When Julie Ewashen was growing up in Dublin, her teachers and fellow students just assumed she would end up in a writing career. She did, after all, attend Wesley College, the alma mater of George Bernard Shaw.
Now, at 81, she has just published her first book, one aimed at children. Life in the Arctic with Nina & Nikita tells a story of polar bears and their relationships with people and other animals.
Ewashen was inspired to write a book by photos she had seen.
“I had an email from a nephew in New Zealand in 2008,” she recalled last week. “It included pictures of a polar bear approaching some Husky sled dogs. At first the lead dog growls, but eventually they made friends.”
Ewashen learned that the bear started to return to the same site every evening and eventually it started to play with the dog.
“It was really amazing,” she said.
She found the source of the photographs and wrote a story to go with them. Copyright restrictions meant it would be difficult to use the photos to illustrate her stories.
“I asked Nadine Riehl to do some illustrations and we would get together and talk about ideas,” Ewashen said.
Riehl is an artist best known for her murals on the Pharmasave building, Canyon-Lister Fire Department, Centennial Park and Creston and District Community Complex.
Next, Ewashen turned to Boswell’s Luanne Armstrong, the celebrated author and editor.
“I had finished the book with the polar bear and dog making friends, without providing a reason. Luanne said, ‘You can’t do that — children need a reason.’”
Ewashen made more changes and submitted her manuscript to a Vancouver Island publisher, who didn’t take on the book for publication, but had positive comments and a suggestion.
“They said I should have a kid in the story,” she said. “So I introduced a 13-year-old boy as the owner of the Husky.”
Always a reader to her children and grandchildren, Ewashen has written stories for her grandkids.
“They complain that they aren’t long enough,” she laughed.
She said she enjoyed a lot of the process in getting the book ready for print, “But you get tired of rewriting.”
Instead of continuing her search for a publishing house, she opted to go the increasingly popular self-publishing route.
“I thought that if waited too long, I might die before it gets published!”
She settled on Friesen Press in Victoria, which offered an editorial service and also arranges for online sales.
Ewashen will launch Life in the Arctic with Nina & Nikita at Black Bear Books. She will be reading and signing books, along with Riehl, from 7-9 p.m. Dec. 19 and 2-4 p.m. Dec. 21.