When Sharon Jones-Scaife lost her husband, Albert, of more than three decades in 2015, she was devastated by not only her loss, but the effect it had on her 4- and 7-year-old grandchildren.
“I was with him for 33 years, and I saw the effect it had on me, and I saw the effect it had on my grandkids as well,” Jones-Scaife said. “Both of them enjoyed spending weekends with their grandfather. He would do a lot of stuff with them like watch cartoons and ride bikes. We talked to them about him having cancer, but when he passed, kids at that age don’t really understand.”
Jones-Scaife, who graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design/illustration, was inspired by the experience to write and illustrate her first children’s book.
“I Miss You, Papa” was recently released by Coffee Creek Media Group and is available on Amazon, Apple iTunes, and Barnes and Noble. The inspirational story of love and loss follows Rihanna, who spends every other weekend visiting Mema and Papa with her little brother, Deshawn. Then one day Rihanna’s mom pulls Rihanna and Deshawn to tell them, “Papa is gone. Papa died from lung cancer. Papa is in heaven, no longer with us.” Rihanna realizes that she will never hear Papa call her “baby girl” again, and she will never be able to do any of the fun things with Papa again.
Small-town roots in Arkansas
Jones-Scaife grew up in Marvell, Arkansas, the fourth of 15 children. As one can imagine, she spent a great deal of time reading to her younger siblings.
“My dad was a mechanic, and my mom had a clothing store,” she said. “Neither of my parents had a college degree, but that was the first thing they told us we had to do, get a college degree, and every one of my siblings has a college degree.”
She also began her life as an artist and entrepreneur young.
“I have always drawn,” she recalled. “I drew the cartoons out of the newspaper during my study hall period and in my free time. When I was 9 or 10, I started doing self-portraits. I took pictures and then drew them as portraits. That is how I made money during the summer time.”
When she was 18, the decision to enroll at UA Little Rock was a family affair.
“I had three siblings above me that went to UA Little Rock, and I followed them there,” Jones-Scaife said. “I was the quiet one, so I was a little scared and decided to go with them. I knew I was going to major in art. I always wanted to be an art major.”
Jones-Scaife said her time at UA Little Rock helped her to become more independent and get a good start in her career.
“I had a good time. UA Little Rock gave me an opportunity to learn to be responsible,” she said. “It taught me a lot about life, how to be on my own, and it gave me a solid start to my career.”
After graduating in 1989, Jones-Scaife’s first job after college was as a temporary position as a graphic artist at a label crafters filling in for a woman who broke her arm. After three months, they helped her find a job as a graphic artist at Jones Custom Products, Inc., where she worked for more than a decade. Since 1994, she has worked as a graphic design at SJS Graphic Arts.
She and Albert were high school sweethearts, and the couple married in 1992 when they were both 24. They have two sons, Cedric and Christopher.
In addition to her work as an author and graphic artist, in 1999, she founded Teens Reaching Teens, a nonprofit organization for teens. She next published Teen Graffiti, a magazine that serves as a voice for teens and as an avenue of communication, allowing teens to express their opinions, concerns, and ideas through poetry, essays, articles, and photography.
“As a child, I was the quiet one and never really spoke out a lot. I just kept things to myself,” she said. “If I went through this, other teens are going through it as well.”
Every year, Teens Reaching Teens has held a youth empowerment summit where local teens hear guest speakers and attend workshops on issues teenagers face, like applying for college, and are given backpacks and school supplies. The event started in 2004 with about 75 kids, and the last conference had more than 400 attendees.
“We do it on a college campus now, which is perfect since a lot of kids have never set foot on a college campus,” Jones-Scaife said. “We have a lot of kids who came back and said they are going to college because of that experience.”
Jones-Scaife has plans to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. She has currently written six, but has not illustrated them yet. Her second children’s book, “Mrs. Hughes is Missing,” will come out next year.
“It’s a story of the teacher who is not there, and its months that she is not in class,” she said. “Finally, she comes back with a surprise. She went on maternity leave because she was adopting a child. A lot of my books are based on stuff that my grandkids and other kids are doing as well.”