Family lies at heart of Becki Walsh’s new children’s book, Deep in the Woods.
Interview by Bill Hornbostel: image submitted
Colborne resident Becki Walsh’s young nephew’s struggles gave her the idea for the story in Deep in the Woods Walsh says, “I was inspired by my nephew one day. He was trying to do something, and he was giving up really easily, so I just went home and wrote the story.”
Walsh’s family’s long-standing bond with owls made for a natural choice for the character for her book. “My family has a connection to owls. My dad loved owls, and he was just very much an outdoorsman. And after he passed away … we kept seeing owls everywhere, so it’s just kind of a thing for us. And my nephew’s name is Benjamin, so it became Benjamin Owl,” Walsh says.
Originally, the story was just for her nephew. But after Walsh showed it to some of her friends, they encouraged her to do more and publish it as a book. She decided she wanted to create the illustrations for her book as well, but she had never worked on this kind of project before. “I was a doodle-bug,” says Walsh, “I loved to doodle and draw things, and I was always artistic. Growing up, I loved photography as well, and I was always into artsy things, but I never really drew or painted anything, so it was a process.”
For help in realizing her vision, sought out a teacher. “I took some lessons from a local art teacher, John Stubbs. I wanted the illustrations to be realistic but still cute and fun, so I used pictures of real animals … and just sort of made their eyes bigger and more fun and John Stubbs helped me there.”
There is also a family connection in the illustration of Deep in the Woods. The illustration of the cat was actually done by Walsh’s daughter, Madeline. Walsh says, “I enlisted the help of my talented daughter to draw the kitty and she based it on our own cat. I can’t take the credit for that one!”
The illustrations completed, Walsh then turned to publishing her book. “It took close to a year once I started the publishing process. I self-published through FriesenPress, and it’s a lengthy process. Friesen is Canadian, they’re located out west. That was important to me; there are a lot of self-publishing companies out there and I at least wanted to have a Canadian one.”
But while it was a long road to getting her book published, the result has been rewarding. Her book is seeing widespread distribution. “Friesen has it in more than thirty-five thousand different booksellers worldwide, and for local ones, it’s up to me because I self-published. It just came out in November, and so far, it’s in a store in Colborne and one in Bowmanville.”
The local response to Walsh’s book has been extremely positive. “Support locally has been overwhelming. It’s been great, I’ve had several teachers contact me about going to their classes and everything in the new year, so I’m looking forward to that.”
For something that began purely as a personal project, Deep in the Woods became something that pushed its own author to heed its lesson. “Part of the whole point of the story is to believe in yourself and never give up. Benjamin is an owl and he can’t hoot – he can moo, and he can cock-a-doodle-do, and he can chick-a-dee-dee-dee, but he can’t hoot. He’s the first one to leave the nest, and he’s the first to fly, he’s the first to do everything, but he just can’t hoot, so he has to try his hardest to just be able to hoot. I had to take my own advice and come out of my comfort zone and go for it, and so far, it’s been amazing and overwhelming.”
Deep in the Woods, by Becki Walsh, is available in numerous booksellers, including Amazon.ca, Chapters Indigo, the FriesenPress online bookstore, Cree Organics in Colborne, and Gather in Bowmanville.