Today I am reviewing the picture book "The Waterlady: an Ozark Tale" written and self-published by my friend Catherine Valentine which you can buy on Amazon for a mere $8.22.
First of all I need to point out that the cover for this book is just stunning. The font goes beautifully with Rebekah Burchfield McCleary's intriguing cover illustration. It was very tastefully done.
The story is written in a lyrical, easy to read style that flows naturally especially when read out loud. The book is about a mythical creature (the waterlady) who encounters a young girl in the woods. The book captures beautifully the message that we should all spend more time outside enjoying the wonders and magical beauty of nature. After reading this book I immediately wanted to pull on my boots and head outside. Catherine and Rebekah did a wonderful job on combining their storytelling skills to tell this lovely story.
I have conducted a Q&A session with Catherine since I was very interested in the process. It is fascinating to read and if you are at all interested in self-publishing yourself I highly recommend you read what she has to say.
Q&A with Catherine Valentine
1.Why were you inspired to write this particular story?
It’s hard for me to say what was the first spark, but I’ll do my best. It all began in the woods near my junior college--Bicentennial Conservation Area: Mort Walker Trail. I found the woods peaceful, imaginative, and inviting and near the trail where I walked there was a tiny pond that was nothing more than a mud hole hidden in the trees. There was something wild about this place in spite of being so close to civilization. I began free writing about ideas of a woodland mermaid (I credit Bianca Spriggs’ poem “Waterbody” for giving permission to write about a mermaid). After writing freely I began to try to craft a story and nothing seemed to work. Then one day in May of 2014 I simply wrote a poem called “The Waterlady” and it just seemed to work. It seemed right. After 3 drafts (mostly about spacing and flow) it was done.
2. Tell us about your illustrator. What is your relationship with her?
My illustrator, Rebekah Burchfield McCleary, and I have been friends since we were 4 and 5 years old. We grew up together and our families are very close (her brother married my sister, in fact). Rebekah is a talented artist and even published her own children’s book called “Where Malachi Reads” (found on amazon.com). It was a little dream of mine that she would illustrate one of my stories. Although I knew she liked my writing it was very nerve wracking to ask her to illustrate my poem. It’s hard to ask someone to love your work so much as to invest time into it. She ended up loving it and the rest is history.
3. Why did you decide to self-publish?
I fell into self-publishing. After Rebekah and I started on our project I tentatively asked about publishing (knowing she already published a book) and she’s the one who told me about CreateSpace through amazon.com. I looked it up and watched a video and it seemed to make a lot of sense. I really didn’t consider the traditional rout because the point was to just finish a book together, not land a book deal.
4. What has been your greatest reward in creating this book?
The greatest reward was working on the project with one of my oldest friends. It was truly collaborative--over 70 messages, two phone calls, 3 meetings (she lives in another state), and I even took pictures of Mort Walker Trail to share with her where I got my ideas. We are both proud of our book.
5. What has been your greatest challenge in creating this book?
I think I was surprised by how much work goes into creating a children’s book and how much time. Our finish line kept being pushed back because of the demands from everyday life and distance and wanting to have the best book possible.
6. If you could do it over again what would you do differently?
I am proud of the project, but the one thing I would do differently is that I would be more patient. Books take time to create, even children’s books. The point is to have something good, not just reach the finish line.
7.What advice do you have for other writers out there looking to self publish their own picture books?
Treat your children’s book like it’s your first novel. Give it all your time, creativity, and energy. Give it the respect it deserves. Give a lot of thought into illustrations and the relationship between images and words. Give time to formatting and do all the nitty-gritty work to make it as professional as possible. This is a real book, treat it as such.