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Santa Rosa teacher’s new book encourages students to follow their ‘bliss’

Simone Spearman discusses an essay writing assignment with her AP Language and Composition class at Piner High School, in Santa Rosa Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Spearman has recently published her book "The Dragons of Durga." (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

ELOÍSA RUANO GONZÁLEZ,

Simone Spearman sees magic everywhere. It’s in the birds circling overhead and the bugs and odd-shaped trees she comes across hiking around her hometown of Guerneville.

“There’s so much magic in nature,” she said.

She thinks people forget about that wonder, especially in this digital age with adults and kids glued to their smartphones. The Piner High School English teacher aims to reignite that curiosity with her new young adult fantasy novel “The Dragons of Durga.”

“I see so many kids walking on the street looking down at their phones,” said Spearman, who six years ago was named California League of High Schools’ Teacher of the Year. “I want them to look at nature. I want them to look at trees.”

She’ll hold her first public reading from 3:15-4 p.m. Tuesday at Piner’s Richard Latimer Library, where she’ll discuss the novel and book cover — a Guerneville tree she found with an animal-shaped trunk. Geared for children 10 to 15 years old, the book teaches kids to appreciate nature and diversity, she said, and about sacrifice.

In the story, a time-traveling, big-winged cat named Pohevol discovers a future with no dragons and comes back to warn the dragon tribes. They then must travel the world to convince the other dragon tribes to hide their kin to prevent dragons from completely disappearing in the future.

Spearman, 45, depicted the dragons as friendly and playful creatures who like to swim and bathe in lakes, unlike the ferocious fire-breathing beast typically portrayed.

“They’re mythical beings who remind everybody to honor the diverse existence on the planet,” said Spearman, who dedicated the 538-page book to her daughter, Saja, now a sophomore at UC Berkeley who liked to read about dragons as a child.

It’s also a tribute to her late father, Theodore “Ted” Spearman, a civil rights champion and Washington state superior court judge. He taught her to follow her bliss, a principle he lived by, she said.

As a full-time teacher and mom, Spearman said it took 15 years to finish the novel, writing mostly during the summers. After receiving multiple rejection letters from publishers, Spearman questioned whether it was worth pursuing the novel, but remembered the advice her father gave her before dying unexpectedly in 2012.

“My dad said, ‘Don’t give up,’” said Spearman, who then took her mother’s suggestion and self-published.

Spearman said she makes about a dollar profit for every book she sells online, but she did it for the kids, not the money. She wants to spark their creativity and affinity for nature, and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

Lizbeth Barragan, a junior in Spearman’s AP Language class, said her teacher always tells students “to follow your bliss.”

“It’s amazing she took the time to write a book while she’s teaching and helping us,” said the 16-year-old, who couldn’t wait to read the book.

Spearman said she has sold at least 85 copies of the book since its August release.

The book is available at Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol, as well as on Amazon through its on-demand publishing services.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.