This has been a year of change and a chance to try many new things. Furthering the adventure of self discovery I chose to finally have a book published. It has been a long and wonderful process that I’m still not at the end of and I am happy for the longevity of this journey. My first book, a children’s book, called A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree, parody’s the 12 days of Christmas and uses each of those 12 days to showcase northern Canadian life. I’m taking this opportunity to give you a sneak peak on how I chose some of my favourite ‘days’.
So…… I wrote a book. A children’s book, which was never a direction I had planned for the pen to take me… but here I am, a children’s book author.
There are a lot of ideas that develop slowly, A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree was one of them. For the seed to appear it took two years. Or at least two Christmas seasons. And in each of those two Christmas seasons, there needed be two books per season, each parodying their own version of the 12 Days of Christmas and each with a Canadian theme. Of course my children needed to enjoy having them read/sang to them and of course the songs had to get stuck in my head. Eventually these elements put together created the seed of an idea; what would a Northwest Territories version look like?
Once I had the line “On the first day of Christmas the True North gave to me. A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree.” The rest of the days of Christmas came together pretty smoothly. My focus was to include experiences that were inclusive for everyone in the NWT. Things that tourists and residents alike would have experienced. I wanted to create a book that would be sentimental for anyone who had been touched by the North.
The first day of Christmas is special for many reasons. The Ptarmigan, though pegged as a dumb bird, is one of my favourite northern birds. Choosing the Ptarmigan as a jumping off point for the book was easy.
My husband asked me, “Why a birch tree?” that was another easy one. Our backyard, has 26 birch trees in a pretty small area. I am surrounded by birch trees, but the birch tree is also a special part of local heritage. There are many beautiful arts and crafts that are historically and modernly made from the birch tree.
The third day of Christmas depicts three Cessnas landing. The first plane I flew in when I arrived in Yellowknife was a Cessna. It’s a little four seater plane that was used by the company my husband worked for when we first arrived. It can land on wheels, floats or skis. We often saw them flying high above the city giving its occupants an aerial view of the pop up city below.
Five nights of lights…. Need I say more? The Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights are a big tourist draw and cherished by the local residents of the Northwest Territories. I chose to put them at this point in the song, because it felt right to celebrate this amazing bit of nature with a grand gesture.
I like the story of the 9th day of Christmas, because it really sums up life in Yellowknife and I’m sure other parts of the North as well. I had a tight deadline to finish the book and submit it for publishing. After posting a plea for help on Facebook and finding an artist who could get me twelve illustrations in a week and a half, she set to work on creating the beautiful images for A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree. The houseboat prominently featured in this illustration for the 9th day belongs to her sister-in-law, but before her my good friend lived in that same houseboat
I choose snowmobiles for the last day of Christmas for many reasons. Mostly because they remind me of a good friend, but also because, this is the only place I’ve ever lived that you can ride a snowmobile to work, just as long as you stay off the main roads.
Choosing my vision for the Northwest Territories was the easiest part of this journey and while I’m still travelling through this incredible time in my life, I’m discovering how much I love each step and everything that has come with it. I’ve taken a seed and somehow nurtured that wee thing into something bigger than I expected. I have been touched by the community’s support as well as friends and family spread out across the world. I am thankful that they are enjoying this book as much as I have enjoyed the adventure. And I am also very thankful, that one seed seems to have sprouted a few more.
Check out the book trailer – https://animoto.com/play/49nZ8tN0pi1T1882iuGDKg
To purchase your own copy of A Ptarmigan in a Birch Tree:
Contact me at: www.facebook.com/amberhenrywrites
The Book Cellar – Yellowknife
Gallery of the Midnight Sun – Yellowknife
The Rusty Raven – Fort Smith
Places you can order online:
Free Worldwide Delivery: The Book Depository
In the US:
In the UK:
Birch bark basket photo credit: www.norj.ca