Dreaming up illustrations for children’s books comes naturally for Bloordale Village artist Tania Howells, but when it comes to writing them, it’s a completely different story.
“It took ages (to get an idea). It just doesn’t come naturally to me,” Howells said with a laugh.
But that didn’t stop her from constantly brainstorming. It was suggested she write a book about shapes or numbers and that’s when the light bulb in her head went off.
“After that, then one day finally an idea came to me,” she said.
Starring Shapes, published by Kids Can Press, follows a group of shapes: Oval, Triangle, Circle, Square, Rectangle, Rhombus (a.k.a Diamond) who attend Shapeston Elementary. Each one is excited about auditioning for the school play, and as each one auditions, they’re introduced with descriptions of their unique personalities, interests, and their previous roles in the school play. Naturally, Triangle was a tortilla chip, Oval was a skating rink and Diamond had the role of a kite.
“It’s a dream come true to illustrate children’s books and it’s a dream to write one too,” said the Lansdowne Avenue and Dundas Street West resident.
Howells graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) in 1997 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and has been illustrating since 2008. Her work can be found in other children’s books such as Berkeley’s Barn Owl Dance, and Willow’s Whispers and in magazines such as Chatelaine and Chirp.
She also has a young son whom she loves reading books to.
This is Howell’s first children’s book she’s written and admits the process was a lot harder than she thought. Now that she’s had the opportunity to be both the author and the illustrator, she’s experienced both sides of the coin.
“When you illustrate and write you have much more control,” she explained.
“It’s good because you get the chance to do the illustrations the way you want them done.”
She added that coming up with the ideas was not the only difficult part of the process, although it had some similarities to the illustration process.
“It was harder because we had to hammer out the story. I’m used to just doing the pictures and having many different drafts of them,” Howells told The Villager.
“This time it’s many drafts of the story. It also changed completely from my idea to the final product.”
Originally she said the shapes were auditioning for a singing competition and the story took place in the waiting room with all the shapes chit-chatting with one another. But ideas change and so did the concept in order to be a bit more relatable to children.
“When I look at the finished product it’s come a long way,” she said.
“It took about eight years from inception to final product ... but it’s finally here, which is great. It’s amazing to have a book out there that’s all your own.”
Although creating children’s books comes with its respective challenges for both the illustrator and author, Howells said she’d still like to make more in the future, adding that she realizes the trick is to keep it simple.
Her son suggested making the next one about trains.
“His ideas always seem to be train related,” she said laughing.
“That’s his passion, so I say, we’ll see.”
Tania Howells will be hosting a book launch at Another Story Bookshop, 135 Roncesvalles Ave. on Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. The book is available on Amazon.com or at the Another Story Bookshop.
For more information, visit http://tania.blogs.com/tania/