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Thursday, 14 December 2017 06:36

Retired nurse realizes dream to become a writer

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Author Karen Grand adds her signature to the title page. Author Karen Grand adds her signature to the title page.

Former Swift Current resident Karen Grand has realized a life-time dream to become a writer with the publication of her first book.

She read from her children's book “A Year of Holidays with Papa Hein” during an event at the Swift Current Branch Library, Dec. 6. She was joined by Swift Current resident Morghie Flaterud, who created the colourful illustrations for the book.
“I wanted to be a writer for a long time,” Grand said afterwards. “I didn’t know I was going to write a children’s book, but I knew I was going to write something.”
She grew up at Main Centre, north of Herbert, and during her nursing career she lived in Swift Current from December 1998 to May 2015. She worked in home care and long-term care, and she became fascinated with wound care. As a result she was the Cypress Health Region's wound care resource coordinator.
She worked as the staff educator at Providence Place in Moose Jaw from 2015 until her retirement in October 2017. She and her husband are now residents of Caron, a small community west of Moose Jaw.
She did not have time to write while she was working and raising two boys, and she also did not feel confident enough to write. Her strong faith in God has been an inspiration, and she believes this book is a result of divine intervention.
She originally wrote each of the 12 chapters in the book as stories for a 10-year-old girl who is obsessed with reading.
“Every year our church would have a huge table, and they put a picture of every child that was between the ages of six and 13,” she explained. “You could go and pick any picture you wanted, and adopt that kid for a year, just be a surrogate granny or auntie or sister.”
It just so happened that she picked a girl who loves to read. When she decided to write these stories, it also became a way for her to honour her father, who was almost 99 when he died.
The character of Papa Hein was inspired by her father, and Morghie Flaterud used a photograph of her father when she drew Papa Hein's facial features.
Flaterud is currently the programming assistant at the Art Gallery of Swift Current, but she was still completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Regina when Grand asked her if she would be interested in creating the illustrations for the book.
“I learned a lot by doing this book and honestly I think this book has helped me to improve my art quite a bit,” Flaterud said. “I learned quite a lot from it and I think the illustrations for her next book will be even better, just because of the things that I’ve learned while doing this.”
She has already agreed to do the illustrations for the other books in the Papa Hein series. For this book she created 14 illustrations as well as the book cover.
“I would say it’s kind of a cartoonish style,” she said about the illustrations. “It’s the style I prefer drawing in.”
She has done other commissioned work, mostly portraits of people or their pets, or of fictional characters.
“I do digital paintings as well, some of them which I make into prints and sell at conventions,” she said. “I also do graphic novels. Most of them are in the form of web comics at the moment, but I do plan on actually making them into printed books at some point when they’re finished.”
Each illustration in the book started as a black and white pencil sketch, but it is then scanned digitally and she then completed the illustration on her drawing tablet.
“There is an art to illustrating digitally,” she said. “It’s not as easy as people think. The computer does not do it for you.”
In this book Papa Hein, who lives in a nursing home, is “adopted” by a family and he becomes a trusted friend and honourary grandfather of the two children, Danae and Marc. In each chapter he shares his knowledge about a holiday from a different month of the year with the children.
In addition to being an engaging history lesson, each chapter will provide valuable lessons about love, hope, and godliness to readers.
“I want to make God real to kids, and I also want to foster dialogues,” Grand said. “That was the two things that I wanted to foster when I wrote the book.”
The stories have a spiritual theme and the book is meant to be a parent-child reading experience that will encourage conversations about different issues.
“The people in my church in Caron who bought the book are doing that, reading it with their children, and they said it’s incredible, the discussion,” she noted.
She hopes the affection between the two children and Papa Hein in the story will help to highlight the mutual benefits of interaction between young people and the elderly.
“I want to bridge the gap between the elderly in our society and I want kids to know what it’s like to be old, the things they have to struggle with,” she said. “I’ve worked in long-term care virtually my entire nursing career and I have a very strong feeling for the elderly. I believe they are invisible, and that’s part of this book as well, to make them visible to kids.”
She wants to write three more books in the Papa Hein series. In the next one, which she will start to write in January, Papa Hein will share his knowledge about 12 creatures with the children. In the third book he will be talking about the personal sacrifices made by individuals who decided to become missionaries, and the fourth book will be about composers and musicians.
She also wants to write two books for adult audiences. The one book will include stories from her husband's eventful life as well as interesting stories she heard from seniors during her nursing career.
The other book will be personal stories of people who felt they had a helping hand from God when they were in a difficult time of their life.
Grand's book “A Year of Holidays with Papa Hein” is available through Friesen Press or from the author. She can be contacted through her website at or call her at 306-741-7326.

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Matthew Liebenberg