GTPulse: Traverse City Woman Creates Kids Book Inspired By Northern Michigan
In Northern Michigan, there are many wonders to behold. This midwest Narnia has inspired many artists and writers, including Ashlea Walter. She has completed her first children’s book called Up North Alphabet and it’s an ode to her young daughters and the place they love to call home.
“I started working on painting the individual letters maybe four years ago. My girls at the time were seven and four. We were learning letters and it’s such a special time with little ones forming that early connection to literacy and I just had this idea. I love children’s books and reading together has been so important for us. We also love being outside and exploring Northern Michigan so I thought it’d be fun to make an alphabet book of Northern Michigan for kids to learn,” Ashlea said.
She started brainstorming unique things to Michigan for each letter. Some came easy. C is for Cherries, D is for Dunes. Others, not so much.
“There were several that were more challenging to come up with. X for sure was the hardest one. Even my kids still kind of laugh at me about that. They think that the X which is for cross country skiing actually looks like toothpaste to them. So I’ve got some little critics” she said with a laugh.
Publishing a book is a long and expensive process. She always knew that she wanted Up North Alphabet to be a book, but it wasn’t the right time.
“You know all along I had wanted to make a book but at the time I just didn’t have the money to do that. So I just thought, I’ll get this out there in a poster format.”
She sold those at local shops and gave her some extra cash to put towards making the book. As time went on, Ashlea only got busier. Shes’s the Development Director at Norte, as well as a City Commissioner.
“And then this year hit, and I thought a couple of months ago that there’s really never a perfect time for anything, especially a creative pursuit or project. You wait but it never really comes. This year has been tough in so many ways for people, I thought, ‘I’m just going to get this going.’ I was inspired by so many people getting out on local trails and their renewed or new interest in our natural environment and being outside.”
She began a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to publish the book, and so far everything has been going smoothly.
“I’m so pleased with how things have been going I have it almost fully funded right now and a little ways to go. I’m really excited to launch this into the world for people and kids and families.”
The letters are painted in watercolor by Ashlea and creating Up North Alphabet was a nice way to get back to her artistic roots.
“I come from a family of creative people and art was always really important to us. My brother and I both studied art in college and I really am thankful for parents who appreciate that and expose their children to different kinds of art and museums. So I studied art, art history, and English, so this has really combined all of these passions.”
She enjoyed painting all of the letters, but her favorite part was spending time with her girls, Wren and Phoebe.
“When I first started drawing out the letters my kids were all over me and it was kind of hard to do, but then they kind of got into it. So that was a special time when we were in the early process of it and they were little and seeing me do that. I hadn’t been painting beforehand, I had these little kids, I was working, I just didn’t have mental or physical space to do my own creative work. I remember one day somebody said to my daughter, ‘Oh that’s so cool that you have a mom who’s a painter.’ She said, ‘She is?’ I didn’t know that.’ And I thought, they don’t know because I don’t do it in front of them. And it is such a big part of my life I wanted them to experience it too.”
Up North Alphabet is available for prepurchase through Ashlea’s Kickstarter, due to come out this holiday season.
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