The Child in Us Review

Elizabeth Ivanecky Canadian creative writer who released her debut book in December 2020 through Creator Institute and New Degree Press. Our roots go way back to our writing intern days at Study Breaks Magazine, where we were randomly put into the same workshop four years ago. We kept in touch long after our time in the program because a virtual international writer friendship has to be one of the coolest things ever, right? And it is. Elizabeth went on to write a blog series, The Happiness Project. An experience that would revolve into something more than even she expected. Today, her Happiness Project is one of my favorite books! Yes, book! While she was interviewing family, friends, and co-workers for her blog series, someone proposed that she create a book rather than just a blog. The Child in Us was born.


Emily Craig: What is happiness to you?


Elizabeth Ivanecky: Happiness is being grateful for what I have, who I have, and who I am. My greatest happiness comes from my family. Happiness is also cultivating my relationships with friends and community members. Building communities is important to me. My faith in God gives me great love, peace, joy, and strength. Admiring the natural world has always made me happy. Nurturing my love of stories also gives me great joy.


One year after her book's publication, I finally was able to read it. I started 2022 off by diving into my author best friend's work. Her writing did not disappoint one bit. I had never finished a book in less than a month & not due to not liking the book but being so busy. But I finished her book in two weeks!! Invanecky's The Child in Us is wholesome, relatable, and delivers sunshine with each encouraging word.


Every single person's happiness story warmed my soul. Their personal lives broke my heart and lifted my spirits at times. I felt for each person and I couldn't look away. My heart loved them all.



After all this time, I was able to pick Elizabeth's brain a bit. Her writing journey is such an encouraging one, and a story of happiness and gratitude that everyone should read. I am very thankful for our virtual friendships. She is truly a ray of sunshine and hope in these uncertain times in our lives.


EC: What is the message you hope readers take away when they read The Child in Us?


EI: I hope my readers stay true to the essence of who they are as people. I also hope that my readers reflect on their own happiness journeys and that they seek to build a life story they are proud of. Let your inner child, or essence, guide you as you walk this journey in life. It is easy to be afraid that your greatest passions and dreams will not be fulfilled. Or to be envious of those who have achieved what you desire. Trust me, I’ve been there. Instead, stay grounded in courage and spread love, kindness, and goodwill to all those you encounter. I hope these stories remind you to enjoy each moment as you create your happiness journey. May you create beauty and know that your life is precious, meaningful, and beautiful.


 

A Ray of Sunshine - Ms. Elizabeth Lucy Ivanecky!!


Emily Craig: What inspired you to write the Happiness Project? What moment did you know this HAD to be a book?


Elizabeth Ivanecky: God sowed the seeds for the vision of this book at an uncertain moment in my life. I had just graduated from university and I was scared because the season of being a university student ended. In my book, I talk about how it was a conversation, a song, and a quote that led me on my book writing journey. The conversation I had was with my brother who encouraged me to continue pursuing my dreams of being a writer even when I was worried about financially supporting myself. The song was “The Child in Us” by Enigma, which reminded me of being a little girl again. And the quote was from Heath Ledger:


“Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house as if life was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy.”

My fears, doubts, and worries reached a climax one night as I recall crying myself asleep. Sometime past midnight, I decided I did not want to be the victim of my own story. I wondered in that moment if anyone else felt the same way I did about my future. I remembered the late actor’s quote on happiness and thought I wanted to be this person asking about people’s happiness. That was the moment I decided I needed to start this project. The idea came from a place of genuine curiosity for the human condition and happiness. I did not begin with the intention of my project being a book. That moment came later on when I interviewed Dr. Pavel Ivanovitch, my dentist. He told me that my project should be made into a book. With courage, I agreed and continued.



EC: In your book, you tell your readers that storytelling has always been a part of your life. How did that help you step into the role of an author?


EI: I fell in love with stories from the bedtime tales my father had told my brothers and me. He is my favorite storyteller to this day. While he inspired my love of stories, I became attuned to them all around me. My oldest brother is also a great storyteller. I listened to family friends. As a little girl, I was shy and quiet, more inclined to listen than to speak. The ability to listen rewarded me with some of the most incredible stories I have ever heard. I think this simple ability to listen helped me become an author. I learned so many important life lessons from my parents and family friends by listening to their advice and life experiences.




EC: What made you want to be an author? I know storytelling, but what else steered you into writing books?


EI: As I’ve mentioned before, my love of storytelling ignited a burning passion to write and tell stories and share them with the world. I’ve always had a reverence for the written word and the oral word. It is beautiful to see even just the shapes of words and letters, a simple gift I will always treasure as I recall being so excited as a little girl to learn hand write. I am drawn to storytelling because I have always had an appreciation for Creation and the natural world. There are billions upon billions of precious miracles that happen each day in nature if we only train our eyes to recognize these wonders. Of course, we, as humanity, are a part of nature. The human condition and human spirit absolutely fascinate me and never ceases to amaze. The human condition is a world wonder. For while humanity has committed atrocious acts of the mass destruction of human life, we have created far more beautiful, loving, kind, precious, good, and joyous moments. Oftentimes, our common humanity lies in little acts of kindness. It is my highest honor to be able to capture just a fraction of these special moments.



EC: What authors/books have inspired your journey thus far?


EI: My favorite storyteller is my father. Growing up, he would tell the most beautiful bedtime stories to my brothers and me. He inspired my love of stories. I knew I wanted to give others the same joy he had given me through stories. My children's Bible is the first book of stories I remember reading and adoring. I was amazed at the revelatory stories. They taught me both moral precepts and also entertained my thirst for the beauty of stories. After being inspired both in faith and storytelling, I shortly read my first book series, the Anne of Green Gables series, which is one of my favorite series. The main character Anne Shirley not only inspired my imagination but taught me to always stay true to myself. As I continued to cultivate my love of stories through any form of stories I could – oral stories, books, songs, video games –

I adored reading The Chronicles of Narnia series. I felt as though I had been experiencing the adventures in Narnia. As an adult, not too long ago, I read Sergei Lukyanenko’s World of Watches series. His series challenged me philosophically, as is common in Russian works, and reminded me how much I enjoyed the beautiful worlds authors would create. I enjoyed the lessons I learned on the human condition and the fantastical world of good and evil. Another author who I greatly admire and hope to follow in his footsteps as a writer is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In his works, he doesn’t shy away from discussing complex topics like human nature, death, and religious doubt. I hope to continue his work in openly discussing tough topics.




EC: What did your Happiness Project teach you about happiness, and how have you included those lessons into your life?


EI: There are many beautiful lessons I’ve learned from this project. I will give you just three of them. The first lesson is to trust my inner child to guide me on my playful path toward lasting happiness. Each day I do my best to approach life with a sense of wonder and innocence as if seeing ordinary things for the first time. I think my inner child comes out through my silly nature. I poke fun at myself and laugh together with my family, friends, and community members at simple, ordinary things we do. The second lesson is to be grateful for all my loved ones, all that I am, and all that I have. My greatest joy comes from my family and loved ones and spending time with them. I hope to never take this time I have with them for granted and find new ways to love and cherish them each day. I also learned to make my own life special and beautify others’ lives with kindness and love. In thinking about taking care of Creation, I hope to also make use of the things I own and avoid wasting things wherever possible. The last lesson is to be patient and trust in my journey. Not all of my dreams and hopes will come true at once. This was a hard but important lesson to learn. It helped me to live more in the present moment and not worry as much about how the future will unravel. While I’ve always been a future thinker, it is important for me to find balance between living in the present but also working toward my dreams in the future.



EC: The Child in Us is your debut novel, what was that writing process like: from idea to publication?


EI: One of my goals right from the start of my project was to find something I enjoyed about each of the stages in this journey. I do believe I succeeded in this. I remember the night I decided to commit myself to this project. This project was my lantern in a dark, uncertain time in my life. Looking back at the beginning, I see now God gave me this vision not just to help others, but as a reminder to pursue my dreams. When I was choosing people to interview for my project, I thought about all the people in my immediate circles who I shared a connection with, even if only a small one. I chose those who not only were excited about the project itself, but also those who had the courage and willingness to share their stories with me.


I felt I had a great responsibility to do their stories justice and to take care of their story. It felt as though I was holding them and their stories in my arms. In the interviews, I treated them as conversations and explorations of each person. I cast my judgments, views, and beliefs out and listened objectively to the person in front of me. Doing my best to avoid my own biases paved the way for the truth of each person’s story to come through.


In the writing of each story, I quickly realized that a simple biographical account of each person’s story was not enough to capture the essence of the vision of my book. That’s why I changed my approach to mixing the short story, biography, and memoir styles all in one. Writing these stories has been my favorite writing project I’ve done to date. I experienced a serenity while writing.


When it came time to find a publisher for my book, I sent my query letter to as many as 30 different publishers and was rejected by all. I wondered if it had been that my book and the vision I had for it did not fit neatly into any one category. I was seriously considering self-publishing, but a good friend of mine, Haley Newlin, had recommended New Degree Press and here I am today published with them. I am forever grateful to Haley and everyone at the Creator Institute and New Degree Press for helping to bring my book baby to audiences worldwide.


When I launched my pre-order campaign, I was terrified and excited at the same time. Terrified because I never raised money for anything before. Yet, excited because I wanted to share the good news with others that I was publishing. I was so overwhelmed with joy when I saw how many people in my communities supported me and my writing. I was humbled by their love and care for my dreams.


The most challenging part of the entire process was the revisions stage. I rewrote about 45,000 words of my 53,000-word book and wrote another 5,000 words during that time. It felt like I was running a marathon in the time of a sprint. Yet, this was also the stage of publication where my book came together. All the themes, lessons, stories came together to bring the vision of my book to fruition. Working with my editor, Julie Colvin, who guarded my vision for this book and worked with me on my chapters to make this vision realized was an incredible blessing. She pushed me to dig deeper to tell the story that needed to be heard.



In this process, I also worked together with my cover designer to create a beautiful cover for my book. And he did not disappoint. I cried when I saw the cover of my book because it captured the essence of my book. I see past, present, and future epitomized beautifully. To put it simply, the young woman in the present holds onto the little girl, her inner child, that she once was as she journeys through life – the vast, mysterious "tracks" of adulthood ahead. When I published my book in December, all of these moments returned back to my memory as a beautiful symphony.




EC: What would you tell an up-and-coming author?


EI: You will make a great author one day. Don't give up on your dreams and don't give in to the negativity around you. Trust in your dreams and your journey. Keep your passions alive. Help and be kind to others. Love others.



EC: What are your plans for future books? Different genres, another memoir/short stories book? Spill the tea.


EI: I will be writing and publishing more books in the future. While I will continue trusting in God to guide me in my writing, I would love to pursue fiction. In the process of writing and publishing The Child in Us, God has ignited in me a newfound dream of writing children's books. I don't know when and I don't know how, but I do trust that writing children's books will be in my future. So yes, I will be on the lookout as well for an illustrator. Attention all illustrators: I’m on the hunt now for a partner to work with me on creating beautiful children’s stories. I am currently working on my second book which will be in the fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, and adventure genres. That’s all I will say about it for now!



In two weeks times in January 2022, I devoured each and every story within the pages of Elizabeth's book. I could feel her happiness and struggle with each passing word as I read through her personal annotates in the Author's Note and Introduction. She was strong and vulnerable in the way she spoke to her readers and herself. Each word is written with care whether it is her story or someone else's. Her wholesomeness radiated off the page.


EC: Who's story sticks out in your mind when people ask you about your book? What did that person teach you?


EI: I will start by saying that I learned valuable lessons from all the people I interviewed for my book. It’s a tie between two stories: Dr. Pavel Ivanovitch, my dentist; and Pat Ertl, my kindergarten teacher. Both stories are historical in nature and entrenched in traditional ideals that I too hold deeply in my heart such as family and faith. Dr. Ivanovitch’s story is all too familiar to me. I see the history of my parents and their struggles in all those who emigrate from their countries for a better life for their children. The sacrifice and bravery of those who served in World War II is a part of history that is not so far away from my family. My grandparents both served in the 1940s and became war heroes, but for a heavy price paid on their mental health. I honor their sacrifices and memory. I saw a lot of my family’s stories in Dr. Ivanovitch’s whose father also served in the war. From his story, I learned to never give up in life and always strive for a better way. Mrs. Ertl’s story gives me great hope that I too can overcome my sorrows in life with God’s strength. Her story also gives me great joy in the reminder that children are gifts from God and they are the greatest treasures in our lives as they are visions of innocence, wonder, and purity. There is such a reverence for tradition in her story that resonates to the depths of my heart and soul.


The words only become deeper from there as we dive into stories from people she interviewed. Ivanecky doesn't hold back as she starts her happiness stories with a very emotional story about a family trying to prove to the world that they matter, too. A story full of hope, love, endurance, and strength. Pavel's story is one of truth and value. He worked hard his entire life despite others putting him down. He kept going. He defeated all the odds against him.


"Don't fight with your fist. Fight with your head." - Pavel's father, Dimitri.

I could write all day about how passionate Elizabeth and her interviewees come across in this book. Each story is filled with emotions such as grief, hope, heartbreak, struggle, and success. All of those matter so much to this world. Each person is important and deserves the chance to be seen and heard. That's what this book symbolizes to me. Elizabeth is bringing these people and their stories to light - to share with others who may have experienced similar things but didn't know how or who to reach out to. The heartfelt stories continue throughout this collection, and not one of them is alike.


I love how Ivanecky has a personal connection with the people she's interviewing. This element makes her storytelling so unique and caring. She's so down-to-earth and calm as she writes their stories. From someone she knew through her parents to her own elementary school teacher to colleagues as she grew up - Elizabeth met and listened to them all.


Not only had Elizabeth grown up around some of these folks, but she was also even a student of her next interview subject. Pat had always wanted to be a teacher. From the moment her teacher entrusted a little Pat to clean the classroom, she knew she wanted to encourage the next generations the same way. Many years later, she would meet a 5-year-old Elizabeth and would impact her life. From that moment on, Elizabeth was always smiling at people and making their day. Her teacher not only influenced her life, but Elizabeth was a reminder of why Pat started in the first place.


On the flip side of a teacher's life, Ivanecky was able to show the before and during effects of the pandemic. Sandy's story was a perfect example of how teachers had to adapt over the years - either a pandemic or in need of new teaching methods. Her life is a true testament to the ever-changing state of teaching the up-and-coming generations. Elizabeth handled her story with care. Each new thread of information was passionate and wholesome.


She even showcase a struggling teacher, who had a student skipping class when they moved to online learning. Giovanni was defeated and hurt by the student's lack of want to learn. They couldn't discipline so instead they pressed on despite the pressure to do better from the world around them. His story taught me to be thankful and press on.


Two of my favorite stories are of people I know - Mark and Haley, who I met during a Study Breaks Magazine Writing Internship in 2018. I knew Haley's would be a part of the collection but Mark's story surprised me in all the best ways. I loved learning new things about fellow creative minds. They are both so different in their crafts yet both take care of what they create. Neither of them gives up or slows down even when the world or themselves puts them down time and time again. They keep going. Reading their stories gave me a new appreciation for both of their leadership in my life whether it was Study Breaks Magazine or Creator Institute - these two are awesome leaders. I love Haley's story. She's so incredibly brave in everything she faces. Even though her mental health halted her for a moment, she kept moving forward. She wants to be here and so many want her here. Her spooky stories are raw, spooky, and real because she puts pieces of herself in each one. She reminds us to be strong and face our fears. I am thankful for knowing both Mark and Haley.



EC: What would you tell an up-and-coming author?


EI: You will make a great author one day. Don't give up on your dreams and don't give in to the negativity around you. Trust in your dreams and your journey. Keep your passions alive. Help and be kind to others. Love others.



I could keep on and on about the stories in the book, but then you'd know everything. There are plenty of more stories to discover - go read, you won't regret it.


To wrap up this very mushy review, I loved how Elizabeth ended her book. She was so wholesome and comforting with each word. Honestly, she's a true ray of sunshine when she shares her words of encouragement. She's taught me to be more thankful for the life I have.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK


Two of the most grievous human conditions are loneliness and fear. They are siblings in our emotional world, which could lead to anxiety and depression for as many as forty million adults in America alone.


Each generation tends to face their own obstacles to happiness; millennial author Elizabeth Lucy Ivanecky is no exception as she embarks on a quest to ask the people that she admires - What does happiness mean to you?


The Child in Us: A Collection of Stories about Happiness is a compilation of creative nonfiction stories chronicling the happiness journeys of remarkable people in Elizabeth's life. She discovers that, despite the many harsh circumstances they have faced, they have found happiness forged from the simplest of places: their childhood. Our inner child holds an innocent purity that knows best what grounds us and brings us joy.

The Child in Us is relevant for anyone who could benefit from learning to honor the child within on their playful paths to peace of mind and true lasting happiness.



AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | FOXTALE BOOK SHOPPE


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Elizabeth Lucy Ivanecky is a Canadian creative writer who has a passion for the magic of storytelling. As a little girl, she would get lost in the fantastical realms of her wild childhood imagination through the bedtime stories her father shared, which cultivated her kind and playful spirit.


Nurturing her inner child as a young lady, Elizabeth knows what a privilege it is to grow old, yet also pledges that her essence will never grow up. She hopes through her writing she can inspire others to be kinder toward and love one another. She sees her future filled with possibilities and plans to always write stories that will enchant the little girl dearest to her heart. Herself.


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