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Writing Books for Cowboy Kids – Guest Blog by Becky Wigemyr
I was thrilled when Rhonda asked me to send her a post for the blog on her website. I hope that this little part of my story will inspire someone out there with a dream, to just go ahead and chase it down!
I love to read. I always have a book on the go, sometimes more than one! I have always had an extra special place in my heart for children’s literature because that’s where it all starts.
I truly believe that reading can take children places - in more ways than one. When kids can read, they have the tools they need to dream big, find their place and ultimately pursue decent livelihoods. I believe that the sky is the limit for readers - it builds self-esteem and improves lives. In a book, a child can find a friend…someone to accompany them on adventures of discovery, growth and laughter. I have always thought that when a child can ‘see themselves’ in the character of a book, they feel a little less alone. This last point led me to write children’s books for cowboy kids.
When I became a parent, I enjoyed watching my own little cowboys and their friends reaping the rewards of a beautiful, unique way of life. Western life is full of open spaces, exciting characters, love of the land and respect for the animals that roam it. In those days, it was a priority to read with/to my boys every day. I always found it a challenge to find books that authentically reflected the rodeo/ranching/farming lifestyle. Occasionally, I would happen upon a specialty store or a trade show booth that carried western-themed books. These books were bought greedily and repeatedly read in our house. My little cowboys are all grown up now, but I have always had a special place in my heart for little cowboys and cowgirls. I just love ‘em!
On a trip to the Canadian Finals Rodeo not too long ago, I ran into a couple of young moms. They remarked that they were in a hurry to get to the trade show before it closed for the day. “We have to get to that booth with the good cowboy kids books!”. As they rushed away, it dawned, “Wow…this is STILL a problem!”
Fast forward a week or two…
I was reading a book called, ‘Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn’ by John C. Maxwell. In the first chapter, Maxwell asked a very thought-provoking question:
“What would you do if you KNEW you could not fail?”
Almost immediately, I said to myself. “I would write western books for kids.” (I had dreamt of this for years)
Even before I got the thought out completely, the same negative thoughts that had stopped me before, began to tick through my head.
I don’t know how to write a book.
Why would people be interested in the stories I want to tell?
What if no one reads it…that would be soooooo embarrassing!
I read on. Mr. Maxwell’s explained why all the negative things I was saying to myself, were wrong and incredibly limiting. I could go on and on about this book and what I learned, but I won’t. If you are curious, I recommend that you read it. I will say, however, that this book changed my mindset, and then my life. This was the ‘spark’ that I needed to move forward.
For me, the problem was not writing the story. I had plenty of stories. I love to write, I do it for fun. Some stories were in my head and many on paper. What I really needed to know was where to go from there.
Now inspired, I started to ‘bird-dog’ every living, breathing human being who I thought may know…or may know someone who knew someone who knew SOMETHING about publishing a children’s book. After an ongoing, shameless rally-cry for information, a friend replied to an email I had sent, it read, “I have family members who have published three fantastic children’s books, would you like me to put you in touch?”
Yes. Yes, I would like that.
Enter Victor and Dorothy Lethbridge. Victor had written three best-selling children’s books illustrated by Ben Crane. All three books were creatively brought to life by Dorothy. Victor and Dorothy had “been there, done that.” They were there throughout my publishing journey to offer their wisdom to help me avoid pitfalls. I learned so much from them and will always be grateful for their part in helping me make my dream of being an author come true.
In the summer of 2016, while on holiday to Kelowna, I was introduced to the talents of artist Dane Larocque. Dane is the son of Kirsty White and Alvin Larocque, both professional rodeo competitors. This meant that Dane was no stranger to the rodeo lifestyle, which was a HUGE plus for me. My aim was to produce an authentic product. Dane was born and raised a rodeo kid, although his passion for art led him to a very different lifestyle. Dane is now working as a professional artist in the film industry in Vancouver and is currently directing his first short film. Dane is a massive part of the reason why my books have been as successful, and I can never express how grateful I am to have worked with him.
I released my first book, Cowboy Cody, in May of 2017, and my second book, Rope, Sleep…Repeat, in June of 2019. It has been a learning curve, and I have messed up regularly along the way. I have learned so much from my missteps, and it has made the ‘wins’ even sweeter. Here are some of the high points of the trail I have been riding with Cowboy Cody.
Selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for inclusion in their publication ‘Best Books for Kids & Teens’ in the fall of 2017.
Finalist in the largest not-for-profit awards competition for indie authors. Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
First place in The Outdoor and Recreation category - Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
Honourable mention in the Picture Book - 5 and under category - Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
Honourable mention in the Best Illustrations Category - Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
Cowboy Cody is riding on Bookroo’s Ultimate List of Books about Cowboys and Cowgirls for over a year now.
Rope, Sleep…Repeat was the winner of the Children’s category in the Canadian Book Club Awards.
As seen in the television show Heartland – This was HUGE for me. It was just a few seconds, but I LOVE this show!
The Cowboy Cody Series has been embraced by some of North America’s largest western lifestyle stores. They are sold in mainstream bookstores, specialty stores and online boutiques. I will never take for granted the support of these retailers. I am so proud that they have chosen to carry my books on their shelves.
I have had a hard time picturing a Cowboy Cody book without the unique magic of Dane Larocque’s art. As I mentioned above, Dane is out there in the world, chasing his star. I am going to watch him catch it with so much pride and admiration. For Cowboy Cody, the show must go on, and I am partway there already! I have finished book three in the Cowboy Cody series. It will be illustrated by an incredibly talented young lady by the name of Michelle Froese. When I saw Michelle’s test illustration, I just knew – she’s the one. I can’t wait to watch her bring Cody’s next adventure to life. Stay tuned…
More than anything, I am grateful for the little people out there who love my books. People sometimes ask me if I would ever consider writing a novel or something for a more ‘grown-up’ reader. The answer is no, at least right now. I feel like writing for kids is what I am meant to do. It’s as simple as that, it’s the only thing I want to do. I recognize that my books are not for every child, but they are for some children, and that is enough for me. Maybe one of my books is the first book that a child really connects with, and this is the turning point that shows the pure magic of books. That’s pretty cool. My hope is that one of my books can help to establish a child’s lifelong love of reading. That is what it is all about for me and that’s why I do it.
It has been a pleasure to write this guest blog for Cattlemunns 😊 Rhonda is one of those people that is just so genuine and easy to like and easy to root for. This online focus is an exciting venture and especially appealing for those of us who celebrate the western way of life. A new business, a new chapter -it’s sure to be a bestseller. Best of luck, Rhonda!
Cattlemunns Ranching has both Becky's books - Cowboy Cody and Cowboy Cody: Rope, Sleep, Repeat - in stock!