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Interview: Dana Winter talks about Thank You

Dana Winter is an artist and writer who lives in constant gratitude for our beautiful Earth (Papatūānuku, Mama Gaia, Pachamama) and all she provides, reminding us through her work about the magic of adventure and being outdoors. Dana lives in Oakura, Taranaki, New Zealand with her husband, two daughters, dog and fat black cat. She talks to NZ Booklovers.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was visiting the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when the idea landed (hence the American flavour to the story). The wild life there wanders free. Even surrounding private properties are, by law, left unfenced to protect migration paths – so man and wild live side by side. It reminded me how diverse, abundant and balanced Nature is when allocated S P A C E to just be. ‘Civilisation’ in comparison, feels increasingly disconnected and domesticated. I am also aware of our addiction to comfort and how this doesn’t always bring happiness. The book is my own thank you to our Earth for all she provides. A gentle reminder that we are part of the eco-systems that feed, home and support us, not separate from or superior to.

What was the process when writing and illustrating this book?

Because this is the first book I have written and illustrated the process was a series of failures and successes to discover a process. As a recovering perfectionist / control freak I let go of having a formal plan. I just turned up each day to draw and let it flow (or not, as was often the case). I didn’t even have a publisher until near the end, which was part of my process of surrendering into trust. My artistic process became a satisfying mix of both large, painterly canvases and very fine, detailed characters. These were created traditionally then digitally collated into the final compositions. The digital process provided opportunity to continuously refine and edit, which had pros and cons! In regards to my writing, it was mostly a process of simplification. I started off quite wordy and rhyming and kept eliminating and refining so, in the end, the pictures took over most of the story telling. I learnt mostly by doing, held by a good publisher and editor.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

This was so much fun to come up with! I managed to get it down to 3 songs, which all have freedom, adventure and natural beauty at the heart of them.

– What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

– Wild Flowers by Tom Petty

– Best Day of My Life by American Authors

What did you enjoy the most about writing this picture book?

Bringing a world to life I would like all children to experience - wild 'n' free and anchored in gratitude. I enjoyed knowing the story was my simple prayer for living with beauty and reciprocity.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Oh gosh, I keep getting asked this and I don’t feel like I have a very exciting answer. Life just roared happily, busily on. We did raise our glasses and share a few relieved but delighted hugs.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

My favourite adult novel this year would be ‘Where the Crawdads sing’. Why? Because it was a celebration of the wilds, non-conformity and living outside of ‘civilisation’ whilst delivering romance, suspense, plot twists and beautiful prose. My favourite kids book was ‘Hare and Ruru’ by fellow Beatnik author / illustrator Laura Shallcrass. Because it was thoughtful and poetically and visually stunning.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

The answer to this question is percolating. I am not going to force anything so ‘creating space’ for what wants to come through (not having an agenda) is probably the most honest answer. Although my hands are starting to itch again and scribbly ideas are building.


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