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Blanket eating alligators and the science of what happens at night

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, writer Lisa Deresti Betik has published her first children's book

Lisa Deresti Betik has been a storyteller since she was small.

According to a recent press release, she used to spin tales about invisible, blanket-eating alligators as a child. 

After falling out of bed one night, she convinced her family that the Tooth Fairy had made it happen.

A student at Sister Mary Clare elementary school in the Sault, she often got lost in the “fascinating worlds she found in books.”

Living in the Sault, Deresti Betik grew up surrounded by majestic lakes and forests that encouraged her curiosity and developed her deep appreciation for nature.

She went to Mount St. Joseph College for grades 9 and 10 and Sir James Dunn C&VS for the remainder of her time in high school.

“I left Sault Ste. Marie after high school to study in the Concurrent Education program at Queen’s University in Kingston, and then moved to Southern Ontario for my first teaching job.”

Although Deresti Betik currently lives in Waterloo with her family, she has kept her connection to the Sault.

“My parents, one of my brothers and his family and some of my other relatives all live there, and I love coming back home with my husband [who is also from the Sault] and our two sons every summer to visit.”

She also keeps in touch with many friends who still live in the community.

“I’m always interested to hear what’s happening there,” laughs Deresti Betik.

It was her time in university that Deresti Betik gained experience writing.

“I was an English major at Queen’s, so I did a lot of writing for my courses during those years,” she says.

“When I was establishing myself first as a teacher and then as a new mom, I had less time and energy to give to writing, but I always kept reading. I wrote a personal essay about parenthood when our boys were small and decided on a whim to send it to Today’s Parent magazine for their ‘Your Turn’ feature, and they published it.”

A few years after that she began blogging, creating an online page called Pocketfuls.

“Family life was my motivation for starting a blog,” she says.

“Blogging allowed me to develop my writing skills and make connections with other writers, who encouraged me and shared resources that helped me progress in my writing goals over the years.”

Deresti Betik says she started Pocketfuls as a creative outlet.

“[I wanted] to do something enjoyable for myself while I was mostly focused on raising our boys. I definitely didn’t imagine then that it would lead me to writing published children’s books. That goal materialized over time as I practiced, learned, and became more confident.”

Since creating her blog, Deresti Betik has continued to write regularly.  

“I’ve always loved writing and the idea of being a published author.”

It was Deresti Betik’s choice to be a stay-at-home mom that truly set her on a path to actually becoming an author.

“I think if I had decided to stay in my teaching career, I probably would have missed some of these important steps that allowed me to become a published author.”

Throughout her sons’ childhoods, she spent many hours reading books with them and helping them learn about the fascinating things that they were interested in.

“This taught me a lot by introducing me to all kinds of great writing for kids,” she says.

“I love that I’m now writing the kind of books that our sons enjoyed so much when they were younger.”

Deresti Betik’s first book called In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night was published Sept. 1.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky,” she says.

“I remember watching meteor showers and the aurora borealis at friends’ camps near the Sault when I was a teenager and being completely amazed by these phenomena and why they happen. I still am.”

Several years ago, Deresti Betik watched a The Nature of Things that focused on sleep and dreaming.

“I started wondering, what other curious things happen at night? It turns out there are many wild and wonderful things that go on while we’re sleeping. I thought others might be keen to read about them, too.”

Deresti Betik describes the theme of the book as “fun science”.

“There is a lot of information for readers to absorb, but it’s presented in an approachable way,” she says.

“There are far-out facts included that make the book engaging for young readers.”

The book features illustrations by Josh Holinaty interspersed throughout the text.

“Josh is a super talented artist who lives in Toronto and has illustrated several books for children,” says Deresti Betik.

“I had randomly noticed his work a few years ago in a bookstore when one of his cover illustrations really appealed to me, so I was excited when Kids Can Press sent me a shortlist of possible illustrators for In the Dark and his name was on it.”

Betik says that Holinaty’s illustrations make the science concepts come alive through his drawings.

“[He] perfectly captures the sense of wonder I hope the book will inspire in young readers.”

The book is published by Kids Can Press, a Canadian-owned publisher of children’s books.

“In 2017, after months of refining my idea, doing lots of research, and writing some sample chapters, I crossed my fingers and mailed Kids Can Press an unsolicited, detailed proposal for a book about night. It was the first non-fiction book proposal I’d ever submitted and I was so eager and hopeful, but also very aware that it’s difficult to break into children’s book publishing.”

She didn’t hear anything for months, but one day, the publisher contacted her to express interest.

“There was a lot of happy shrieking in our house that day,” she says.

Launching a book during a pandemic provided Deresti Betik with an unexpected experience.

“Because this is my first book, I don’t have anything to compare this launch to, so I don’t really know what I’m missing. I’m not sure yet what opportunities might come from launching In the Dark.”

Betik says she’s learning as she goes.

“I hope that people enjoy the book and I hope I do find opportunities to connect with people about it.”

Although she doesn’t have any plans for a formal in-person book launch at this point, she is looking for opportunities to interact virtually with young readers, their families and their teachers.

“I’m currently working on my second non-fiction book for children, which will also be published by Kids Can Press,” she says, noting that animal lovers should watch for this book in spring 2023.

Find out more information about Lisa Deresti Betik and her book on her Facebook and Instagram pages

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night can be purchased at Indigo/Chapters online.