by Olivia Allen, Waterlution Project Lead for Youth Programs
Canada’s Great Water Adventure is a children’s storybook written by four very dedicated Waterlution Youth Advisory Board volunteers, Dorothy Graham, Ellen Stitt, Jill Pelkey and Stephanie Woodworth. After months of writing, illustrating, crowdfunding and marketing, the authors reflect together on what they’ve learned and accomplished so far.
OA: It has been less than four months since Canada’s Great Water Adventure became available to the public, and 400+ copies have been purchased to date. They are now even for sale at the Vancouver Aquarium! How does that make you feel?
SW: 400 books?! Has it been that many?! Wow…! I am incredibly humbled and happy to know that at least 400 people are learning about some of the diverse water stories and histories in Canada. It feels like we are creating a ripple effect of love and gratitude for water through Canada’s Great Water Adventure – and that is a feeling that no words can describe.
JP: Yeah it is absolutely incredible. It’s so inspiring to see many individuals engaging with this story, and to know readers are increasing their knowledge of bodies of water across our country.
OA: When the four of you took on this project, Waterlution gave you a few guiding points–how did the project evolve into Canada’s Great Water Adventure?
DG: This project was pretty open-ended when we took it on. We wanted to represent the diversity of us, as authors, but also of Canada itself and its peoples and our stories as Canadians. It was SO HARD to distil the countless potential stories of each province and territory to just one fifty(ish) word blurb AND have that be meaningful and educational, but it was a really fun and rewarding process and I’m very proud of the end result.
SW: When we were brainstorming ideas, we researched as many water stories and facts as we could, and then found ways to integrate those stories into a coherent, fictional yet real, children’s book
JP: There was no way to include everything. We tried to select water systems that really represent and shape the communities discussed throughout the storybook; showcasing cultural, environmental and economic significance within those communities.
ES: We all experienced our own great water adventures through Canada. Our adventure hasn’t stopped with writing this book, as these beautiful stories and pictures have inspired us to learn more about the amazing water stories Canada has to offer.
OA: Writing, publishing and promoting this storybook has been a first for all of us. What were some of the challenges you faced throughout the project?
SW: This entire experience has been one of firsts. We faced many challenges and hurdles along the way, and we still continue to face some today during sales and promotion. From choosing water stories to include, to working together across the country, to promoting the book during our crowdfunding campaign and to promoting the book now for sales, I have been reminded at every turn to expect the unexpected.
ES: I found the target age group to be challenging as I have mostly worked with grade 8 students on educational initiatives. It was difficult to transform our writing to a level that would be easily understood by a younger audience. Giving the story a cohesive narrative with four different authors was also a surprising challenge.
DG: It was really nice to be able to work on this together. Jill, Ellen, and Steph were all so helpful and whenever one of us sort of got in a rut we were always there for eachother to help out. We could share promotional tactics with each other or have a couple people read over the page you’d just written. Simple things that made the whole process not only a lot simpler, but also a lot more fun.
OA: Its been mentioned many times online and in the crowdfunding campaign that your mission with this storybook is to educate more young Canadians about Canada’s waters. What can children learn from this book? How will their water literacy grow from reading it?
JP: This story is a great way to connect individuals with not only water in their community, but also across their country. As it explores each province and territory, it connects youth with areas of the country they may not be as familiar with. The story both celebrates water and addresses concerns for keeping our bodies of water and its inhabitants healthy for years to come.
OA: What about teens and adults, can they learn from this story?
ES: The wonderful thing about Canada’s Great Water Adventure is that there is something for everyone to learn, even the authors!
JP: That’s right! It not only educates through a variety of water systems and their impact on communities across the country, but it also provides a glossary of terms that highlight a variety of cultural and scientific words that everyone can learn from.
SW: The book shows the relationships between peoples and waters through diverse stories from across the country. I think that folks of all ages can learn how to appreciate water and build a relationship with water through the stories shared in the book. And that’s something we all need to learn more of!
OA: We have mentioned that the four of you are volunteers who are living in three different provinces. How did these factors play a role in the project’s development?
ES: Dorothy lives in Alberta, Jill lives in New Brunswick and Stephanie and I live in Ontario. This played a crucial role in the projects development as each author provided their own unique perspectives and stories related to their parts of Canada.
It also created some challenges as all of our communication was restricted to text, phone and video calling as well as working a lot in Google Docs, video calls and sharing screens. Meetings for writing, editing and promoting were often difficult to schedule, not only because of everyone’s busy schedules, but because we were working in three different time zones.
DG: We became good friends while we were working on the book too so sometimes our one hour calls would get a little chewed up just from us wanting to hang out and catch up! But it was really wonderful to have a group of powerhouse peeps. I think that the circumstances surrounding the book helped make it what it is today and without us being where we are, we could not have collected the same volume and quality of tales, nor could we have connected to book to so many schools and organizations afterwards.
SW: Working together across the country taught us so much about Canada’s water stories, as well as collaboration, coordination and promotion. We were able to use our networks across the country to get the book into so many hands, and that wouldn’t of been as successful if we weren’t so spread out from one another!
OA: Your official 10 month term as Waterlution Youth Advisory Board volunteers is wrapping up in the next few weeks. What does this mean for Canada’s Great Water Adventure?
ES: As my term comes to an end, I will still continue to work with Waterlution to promote Canada’s Great Water Adventure. I am so proud to say that I am a co-author of this book and I am passionate about ensuring more children have access to this storybook. It is also an added perk that money from book sales will fund water education workshops for youth.
JP: This definitely won’t be the end of my involvement. It has too much of my heart to drop it because of the end of a term. I see myself continuing to try to promote the book and sharing it with as many individuals as I can. I’m not sure what is next, but I do know that Waterlution has provided me with endless opportunities that will support whatever does arise.
SW: I know my work with Waterlution is just getting started. Canada’s Great Water Adventure is “our baby” and us authors will stick with the book for as long as folks are buying and reading it. However, my involvement extends beyond the book now and will continue to do so in the future. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
DG: I will likely continue to be involved with the book, especially in terms of promotion in Southern Alberta. I know that we hope to keep getting Canada’s Great Water Adventure to more people, regardless of whether those people are participating in Waterlution’s Great Waters Challenge.
OA: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring young authors, what would it be?
DG: I think the best advice I could give is to believe in and be kind to yourself. It can be easy to be critical when you’re reading the same thing for the umpteenth time, but remember that your audience will be reading this for the FIRST time.
ES: It’s also easy to overlook typos and grammatical errors when you edit your own work, so ensure you have multiple contacts with strong writing and editing skills to read over your writing. A fresh, third party pair of eyes is your most important tool.
SW: Lastly, be open to the process and expect the unexpected! There are always going to be unforeseen challenges that arise, but never let that bring you down – there’s always another way!
SW: Writing Canada’s Great Water Adventure took us authors on an adventure! This book is a reflection of us four authors and the knowledge we had available to us. If a group of four different people were to be assigned the same task, I am certain the book would be entirely different. And, to me, that is very special, because we all have so many water stories to share that everyone’s Canada’s Great Water Adventure is a unique journey!