I’m laughing at myself while I’m writing this book, I imagine the reader laughing as well with me. It brings a lot of enjoyment that way.”
Taking inspiration from real life
His most recent publication, Lesley’s Favourite Holiday, was published in November and was based on his little sister, Lesley, and his wife.
“On Dec. 23, 1993, my sister blurted out to me and my brother, ‘Hey guys, do you know what day it is? It’s Christmas Eve Eve.’ And so ever since then we’ve made fun of her every year on Christmas Eve Eve,” Kivell recalls.
He combined this childhood memory with his wife’s childhood tradition of Tibb’s Eve, which is celebrated on Dec. 23 where she grew up in Newfoundland.
Kivell also explores different cultures and holidays around the world with this character—such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico—in the hopes of spreading a message to children everywhere.
“It’s about equality and experiencing other religions and traditions and holidays as a way to respect those other cultures and to become a more fulfilled human,” Kivell says.
“It is meant to teach kids to be thankful and to be giving and to be compassionate and to love one another for who we are.”
Coming down the pipe
Kivell has many other books on the go, two of which will come out in 2023.
Lily the Lion, which is set to be published by April, is a wholesome story based on his daughter about a lion that was raised by chickens.
“Eventually the chickens take her back to the zoo and they introduce her to her lion family because she’s ready to go back home,” Kivell says.
When Lily the lion first tries to adjust to her new environment, she feels incapable as she grew up as a chicken. However, she soon realizes that she is a lion and is able to do everything the other lions could do.
This idea came from a chant Kivell performs with his daughter to instill courage and confidence.
“Whenever she tries something new, which might involve her getting hurt, I’ll start chanting ‘Lily the lion, Lily the lion’ and then she will start chanting ‘Lily the chicken, Lily the chicken,’” Kivell explains.
“So this book is pretty much just for my daughter in order to help her realize how much potential she has and that she’s really a lion, even though she thinks she’s a chicken.”
Finding joy in life
The second book Kivell plans to publish by late spring or early summer of 2023 is Billy the Bull Buys an Antique Store, which is also based on his daughter.
“My daughter is prone to injuries. She’s always got bruises on her legs. My wife and I just started saying, ‘You’re such a bull in a China shop,’” Kivell says.
Kivell is constantly juggling many ideas and plans to focus on writing his new books throughout the next year.
After pushing through his mental health issues and finding joy in life again, Kivell hopes other people can learn from his story.
“For the longest time, I thought that writing was going to be just for me, but I’m ready to become that inspiration for other people,” Kivell adds.
Lesley’s Favourite Holiday is available for purchase on Amazon.