Escape from Techville: a chat with the hardworking mama & author behind the book
mamabare is excited to introduce our creative and talented friend, Michelle Vanderwier! Living in Montreal with her husband and two boys, ages 8 and 12, this busy mama is a videographer/photographer/illustrator/artist and now an author!
mamabare talks with Michelle about her 1st book, Escape from Techville – a great read for kids about technology, the beauty of nature, and finding balance. Welcome, Michelle!
What inspired this particular book?
We were living in the country with our young boys (then 8 and 5) and I just really saw how technology seemed to hold them back from nature. Once they broke free, they were so incredibly happy to be in the middle of all the beauty and wonder! The book is really a picture of that.
How long did it take you to write Escape from Techville?
I am pretty sure the writing portion took probably a day or two (minus the editing process), but the photographic illustrations took about 3 years to complete. That was simply because this was a side project and also, I always needed the perfect weather and scene setup for each page. Not to mention that the characters’ faces and arms are made of plasticine! That made it quite tough.
What do your kids think of your book?
Well, my boys were my best critiques of each page – especially Hunter, my youngest. He giggled each time I set up a little scene to shoot and he would tell me what he thought. I also bounced a lot of ideas off of them. They’re great for that.
Mama's Favorite Critics
How does mamahood inform/impede/enhance/shape your writing and your work?
I believe that my boys have reminded me how to think like a child. I almost feel like I need to hurry and get these books out while my boys are still young before I forget how to speak the tender language. I hope it’s actually something I will be able to keep with me forever. Parenting has also given me a lot more patience and courage to try new things, oddly enough. They taught me how to follow through and tough it out until it’s done. And that’s exactly what I am still doing today. Chipping away at ideas, forming them into something to show the world.
When did you first realize you wanted to write a book?
I think writing kids’ books is truly something I have always dreamed of doing since I was very young. Picture books affected me a lot as a child so I hope to offer the same impact to some of those who read my book.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I would say that the writing portion is almost secondary to the pictures I see first in my mind. I love having the wording just right, but the story in pictures is what I see first.
Setting the Stage
How did you choose this style of illustrations?
I have always loved mini things and also making my own toys. We didn’t have a lot growing up so I made a lot of my own dolls out of whatever I had. I still get a ton of joy out of making small toys. Maybe one day I will have a little online boutique for all my creations! The smaller the better! Tiny toys fascinate me. Especially when they are realistic.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Escape from Techville?
I was most surprised by how the story felt like it just wanted to be created! I was almost just letting it happen. I had the ideas for the story, but I truly didn’t understand what the book would look and feel like until it was done, and that surprised me.
What is the takeaway message from this book?
The message I hope kids gain from it is that technology is definitely not bad in and of itself, but it can become addictive and constraining if abused. I feel like if a child understands that tech can potentially hold them captive, they will be more likely to balance that area of their lives.
Hard at Work
Do you hear from your readers much?
I hear from some of my readers and generally they love the storyline and message. But the most common feedback is all about the illustration. “How did you do this? Are they real dolls?” and that’s always fun to explain. Yes – they are real dolls built from old reassembled Barbie dolls and clay. Sometimes that’s met with a bit of an odd look!
Back to the Drawing Board
Any great kid book recommendations?
We’ve read a lot of books in our home so it’s hard to choose. One of my own childhood favourites was “Ottie and the Star”. I had that one memorized. My boys loved “Goodnight Moon” and more recently “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and “The BFG”. We love reading in our house. It’s a daily pastime.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have many hobbies in the area of art. I love oil painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, music, dancing, and videography. I sort of combined all of these into a kids’ art tutorial channel on YouTube. I have a lot of fun doing The Art Club! I post weekly videos that include drawing lessons, interviews of other artists, and just happy fun times to help reassure confidence in young artists. That’s the goal.
Would you write another one?
I actually have about 10 more already written and many more which are still just in the idea phase. My husband and I have been writing some together as well and I just love how the story turns out differently when his ideas are involved. He is extremely creative with stories. The illustration is the more intense portion for me. Choosing how to show the story visually is a big deal to me. But yes, you can definitely look for many more books from us in the months to come!
Where to Find It
She has also just completed a new book for babies called “The Baby and the Balloon”. mamabare readers can get a sneak peak here. To contact this amazing mompreneur, author and illustrator, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more awesome reading recommendations, check out mamabare’s favorite books about sleep!