Due to launch in December 2017, Bree’s Forest Adventure is Margaret River Press’ first children’s book by two Margaret River locals. With words by Miriam Wei Wei Lo and illustrations by her daughter, Emily-Rose Lochore, this special mother-daughter story has a soft spot in our hearts. Miriam and Emily-Rose took a moment out of their busy schedules to chat with us about the book.
Please tell us a little bit about Bree’s Forest Adventure.
Miriam: Bree’s Forest Adventure is a story about a girl, Bree, who goes with her family into the Boranup Forest, which is a beautiful karri forest in the Margaret River Region of Western Australia. Bree and her family (including her gung-ho grandparents, noisy older brothers and slightly exhausted parents) are looking for something that draws them deep into the forest. Will they ever find it?
How did the idea of Bree’s Forest Adventure come to you?
Miriam: Slowly. It’s a distillation of years of bushwalking with friends and family members, but perhaps it was that moment standing at the top of a cliff overlooking Boranup Forest with my parents and two of my children. It was a freezing cold day and I’d persuaded my Dad to wear my beanie (“I have never before worn a beanie!”) and my Mum was grinning, partly because he looked funny and partly because she was feeling victorious about getting him out on an adventurous bushwalk. My youngest child had swung from whinging to smiling and I thought, just perhaps, that it might be good to write a book about an extended family that goes for a big bushwalk in this forest.
What inspired you to write the story?
Miriam: Big families, beautiful forests and a bit of an obsession with orchids!
When writing Bree’s Forest Adventure, did you have your daughter’s illustrations in mind?
Miriam: No, not consciously. I was actually sounding out a few Margaret River artists for the job when one of them, Em’s art teacher Kate Dunn, suggested that Em could be capable of producing the illustrations.
How did you discover your talent for drawing?
Emily-Rose: To be honest, my discovery of this talent was more of a slow development. I’ve been drawing since I was a toddler, and my skills have developed over the years. As a young child, I was generally pretty good for my age group, though of course those drawings look rather bad compared with what I can do now. Probably the biggest turning point, and perhaps the “discovery” of my skills, was when I joined an after school art class for primary school kids, to when I was about 7 or 8. Joining this class really helped me to discover my potential and stretch my artistic skills, in a fun and casual way. I also enjoyed it immensely.
What was collaborating with your daughter like?
Miriam: Hard work! But also an amazing and worthwhile process. We had to learn to work together. Em was only thirteen when we started on this project and it took a while for her to accept that revision is a really important part of the creative process. Going back to the drawing board is a literal thing for an artist – I am proud of Em for learning to do this.
I can be quite bossy, but Em is good at standing her ground and I have learned to respect her artistic judgement. We did have a few disagreements, especially at the start, but we learned from them and got past them. Doing this book together has made our relationship stronger.
What was your favourite part in Bree’s Forest Adventure to draw?
Emily-Rose: The parts that I enjoyed drawing the most were the detailed close ups of the plants and animals Bree and her family come across. I really enjoy drawing close up sketches like these, as I can add lots of detail, and as it is easier for me to draw something based on an actual object, not just an image or idea in my head.
What did you find the hardest to draw?
Emily-Rose: Probably the faces of the characters. You have to put the facial features in exactly the right places, and make them the right size, otherwise the face looks really messed up. Facial features are also hard to rub out, as they are very small. You also need to get the right expressions on your characters. I did find drawing faces a lot easier as I progressed through the book, as I gained more experience.
How did you fit in writing this story around family life, piano teaching, and your work with Sheridan College?
Miriam: We had to schedule time in to do this. We all sat around the table with our diaries and worked out when Em and I could have uninterrupted time to produce the artwork and do the digital layout. Incidentally, I ended up doing all the layout – to do that I taught myself how to use Photoshop from scratch. During term, Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays became our book days. We also set aside an entire school holidays. My husband Michael is very supportive, and took other children out of the house when necessary and also pitched in with some extra housework. Em’s brothers were very understanding and tried to stay out of the way. I did call in some playover favours from friends as well … everybody helped! Sheridan College was very understanding too and accepted this work as professional development in the creative writing department (which is the area I am employed in).