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Calgary youth educator sells quirky jewellery to fund children’s book

Mackenzie Fraser is doubling down on making her dreams come true.

Fraser, 28, a youth counsellor at the YWCA Calgary, is funnelling her passion for jewellery to help fund her lifelong dream of writing a children’s book. 

“I’ve known for a very long time that I’ve wanted to write a kids book because reading was such an influential part of my childhood,” said Fraser.

“There is so much magic in stories.”

It started as a hobby

Fraser started making jewelry last year and eventually started selling it online as a way to raise extra money to help publish her book, The Land of Cotton Candy Hair.

“I needed a hobby during the pandemic, and I love earrings, so I started making weird earrings and figured I’d sell them and use that money towards the book,” Fraser said.

The earrings and necklaces are Fraser’s original designs drawn onto Shrinky Dinks – an idea she got from her friends.

“They’re definitely quirky,” she said.

“I’m not a very talented drawer by any means. I’m not very detailed, but they shrink down when you bake them, which makes them cuter. Then you throw on a bead and I think they turn out pretty fun.”

So far, Fraser has raised around $1,500 to help publish the book. That covers almost 90 per cent of the costs.

“It’s so exciting to be accomplishing a dream I’ve wanted for so long,” said Fraser.

Making the dream a reality

The Land of Cotton Candy Hair is about a boy named Bazzy who visits a land of people with cotton candy instead of hair.  

“It never rains there. It’s like a desert; otherwise that would just mess up their hair,” said Fraser.

But trouble arises when Bazzy’s father tries to steal the hair and sell it as a snack, for profit.

“It’s really a story about how we should appreciate people for their differences, and not be greedy, and you know, don’t steal people’s hair,” Fraser said.

The idea for the book came from a boy she worked with in a group home five years ago. 

“We were driving one day and he said, ‘Mackenzie, when I was a little kid I used to think that cotton candy was human hair, and I thought that was the funniest thing ever,” she said.

“Such a weird, awesome kid thing to say.”

Fraser recognized the impact the boy’s passing thought had on her life, and has dedicated the book to him as a result.  

“It’s just so inspiring that I got the idea from a seven-year old,” Fraser said.

Fraser graduated from Mount Royal in 2016 with a degree in Child and Youth Care Counselling, and has helped facilitate the program, Mindful Moments, through the YWCA since 2019.

Recruiting a talented friend for art

Fraser then recruited her longtime friend Alex Wood, an ACAD graduate with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, to help with the illustrations.

“She’s been planning to write a children’s book of her own for years now. When she asked me to do the illustrations for her I was so honoured,” said Wood.

Wood said she was excited to see the passion project finally taking flight. 

“Mack and I have known each other for 17 years, and for as long as I can remember she’s always loved rhyming,” Wood said.

“Whenever I read a Dr. Seuss book I think of her.”

Fraser’s love of rhyming made its way into the book, something she said was one of the bigger challenges. 

“I love rhyming, I think it’s really fun, but It was hard to write an entire story that also rhymed,” Fraser said. 

“I was nervous about how the first draft of the story was going to come back from my editor, but she did an amazing job of making it flow so much better, and still keeping the story mine.”

Scrunchies have made a comeback

During the Christmas holiday, Fraser introduced scrunchies to her list of wares, which are handmade by her grandmother.

“My grandma made like, 90 scrunchies to sell at our cabin’s Christmas market last year, which obviously didn’t happen because of COVID 19, so I put them on my Instagram and they just sold like hotcakes,” Fraser said.

Fraser splits the scrunchie profits with her grandmother, 50-50. 

“She wants her two dollars, which is totally fair. So I keep a spreadsheet of how much I owe her,” Fraser said.

“She’s very excited. She gets really emotional every time I talk about the book.”

Fraser’s inspiration for the book can also be attributed to the community of artists she surrounds herself with, including her partner Jordan Moe, who plays bass guitar in the psychedelic-rock band The Ashley Hundred.

“For a while I felt like everybody around me was doing all these cool things, and I was trying to figure out what my thing was,” said Fraser.

“Now I can say I’m writing a book. That’s my cool thing.”

The Land of Cotton Candy Hair will be available for purchase on Amazon later this year.