When he was 17, Brian Rockvam, inspired by memories of summers spent at the family cabin on the Sunshine Coast, decided to put those thoughts and feelings down on paper as a poem.
Eight years later, that poem is now a book, Seaside Summer, which has been published by FriesenPress in Victoria.
“It kind of just sat on the back burner for awhile,” Rockvam said. “And then this year I hooked up with FriesenPress in Victoria and found an illustrator. “Then it just took off from there.”
When Rockvam first crafted the poem, he had no plans to do anything more with it and was content to file it away and carry on with his life. It was his mother who felt there could be more to the poem.
“My mom had always thought that it was a lot better than I thought it was,” Rockvam said. “I looked at it again after all these years and thought, ‘This was something people would actually like and relate to.’”
Students at Westmount elementary, where Rockvam read his poem on Thursday, Nov. 28, seemed to agree. Many showed their appreciation for the visiting author by telling him how much they enjoyed his book. When Rockvam asked how many students were interested in writing or drawing, the response was loud.
Though Rockvam is hoping to visit other schools in the district, Westmount is his first and is a natural fit.
“My mom used to teach there and she has a few teacher friends that are still there,” he said. “Just through social media, they showed an interest. That got kicked off that way.”
Rockvam acknowledged the talented work of illustrator Emily Bourke of Victoria, noting the solid collaboration despite never meeting in person.
“The way she portrayed it was just the way that I imagined it,” he said of her illustrations. “It wasn’t like a foreign person who did this that I don’t know. It felt like, through her work, I knew her.”
Rockvam doesn’t have any writing projects nearing completion, but does want to continue working in his craft. While he is not opposed to creating another children’s book, his end goal is to publish a novel or poetry collection.
“I actually never really saw myself as being a children’s author,” Rockvam said. “It was always novels or poetry.”
For now, the readership is represented by those he met on Thursday, the pre-teen crowd with an interest in writing and illustrating.
And that was part of the reason for Rockvam’s visit — to introduce students to the idea that anyone can be an author, that there are writers in their city who can visit them at their school or bump into them on the street, that one day, perhaps a 17-year-old version of themselves will put pen to paper and begin the creation of their own book.