I sure enjoyed being interviewed by Lauren Fitch at The Pioneer here in Big Rapids. She was kind enough to let me pick my favorite Illustrations. Right now its in the 40’s. Very strange for early January. Here is the article. courtesy of Lauren Fitch at The Pioneer Group.
Local children’s author turns family experiences into new-found passion for writing
BIG RAPIDS – Wendy Nystrom became an author of children’s books “totally by accident.” Now after several years of searching for a publisher and completing three books, Nystrom can’t imagine life without writing.
“This came about when my son was 7,” Nystrom, 47, a four-year Big Rapids resident, said of her first book. “He looked out the window at the moon sitting on the mountain, and that evening I was writing a story. It unlocked something in my brain that was always there.”
Nystrom’s first book, “James Saves the Moon,” was published by Solstice Publishing as an e-book in December 2010. In April, “James Saves the Moon” came out as a print edition. “Helga Returns,” the next in her series, was released as an e-book in October before being printed in November. Her latest book, “Tomfoolery and 13 Yule Lads of Iceland,” is now available as an e-book.
One more book will complete the series of James and Syvok adventures, set in Iceland with a cast of mystical characters.
“All of a sudden all these other stories (came to me),” said Nystrom, who worked as a circulation manager for a newspaper in Idaho and then a stay-at-home mom before beginning her writing career. “I was dreaming stories. It was crazy. It was like an overload. … I started jotting down all these ideas.”
While the writing came easily for Nystrom, she soon realized getting her work published would be a much more difficult process. After penning “James Saves the Moon” in 2004 while living in Iceland, she spent six years editing, finding an illustrator and searching for a publisher.
She happened upon graphic artist Jim Weidman, from Virginia Beach, Fla., one day while searching online. Weidman illustrated her first book, before Nystrom began working on her next two books with Big Rapids Public Schools alumna Kelly Murray, who graduated from Ferris State University in 2008 with a degree in TV digital media production.
“I sent (‘James Saves the Moon’) to a couple publishers in Iceland and didn’t hear anything back,” Nystrom said. “Then we came back to the United States and moved to West Virginia for a year. I sent it out a couple more times. … When I moved here (to Big Rapids), I started looking for a job and couldn’t get one, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll just see if this writing thing will work.’”
With encouragement and editing help from her husband, James, and friends, Nystrom researched numerous publishers looking for one that was compatible with her stories. She sent out 150 submissions, heard back from 25 and finally found Solstice Publishing.
“Of course I got lots of rejections like everybody. Rejections don’t bother me though, it’s just part of life. I have to admit, though, I was about to give up and a friend of mine gave me a pen and pencil set that said ‘Keep on writing, I love your stories.’ … That pen and pencil set made me keep plugging away.”
Nystrom found out Solstice had offered her a contract while making dinner one evening. Her twin daughters, Alexandria and Bethanny, 9, were the first to know.
“My girls are so funny, they said they’ve never seen me jump so high,” she said. “I downloaded it right away and of course called every relative. … I ordered (the print version) off (Solstice Publishing’s) site and off Amazon right away, then I ordered my 50 (author’s) copies. I have to see how the whole picture works – how it was coming from Amazon and from the printer. I took pictures and Facebooked it everywhere and e-mailed the links to everybody.”
It’s easy to see how Nystrom’s family has influenced her writing.
The main character in her books, James, is named after her 14-year-old son. Many of the character James’ adventures are prompted by real-life conversations with her son.
James’ father in the stories works at a university, similar to Nystrom’s husband, who is an assistant professor of math at Ferris State University.
The Nystroms lived in Iceland for two years, which is the setting for the adventures in her books. The fictional stories are embedded with facts about the Icelandic countryside, its culture and legends.
“(Living in Iceland) changed my life. Iceland is a wonderful culture,” Nystrom said. “Icelanders have (one of) the highest literacy rates in the world. At Christmas time, the No. 1 gift is books. … They loaded me up with books on their cultures, their legends, their folklore. So I incorporate that into the stories.”
Dragons play a key role in Nystrom’s books, which stems from her love for the mythical creatures – as evidenced in a dragon pendant and necklace the author wears on a regular basis.
Every illustration in Nystrom’s books has a dragon in it. The main dragon, who helps James in his adventures, is named Matt, after one of Nystrom’s son’s friends from Texas. In her second book, she added twin dragons, representative of her daughters.
Murray also was excited to see her work in print, starting with “Helga Returns.”
“I was excited because I love dragons, and there are a lot of dragons in the book. It seemed like an educational and fun book for kids,” Murray, 25, said. “I was very excited to actually see myself in print.”
Murray’s father, Dave, introduced the author and illustrator. Dave, as a member of the BRPS school board and a professor at Ferris, knew Nystrom and connected her with his daughter.
The whole reason Nystrom started writing children’s books was for her son.
“When we were in Iceland, (James) was in first and second grade learning in Icelandic,” she said. “I was trying to keep his English up. He got bored real quick with a lot of books. The original intent (of writing children’s books) was to find books that boys and girls would read that are adventurous and fun. … I think how you keep kids reading is having an adventure that a little kid would want to do.”
One year after her first book was published, Nystrom has just recently begun considering herself a writer.
“It was with my second book when they put my bio in it,” she said. “When they put the bio in, I thought ‘Wow, I’m an author with a publisher.’”
Still, she realizes the hard work ahead in marketing and completing the final children’s book of the series. She also hopes to write a science fiction piece and a young adult novel.
For more information on Nystrom’s books and how to order them, visit her “Wendys Bookcase” Facebook page.