Bellevue author Curtis Manley is always inspired by a good haiku.
So when he began working on his recent children’s book, “The Crane Girl,” he made sure his own haiku helped make the backbone of the book.
Beautifully illustrated by Lin Wang, “The Crane Girl” retells a classic Japanese folk tale, “The Crane Wife.”
Yasuhiro and his father live alone, poor but happy. While chopping wood one day, Yasuhiro comes upon an injured crane and helps rescue it. The crane flies away, and the very next day a girl named Hiroko arrives at Yasuhiro’s cottage looking for shelter.
She sees the family’s poverty and offers to make silk to help. She produces the finest silk ever seen in that land and it sells for a high price in town. Soon, Ryota, Yasuhiro’s father, is overcome by greed, which leads to the inevitable end of the book.
Unlike the traditional story, however, Manley finishes with a happy ending.
“In the original story, all the main characters are adults,” he said. “In mine, I wanted to try out to make the main character a young boy, and it was the father’s greed who changes everything. In the end, the boy and the girl end up together.”
Manley populates the book with his own haiku, and as a member of the American Haiku Society, he is well-practiced in the art form.
“I use the haiku to illuminate the thoughts of the characters in the book,” he said.
Manley moved to Bellevue in 1999 from North Carolina and has been active in the poetry scene in Puget Sound ever since. He lives near Crossroads.
He has written two other children’s books, “The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read,” and “Shawn Loves Sharks,” both published in the last year.
The first is about Nick, a boy who loves to read but keeps getting interrupted by his cats. He decides to teach them to enjoy his hobby so he can have some peace. One cat picks reading up much faster than the other and Nick must learn patience and how to deal with different abilities.
“Like human children, the cats don’t learn at the same pace,” Manley said.
In “Shawn Loves Sharks,” the eponymous character loves the aforementioned creatures so much, he’s wearing on his classmates’ nerves and chases poor Stacy around the playground pretending to be one. This changes when the students are assigned an assignment on predators and Stacy is assigned the Great White Shark. The tables turn.
Manley began to “get serious” about his children’s book writing in 2007, when he started on “The Crane Girl.” He said the key to finding story ideas is to write them down as they happen and then come back to them later and see if it still resonates.
He has advice for other potential authors.
“Find a critique group that meets regularly,” he said. “It’s always worthwhile taking things you’ve written to a group like that.”
It wasn’t an easy path for Manley either. It took him three years before he landed an agent and things began to move for him. He finally sold “The Crane Girl” in 2014.
He’ll be celebrating the launch of “The Crane Girl” and “Shawn Loves Sharks” this weekend on Mercer Island.