Launching into a whole new creative territory, a Stettler woman’s skills at penning children’s books continues to flourish.
Donna Hoopfer has written three delightful books in total, which include What if I Were a Princess, I Have a Dinosaur in my Room and the latest title Snow People which was published earlier this year and also beautifully illustrated by her sister Joanne Hoopfer.
Donna wasn’t the kind of person who relished writing from an early age. This particular gift of self-expression came along later in life, and quite unexpectedly at that.
“With the first two books, I was just lying in bed at the lake,” he explained. “I just thought, what if I was a princess? So I got up – it was about 2 a.m., and I wrote those two books in about one hour,” she said, referring to What if I Were a Princess and I Have a Dinosaur in my Room.
They were primarily written for her grandchildren – she hadn’t had her sights set on publication.
Later on, however, she thought that she should put the stories into book form and give them to her grandchildren for Christmas.
For her part, Joanne, who has a tremendous knack for painting and drawing, creates a Christmas card every year for the family.
“I do an eight-by-10 watercolour,” she said. “That becomes my Christmas card. And the actual eight-by-10 I donate each year to the Festival of Lights.
“A couple of years ago, Donna said, ‘Give me those cards and I’m going to write a story about them’.”
And that’s exactly what she did. The result – Snow People – was compiled and released this year. “I took the cards and wrote a story about each one,” said Donna.
With her art, Joanne said it really began when she moved to Stettler originally.
“I never worked full time, so once my kids were in school I had extra time,” she said. “I took a lot of different painting techniques – all sorts of different stuff, and I actually liked watercolour the best.”
She also found that it came quite naturally.
And like her sister, a finished piece of work comes quite quickly.
“If I sit down and paint my snowmen, I will probably do it in an afternoon,” she said of her process. And snowmen are a particularly favourite subject to draw and paint.
“I love snowmen – I have hundreds of them in my house,” she said with a smile. “They aren’t really about Christmas, so I can just put them out when it snows. And then I don’t have to put them away until March. They are more of a ‘seasonal’ kind of thing.”
Today, both women, who are originally from Ponoka, are quite overwhelmed with how Snow People, and the other titles (which were introduced by Cole Anderson and Julie Lundy) have been embraced.
It’s easy to see why they have struck such a chord with local youngsters – they are cheery, bright books which kids clearly would take to. Themes touch on everything from friendship to family to belonging to self-acceptance and building a healthy sense of self-confidence as well.
Snow People is in particular a compelling treat, as the paintings and words complement each other extremely well.
Donna also hones her writing skills via her blog, and she’s not one to belabour the process, she explains. She simply writes her thoughts down and there is minimal editing done.
That’s the way she approaches her books, too.
It’s not a process of making a myriad of changes – she has a confidence in what she wants to say and how she wishes to express it.
“The first two I was excited to give to the children,” explained Donna of her grandkids. And with Snow People, they had 20 books specially published with their grandchildren’s names in them.
But no matter the story or the characters’ names, there is plenty of heart in these short stories.
Consider this one – ‘Oh, little one out in the snow/Hang onto Mama, you mustn’t go/We shall stand proud in the yard/It will be our job to stay put and stand guard/We have been built with laughter and love/Hang on to Mama, you mustn’t go/Hang onto Mama, enjoy the beautiful snow.”
These days, they are looking forward to reaching a broader audience for the books, which are available in town at Stettler Mobile Solutions, or by texting Donna Hoopfer at 403-741-6056 or Joanne Hoopfer at 403-740-6887.