Dianne Conrad’s book Dama Grows is the story of a magical deer whose antlers turn into tree branches that allow him to provide shelter to other wildlife. The charming illustrations are accompanied by Dr. Seuss-like stanzas that tell Dama’s story of cooperation and connection with his environment.
The words and art are by Conrad who, like Dama, believes in cooperation… so much so that she’s seeking help from the wide world of booklovers in her quest to get her story into print.
“I launched a 90-day crowdfunding campaign to get the money to publish,” says Conrad who lives at Oak Lake Beach. “The publisher (Inkshares) says 250 books need to be pre-sold before they’ll print. Sales are still low but I’m getting good feedback!”
This will be her third attempt to get the book published, a challenge when you don’t have the money to self-publish.
In fact, she’s already sold prints of her original oil paintings that illustrate the book. The woman who bought her house in Hamiota, where the work was created, bought two of the prints saying they just belonged with the house.
Hamiota is where Dama first came to life four years ago, springing fully formed into Conrad’s mind. She painted a deer nibbling on a lotus flower, a deer that would become the hero of her story.
“I spend a lot of time in nature. I would go running and these rhymes would come to me. When I got home, I’d write them down as fast as I could. But if I tried to force the story out, it wouldn’t come.”
Dama (Latin for fallow deer) is a young deer who notices how the other deer fight over territory. He can’t relate to their competitive nature.
“This morning’s lesson is competition, these tough young bucks all have a mission.
Each buck’s duty is the same: learn to fight or lose the game.
Dama did not like this class, he hid away and chewed the grass.”
Dama eats a magical flower that turns his antlers into the branches of a tree, which he uses to shelter birds, squirrels, bees and other creatures.
They, in turn, teach him important lessons on his journey.
Conrad says, “At the end of writing, I realized it was my story.”
Conrad studied fine arts in university where she focused on what she calls “the more shallow side of art - how pretty it is.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to say.” Until life and heartbreak happened.
“I was in an unhealthy marriage and I was very isolated. I moved to Hamiota and connected with the people there.
“I went from isolation to being welcomed into the arts community with open arms. I found an abundance of friends and cooperation.”
Since then, she’s received the same warmth and openness among the artists in her new home at Oak Lake Beach.
Recently, she displayed her original paintings for Dama Grows at the community’s Art Walk event and attracted a lot of interest.
“Now, I support myself by teaching art independently, I do painting parties and birthday parties. It’s great, it’s so much fun for me. I love making art with other people!”
Meanwhile, she nurtures her labour of love and works on the final illustrations for Dama Grows… a book she says readers of any age can enjoy.
“It’s a children’s book, but more of an art book with poetry. I think anyone can see themselves in this story.
“My favorite part is the last stanza; it came from my personal experience.”
He did not know which way to go, sometimes it’s good to just not know.
Question what the unknown brings, investigate and learn new things.
Dama took a deep breath and went out to explore,
He wandered down paths never travelled before...
You can read an excerpt from the book and pre-order at Inkshares.com.