Twenty-year-old Kilbirnie video-blogger and aspiring film-maker Petra Kotrotsos always dreamed she’d publish a book one day, as long as she could fight the cancer she was diagnosed with at the age of six.
At that age, all Petra wanted to be was a fairy princess. The following year she sat down with a family friend and wrote the story about how she’d had to leave princess dreams behind and turn into a warrior fairy to fight the cancer called neuroblastoma.
She fought it successfully that time, but it returned four more times before she turned 15. At 19 Petra attended a writing workshop organised by cancer specialist nurse Liz Sommer and Wellington publisher Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press. At the end of the session, Petra read out her childhood story and when she finished everyone clapped, and then Mary asked her if she’d ever imagined it as a picture book.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said Petra. ‘My creative projects – writing, video-blogging and film-making – have given me strength when times are tough, and I’d always planned to publish my writing, now here was the opportunity right in front of me!’
Petra saw the book as a way of helping children with cancer not to feel so scared or so alone, and to give medical professionals a better understanding of what it is their young patients face.
Mary found a young artist called Christina Irini Arathimos who had never illustrated a book before, and who – like Petra – is a Wellington woman of Greek descent. Her artwork was exactly as Petra had described the perfect illustrations: ethereal but strong, with a timeless quality. Mary organised a mentor for Christina Irini in award-winning illustrator Fifi Colston, and so work on the book began, with author and illustrator collaborating closely.
‘Petra’s and Christina Irini’s beautiful book tells the story of a courageous young woman,’ says the Mākaro publisher. ‘It combines childhood dreams with medical fact and more than a touch of magic, the perfect way to help children with cancer and their families deal with the fight ahead of them. But we also hope it will help children without cancer to develop empathy for friends and classmates facing a cancer diagnosis.’
I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess launches on Sunday, 2 July, 2017, at the Greek Community Hall with 200 people expected. Local printer Wakefields Digital printed the book and the Wellington Hospitals Foundation paid for the first print run.
‘It’s my big fat Greek book launch,’ says Petra. Sadly Christina Irini is overseas and can’t be there but her family will – with bells on.
I’d Rather Be a Fairy Princess by Petra Kotrotsos and Christina Irini Arathimos is available at all good bookstores, the Wellington Hospital gift shop and www.makaropress.co.nz