Once Upon a time, not so long ago, I was born on a magical island we still, to this day, call Aruba.
It was under a full moon, on June 3 of 1974, that I came into this world as Liliana Lorraine Erasmus.
My parents were overjoyed with their first-born, but they would soon discover that their sweet little princess wasn't quite the sparkly pink dresses type.
Instead of playing dress up or doll games, I would rather climb trees and explore the wilderness together with my brother and cousins -- all boy cousins of the wildest kind (don't let those cute clown costumes fool you).
It wasn't always easy being the only girl around. I had to become living proof that girls could kick butt, too. That's how I discovered my superpower: make believe! Never underestimate the powers of imagination.
Adventure ideas I got out of books or I'd make them up. I've always been fascinated by stories. That's why I started to create my own versions, writing them down even before I'd learned how to read and write. How? Like this:
(Once... upon... a... time...)
When I was 6, I wrote my first article for the school's newspaper about an airplane crash. I even included some handdrawn images. Soon after, my parents were called to school. The transition from Aruba to The Netherlands must've had a profound impact on me, or so they thought.
At 9, I won my very first prize and publication with local children's magazine Matinette's 'Letter Of The Month'. I didn't even know I was competing. I only had a couple of article suggestions for the editor. When my teacher and headmaster congratulated me in front of the whole class, I felt my head reaching melting point. My Advance brought back my cool: a gift certificate of 25 Aruban Guilders!
Another time, I decided to post an ad in a popular teen magazine, hoping to find a nice friend to correspond with. Instead of one, I was bombarded with tons of pen pals (remember those, and the snail mail era?) from all over the world. The postman wondered how such a young person (11) could possibly have her own business. I was receiving hundreds of handwritten letters a week!
After years of career-sampling and soul-searching (1992 - 2013), I finally found what I was looking for: my true passion.
I relived many childhood memories by writing and illustrating children’s poems in native language Papiamento. In 2003 my first book, ‘Rima Rond Di Aruba’ (Rhymes Around Aruba), got published by local publishing house Editorial Charuba.
There was a great need for original literature the local children could relate to. I discovered a way to not only create and share as many books as possible, but most importantly, to encourage the island to discover the pleasure of reading.
Before I became published, I had no idea what that meant; being an author. I never thought about school visits nor presentations and had no clue about the quantities of children not reading, let alone the reasons why.
Since my first publication, I've learned a great deal about my readers and I've discovered other motivations (not only for my own enjoyment) to write.
In 2004, my friends (Indra Anthony-Pereira, Ilaina Franco Franka) and I started the Papiamente Foundation. By offering quality publications, organizing reading and book events, promotional and awarenes campaigns, the foundation aims to bring parents, teachers, children, the whole island closer to books.
The ‘Rima Rond Di Aruba’ poetry collections led to a number of essential children’s publications for my island, including ‘Mi Prome Buki Di ABC’ (the island’s first ABC book), the first Children’s Festival Book Gift ‘Hopus’, 'Nano E Enano' (Nano The Dwarf) radio plays, from which an audio-book is published, a children’s song book with music CD, kamishibai story cards for all the schools in Aruba.
By participating with the Children's Book Week in Bonaire since 2005, I've been able to share my stories, rhymes and raps with the other Papiamento/Papiamentu speaking islands.
In 2007 I made my Dutch debut with the picture book 'Hopus', published by Uitgeverij Zwijsen as a Leesleeuw (Reading Lion series for elementary schools). A year later, I was celebrating the Dutch Kinderboekenweek (Children's Book Week) with school and library presentations across The Netherlands.
Today, I'm so happy to be writing for the children of The Netherlands and Belgium, too. I've written a number of reading level books for different age groups and reading abilities, and had the pleasure of working with amazingly talented illustrators.
'De Knijpkat' (The Dynamo Torch Lamp) was my first mystery-thriller for reluctant readers, published in 2012 by Uitgeverij Delubas. And there's more on the way. Check out the complete book list...
The Internet and Social Media opens up a world of opportunities for so many, especially freelance writers. That's what I discovered in 2009, when an inflight magazine approached me for a writing gig. The magazine was looking for an Aruban contributor for their new Caribbean destination section (thank you, personal website!), and eventhough I was a non-native English writer with no travel writing experience whatsoever, I most gratefully said, 'Yes'.
Soon, - as I was updating my profiles and building my online presence - more writing gigs followed, from investigative journalism work to setting up a writers team for a massive online gaming app in Malta. Once again, I was bombarded. This time, with lots of amazing possibilities. But I couldn't let my impulsive nature get the better of me.
Blogging about Aruba gives me the chance to learn and share more about my homeland. I want visitors to get the most out of their Dutch Caribbean vacation. Give them all the ins and outs I would like to get if I were traveling somewhere. Planning a visit? Or just curious? Check out my 10BEST/USA TODAY Aruba site.
In 2015, I became a wellness blogger for the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. Another unexplored area that's been a very healing journey for me.
And I’ve been exploring ever since, as a contributing writer for the ARUBA NIGHTS PUBLICATIONS, P&O Cruises’ Moments magazine... and hopefully, for the rest of the world next.
If you have an interesting writing project, feel free to contact me, I'd love to hear about it.