F&R: Hi Renata! Tell me about becoming a parent.
Renata Spies (RS): I was backpacking in Europe when I was 26. I had the time of my life and learned English; I’m Brazilian and English is not my first language. I met my husband, Robert – and I never went back to Brazil. We got married and started a life together in London.
When Ben was born, the idea was I would keep working full time. I took six months at home and I really wanted to go back to work. I was with Marriott Hotels, overlooking the European Asian market for incentive marketing. I was travelling a lot – our head office was in Washington – and I had a nanny at home looking after Ben. It was what I wanted to do; my dream career.
But one day, he walked for the first time – and I missed it. I started thinking, what’s more important for me now? Is it being with my child or having this career? It really surprised me that I wanted to be a mum, because since I left university I had this image of me as a career woman and working a lot. But now, being a mum is my main goal. I try to do the best I can – it’s a very hard job!
Ben was two when I stopped working and we came to New Zealand. It’s the perfect place to raise a family. There’s so much to do with kids and I think the government understands that you should be with your child for the first years and give all the tools for that. Daniel came four years after Ben. He’s 8 now and Ben is 12.
F&R: These days, you have more of a portfolio career, right?
RS: When Daniel started kindy, I thought ‘what now?’ I didn’t want to go back to the office because I still wanted to spend time with them so I decided to start my own events business. It was great because it showed me I should be networking. I put myself out there, enrolled in workshops and met all these businesswomen. Three years ago, I started Kapiti Women’s Expo, to show the community what this group of women is doing. That was growing for two years. It coincided with starting the publishing business so I decided to sell this year and pass it on.
Time management is one of my everyday challenges. Everyone’s struggling with that. At the Expo, I made sure one of the talks was about parenting. The speakers always went back to look after yourself first. If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after your family.
F&R: What does that look like for you?
RS: Every morning I go for a walk after I drop the kids off at school. I do a bit of yoga and I have my time that’s just for myself. And then I start my day. I know I have between 10am and 2pm to work; that’s four non-stop hours for my business.
I’m so glad that lots of companies nowadays are more flexible with mums and dads. They’re really seeing that your capability isn’t just available within office hours. You can work from home, or work in the evenings, and be as good as if you’re in the office; you still deliver but in a different way. My husband Robert works for New Zealand Post. They’re really flexible. It’s good that he can have that flexibility; you have to work as a team at home as well, parenting together.
F&R: What’s the story behind Spies Publishing?
RS: It started with Ben writing every day when he came back from school. I would see him on a lonely journey in front of his computer, just writing, and I didn’t know how to reward or recognise it. He wrote his first book Weirdo when he was 9. I had it published and I gave it to him as a gift. He hasn’t stopped writing since. I think he writes so much because he reads so much. Reading a lot gives him a great imagination. Children are so authentic in their thoughts and so funny and imaginative in their stories.
It’s a whole new world for me – I’ve never been in publishing before. When I started, I didn’t even know there were three edits; the structural edit, the copy edit and the proofreading. The most recent book, The Magic Pencil, had these three amazing editors. I found the best I could afford in order to have a really good quality of work. It didn’t take me long to realise I can do this; what I need is a great team of editors and designers to make me a good product. I’m learning as I go but I’m really excited. I hope we can inspire other kids to read more and write more. We need to really reward, recognise and nourish children’s writing.
F&R: You’re from Brazil and your husband’s from England. Even with technology, it can be incredibly difficult to build a relationship between children and their grandparents when they live in different countries. How have you dealt with that in you family?
RS: It’s amazing what technology can do. But there’s really nothing like grandmother’s cuddle and sitting down on the floor and playing with them. It’s not just the grandparents; it’s the extended family as well. We just came back from San Francisco. It was a family reunion with my sister and her family. There were seven children, all the cousins, all playing together. We try as much as we can to get together; I don’t want my children to grow up with no memories from family.
F&R: Last question: what’s the one piece of advice you’d pass along to new parents like me?
RS: I’m going to tell you what my grandmother told me when I was pregnant. She said babies need fresh air every day. So when I had Ben, I would go out with him every day to get fresh air. And then I realised it was for me! It’s not for the baby! My clever Nana, she knew! She died before I could tell her, but she knew I had to get out of the house and meet friends and go to playgroups – otherwise you can go crazy! So that’s my advice; just get out of the house every day and have some fresh air.
Check out Ben’s books, Weirdo and The Magic Pencil at Renata’s company, Spies Publishing.
Hello from Spies Publishing!
Hope you are all keeping warm with the arrival of Winter in New Zealand and the ghastly cold weather! But it's also great to see the sun making its appearance on the upper side of the Hemisphere. Thank you for all the new subscribers this month from that side of the world. Enjoy the sunshine!
Some of you might not know that Spies Publishing was born from our son's love for writing! Ben started writing since a very young age and as a mother, I followed his lonely journey for many years not knowing how I could reward or recognise his passion for writing. Until when he was 9 years old and I decided to publish his first book - Weirdo - and give to him as a present. I organised an amazing book launch for friends and family at our local library. The book was more than a gift for Ben. Since the launch, he's never stopped writing and his stories became funnier and more interesting which led me and my husband to take the plunge and start Spies Publishing - an independent publishing house creating children's books actually written by a child.
We have so many exciting ideas for the future, but I like to always go back and remind myself 'why' we started this business - to reward and recognise our son's passion for writing. And this is what we want to do for other children too. Recently I started running workshop to give other children the opportunity to also create their own books to take home and be proud of their writing. It's been an honour to meet hundreds of young writers in our workshops and I would love for you to join us at the future ones we have organised for this school holidays. Check date and locations below.
Thank you so much for being part of our journey and keep in touch.
Our workshops have been a great success and often booked out quickly. If you are looking for things to do this school holidays for the kids, check the dates and locations below and write down in your diary! We have a great line up of events and would love to have you there, including the "Beyond the Page" promoted by Wellington libraries.
"Create Your Book Workshop"
. Monday, 9th July - 10.30am - 11.30am - Waikanae Library
. Tuesday - 10th July - 9.30am - 1.30pm - The Roxy Cinema
. Friday, 13th July - 11am - 12pm - Ngaio Library
. Saturday, 14th July - 10.30am -11.30am - Upper Hutt CBD Towers
. Saturday, 14th July - 2pm - 3pm Hutt City War Memorial
. Tuesday, 17th July - 9.30am - 1.30pm The Roxy Cinema
. Wednesday, 18th July - 10.30am - 12.00pm Kapiti Communty Centre (Register with us! firstname.lastname@example.org)
. Saturday 21st July - 11am to 1pm - Writers Plot Readers Read
Our books can be found in a selection of bookshops around New Zealand. Welcome to our new bookshops: Take Note Tawa and Books for Kids in Hamilton.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our latest giveaway. The WINNER was Kim Corley . Thank you, Kim. Hope you're enjoying all the reading and the chocolate! Like our FACEBOOKpage to see our events and giveaways! And if you prefer INSTAGRAM, you can follow us HERE.
We had such a great time at the fantastic Booktown Featherston this year. Our workshop held over 30 children!! Wow! Thank you to everyone who came and enjoyed it. It was awesome to see so many young writers in the make!
Awesome to receive the reviews below and mention in the media. Thank you!
NZ Book Council
Thank you to all the media who had us featured recently. It's great to have our books reviewed and shared with young readers. Ben also did a great interview on the Australian radio station - Switch On Radio.