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Local Nurse Pens Book That Speaks to all Parents

EAST LONGMEADOW, MA – Sarah Behnk shares “endearing” lessons she has learned as a parent – while juggling her career in the healthcare field – in a new book she felt compelled to write.

East Longmeadow resident Sarah Behnk is the author of “Mama, Where Are You Going?”

“Being a parent is the greatest gift, but it can be a challenge to balance it all,” Behnk said. “Let’s be honest. I am still trying to find the balance of being a mom, having a career, and finding the time to do the day-to-day errands and chores that are a part of life.”

Her 14-page board book, “Mama, Where Are You Going?,” is geared for youngsters up to the age of 5. All of the lessons are gleaned from her time spent with her daughter, Aria, who is now 3.

“The book teaches children that sometimes a parent has to leave, but that there is nothing more important than them,” said Behnk, who currently works as an infection prevention/employee health RN at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield.

Books have always been an important part of Behnk’s life and along with her husband David, they both knew they wanted to share their love of reading with their daughter.

“We wanted a strong family unit, so my husband and I have sacrificed,” Behnk said. “We both work part time to ensure that our daughter is with one of us.”

Behnk said that before the book was written, she would echo the words and thoughts of the book to help her daughter with the separation anxiety when she had to go to work.

“We use books as a learning tool,” Behnk said. “My daughter loves to repeat phrases in her books.”

Behnk’s journey to self-publishing began close to two years ago, and she has never looked back at the daunting task that it can take to bring an idea and then a book to fruition.

“When I self-published this board book I faced numerous rejections and obstacles,” Behnk said, adding “despite numerous setbacks it was important to finish this journey.”

Among the challenges she faced was finding an illustrator who could bring her vision of the characters to life. When she first began the process, she emailed and contacted more than a dozen regional illustrators.

“Many did not want to work with me,” she said. “One of the illustrators was open and honest and stated that most illustrators do not want to work with a self-published author. A self-published author does not have an agent or marketing team behind them to promote the book.”

Since Behnk wanted a “universal feel” for the book’s images, she researched the work of illustrators from an online marketplace.

“I hired Elettra Cudignotto, an illustrator in Italy, who was willing to work with me and saw my vision,” Behnk said.

Their collaboration lasted a year with email exchanges to ensure that the images captured Behnk’s scenarios of daily life.

“We worked back and forth because I wanted her to have her own creativity in the images,” Behnk said.

One of the last challenges that Behnk overcame was finding a company that would print a board book.

“I wanted a sturdy and long-lasting book,” Behnk said. “Many companies in the United States do not print board books for self-published authors.”

Undaunted, Behnk once again searched for options and found a company in New York that could accommodate her project.

“It was important for me to finish this book not only for myself, but for my daughter and moms,” said Behnk, noting that scenarios include leaving for work or making a trip to the post office or to do laundry. Also, she included a dad in the book who can be seen playing with the toddler.

“This book was about my journey, my guilt with balancing it all,” said Behnk. “It is a book that speaks to all moms but easily speaks to all parents.”

The book, priced at $6.99, can be purchased by visiting mamawhereareyougoing.com. As future book readings are planned, Behnk will have postings on Facebook at Mamawhereareyougoing.

Additionally, Behnk is reaching out to local libraries, preschools and organizations who would welcome a book reading and signing event. She can be reached via email at sarah@mamawhereareyougoing.com to make arrangements for events and is also willing to drop off books to those who wish to purchase them.

She also welcomes speaking to local clubs geared specifically for mothers, especially since she credits her time spent with moms in the East Longmeadow Mom’s Club as an important link to sharing information through weekly chats and play groups, as well as performing community service projects together.

“This is a simple, adorable and endearing book that pulls on the heartstrings of both parents and children,” said Behnk. “I feel my journey here and the story itself will be inspirational, uplifting and encouraging to others.”

– Article by Lori Szepelak