This week my Guest Blogger is the children's author Martina Graf; her pen name is Martina Schmerlaib (I am jealous I have always wanted to have a pen name!). Martina has many talents, she was a journalist for over ten years, and now she is working as part of the exhibition team at the Abbey of St Paul in a small town a few miles from Wolfsberg in Southern Austria. Martina published her first children's book "Lorri's colourful world – a Story of True friendship, in December 2020.
When I was studying to be a curator, I read John Berger's book "Ways of Seeing"; Berger's work has been very influential; his observations have changed the way we view the world:
"'Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world." John Berger, Ways of Seeing, (Penguin, 1972).
Since I moved to Austria and have taken more time to look around me, I have realised that we often look, but we often don't really see. I love Martina's story because it takes us one step further, we must not only look and see, but we must also remember to look beneath the surface.
Seeing not with the eyes but with the heart by Martina Graf.
Seeing is something we have "unlearned". I don't mean seeing a person physically but seeing someone with the eyes of the heart. In these times, full of mobile screens filled with beautiful people on different media channels and thousands of pictures passing before our eyes every hour, we are overwhelmed by this vast aspect of our lives. We are constantly wired up; perhaps this is a little crazy and even sad because, in this well-connected world, people are feeling more and more alone.
In Africa, the Zulus welcome each other with these words: "I see you! "Just three little words, but they have a powerful meaning. It doesn't only mean seeing someone as a person; it means I respect and appreciate you. The usual reply to this is: "I exist for you". We can read the hidden messages in this exchange: the mutual understanding that these words convey.
I created the little sheep Lorri, the main character in my children's book "Lorri's Colourful World," to help us remember how important it is to see people completely.
Lorri is different from other sheep. She has black spots on her fur, which she doesn't like, so she always tries to hide them. But as she meets other animals on her journey, she accepts that inner behaviour is even more important than external factors. She meets Timmy, a millipede, with only 999 instead of 1000 feet. She also gets to know Mina, a ladybird with little red wings but without the dark spots on them. Finally, she meets Igor, the shy hedgehog who only has three spikes on his back and not hundreds like all the other hedgehogs.
I am lucky because a children's book gains so much by having illustrations, and my illustrator, Kirstin Wiedl, has done a great job of bringing all my characters to life, but I hope that readers, both young and old, will also understand the message of my book.
Whatever these animals look like, they all have something special inside, which is even more valuable than that thing we call "beauty "or "normality". They all have exceptional talents: Timmy is a good carpenter, Mina is very clever because she is always curious and questioning, and Igor is a great cook. Lorri has a lot of courage and the talent to bring hearts and minds together. And finally, they all keep a great treasure inside: they are excellent at creating friendships.
I was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's well-known book "The Little Prince: it is only with the heart that one can truly see; what is essential is invisible to the naked eye." In my story, I write about how we often allow ourselves to worry about the external and admire only the physical aspects of individuals, forgetting how to see people with the eyes of our hearts.
Outward appearances alter, fade and decline, but our inner beauty remains constant, authentic and beautiful.
If you are interested, you can order the book directly at the homepage of my publisher: www.karamedia.at (14,90 Euro). Thank you very much!
Find out more here: Lorri Storry (lorri-story.com)
Why not follow Lorri on Instagram! @lorri_story • Instagram photos and videos.
Martina also works at the beautiful Abbey in St Paul: Benediktinerstift St. Paul - Das Schatzhaus Kärntens mit Ausstellungen, Bibliothek, Basilika, Barock-Garten, Kristalldom (stift-stpaul.at)