There’s nothing like a voracious reader at home to inspire a little writing.
That’s what Heather Stephens discovered when she began reading children’s literature to her two-year-old daughter, Curalise.
Balancing motherhood with a busy career as a commercial loans manager in Winnipeg, Stephens, who grew up on a farm near Ridgeville, carved out writing time in between naps and feedings at home and even while on vacation.
"I just kind of plug away at it every morning when I get up," she explained.
Her first children’s book, Where Shall We Go Today?, was published by FriesenPress last November.
"It was something on my bucket list that I always wanted to do," Stephens said.
She followed it up last month with a second book, titled ABCs Are Delicious, that’s intended for preschoolers who are learning the alphabet and sampling more solid foods.
"I wrote it with a lot of foods that my daughter was trying for the first time," Stephens said.
Each book contains a distinct story, but their underlying message is similar: don’t be afraid to try new things.
It’s a philosophy Stephens herself follows whenever she gets the chance. She and her husband, Mike, have visited the white sand beaches of Mexico, Jamaica, and Barbados, and the bustling streets of New York City. They now hope to instill their love of travel in their daughter.
For her first book, Stephens worked with a professional computer illustrator, but reached out to her sister-in-law, Cyndi Stephens, a teacher in Oakbank, to illustrate ABCs Are Delicious using oil pastels.
"It was kind of a neat experience to go through together," Stephens said.
She hopes the finished product will kindle in readers a desire to go out and try something for the first time.
"I think it’s easy for all of us—not just kids—to use our phones and screens too much to pass the time. But there’s nothing like going out and experiencing new things," she said.
Growing up, Stephens attended school in Dominion City and spent her free time on the family farm, working with livestock and helping her dad in the field.
"We all helped out on the farm. It was a great experience," she recalled. "All those fun experiences, they really stick with you."
During her time in 4-H, she penned an award-winning short story. When she turned 18, she moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba. Stephens, 50, now works at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, supporting women entrepreneurs across the province.
While she didn’t foresee her finance career widening to include authoring children’s books, she now has plans to produce a series, and is already at work on a manuscript about vegetables. Her goal is to write books that grow along with her daughter.
Stephens said it’s been a delight to read the books to her daughter and watch them ignite her imagination. She believes there’s something special about flipping pages together.
"You can point at the pictures, you can stop and reflect, and talk a little bit about it when you’re reading to your child. It’s just more interactive."
Where Shall We Go Today? and ABCs Are Delicious are available from the FriesenPress web store and at Winnipeg bookstores.
On Sunday, Heather Stephens and Cyndi Stephens will launch both books in the atrium at McNally Robinson Booksellers at 2 p.m.