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A child’s first experience with death is shocking.
The concept that someone can disappear forever is foreign. And when it’s another child, even more so.
Drawing on personal experience and her creative writing background, Marlet Ashley wrote and submitted A Garden of Marigolds to the John Galbraith Literary contest. The Comox resident was one of three finalists in the nationwide competition.
Ashley is also the author of Must be Christmas! And two books in the Revelry on the Estuary series.
Ashley, along with illustrator and Courtenay resident, Kate Brown will read from and sign their books at the Courtenay library this Saturday at 1:30 and participating in the Red Scarf exhibit and fundraiser at the Muir Gallery, a fundraiser for YANA, on Dec. 2 at 1 p.m.
Originally from Ontario, where the Galbraith contest is based, Ashley revamped one of her Ontario short stories and studied the work of previous contest winners.
“I was thrilled to make the short list,” she says, “and was beside myself when I became a semi-finalist.”
Ashley found out about the contest through the Comox Valley Writers Society, which she joined shortly after moving to the Valley.
A longtime educator, Ashley taught creative writing at the University of Windsor and literature and composition at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. A Garden of Marigolds is an adult short story, a genre Ashley plans to pursue.
“I’ve always belonged to writing groups,” she says. “But teaching took up most of my time and prevented me from writing as much as I’d like to.”
When she moved to Comox, she met Kate Brown, who lives along estuary and told Ashley stories about the different types of birds found there and their humourous antics. They decided to combine their skills and collaborate on children’s books that focused on estuary birdlife. To date, The Interlopers and Trumpeter’s Tribulations have been released.
Their newest work, Must be Christmas!, is a stand-alone work that tells the story of a young girl and the trumpeter swans that return to the Comox Valley each winter.
After their five-book Revelry in the Estuary series was rejected by 18 publishers, the women decided to self-publish.
“There was interest in the books but publishers found them too wordy,” explains Ashley. “I don’t believe in dumbing down literature or making it so insipid that it’s an insult to children. They can understand far more than we give them credit for.”
The Ashley/Brown books are geared towards five- to seven-year-olds as a read to book and seven- to 10-year-olds to read on their own. All the books feature vibrant colour illustrations by Brown with accompanying text by Ashley. The text in Must be Christmas! really stands out on the different coloured pages.
Must Be Christmas was the impetus for an art show, sale, and fundraiser titled the Red Art Exhibit on Dec. 1 through 8 at the Muir Gallery. It is a fundraiser for You Are Not Alone (YANA), a non-profit society that assists local families travelling to Vancouver to obtain medical treatment for their children.
To support the fundraiser, Must be Christmas! is available in a special gift package containing the book, a stick puppet and a red scarf for $20 or on its own for $12.
All Ashley/Brown books are available at Laughing Oyster, Whale’s Tales, Blue Heron, the Comox Museum and the Comox Valley Visitor Centre near the Inland Highway.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record's arts and entertainment section.