by Ella Navarro
Writing a book is a dream that many people wish for. There’s also a popular saying that, before dying, we should write a book, plant a tree, have a child. At only 28 years, Ukrainian expat Irena Knudsen has checked off the writing part of her bucket list.
Good ideas flowing in free time
Knudsen came to Denmark to work as an au pair for a Danish Family. “It was a great experience and I got to live the Danish culture from within,” she relates from her adventure.
She fell in love with a Danish guy and eventually came to marry him after going back to her hometown.
While she was settling down, learning and waiting for her residency papers, she realised she had a lot of free time on her hands – “I needed to do something immediately,” she recalls. So she founded a group on Facebook to meet other expats in Aarhus and connect talented people to start projects. “My dream has always been to start something myself,” she contended.
She felt she needed to show others why she loved Aarhus, so she started writing her own blog and slowly got into writing her first book, which had always been her dream.
The base is teamwork
The whole book project took Knudsen one year to fulfill. “I didn’t know when I started that it would be so difficult! But I found an illustrator – Roser Cussó – who helped me with the drawings and helped me to achieve the desired result.”
When Knudsen talks about Cussó, she expresses a high gratitude towards her partner, as she motivated her and pushed her to accomplish the project in a professional way. “She is a perfectionist and that motivated me,” Knudsen said.
She also teamed up with a Scottish editor, who helped her with grammar, as she is not a native English speaker, as well as with the editing process, which Knudsen believes to be the worst part of the process. “I like to write and forget about it,” she explained. She finds it very difficult to work over and over again, but is thankful for this part of the process, as she believes it made the final result better.
Inspiration from the little ones
The book, called Ris’ Treehouse and other Fairytales, has five fairytales with lovely illustrations. At the end there are also black and white pages for children to colour in.
Although her children’s book project began long ago, Knudsen now works part-time in a kindergarten where she gets infused with everyday situations with children. “Kids are an amazing inspiration for me. That’s why I started writing fairytales,” she remembers from her au pair days. “But also nature. I love to visit beautiful places like Risskov forest. I get ideas there,” she added.
All her stories contain lessons for children. “I want the children to learn something after they read,” she expressed with thought. One of the stories narrates a familiar situation that deals with accepting what we have in our lives, and that anyone could relate to from their own childhood: a kid doesn’t like his family, so he escapes in search of a better one. Will he come back? Another tells the story of a lonely animal that is trying to find friends – inspired by her own experience at Aarhus when she first arrived.
The online world makes your dreams easier
Ris’ Treehouse and other Fairytales is an e-book. Even though Knudsen wished to print it, it has been difficult in terms of budget for now. But thanks to the online world, publishing a book nowadays is a bit easier, one could say.
The writing process is difficult, but once you have the words and the book ready, Amazon makes it easy to self publish. In only 24 hours your work can be online in the Amazon store. Isn’t it incredible? It’s free, it’s available worldwide, and you get to keep 70% of the royalties. First and foremost, you don’t have to convince anyone how good your book is, as it is an independent, self-publish system.
And that’s what Knudsen did. She had her first book published in no time, and it was good for her pocket.
However, although the online world gives us this advantage and satisfies our dreams, Knudsen is not yet entirely satisfied with her project. She wants more, and that is to print her next books. Not only because she feels that the charm of a book in the hand is different to the feeling of holding it on a Kindle or a tablet device, but also because, after talking to several parents at school, she found that they preferred that the children spend less hours in front of a screen.
Shorter and bilingual books for the future
Having accomplished her initial dream, her first project taught her a lot of lessons, and she intends to make some changes for the next books to come.
For the future, she is working on a new book. However, as she wants to get it in print this time, she is planning on making it no longer than 40 pages. “It would contain one fairytale, so would be easier and cheaper to print,” said Knudsen. She wants the kids to be able to hold the book and enjoy it physically.
Furthermore, although her first book was only in English, she would like her future books to narrate the story both in English and Danish; the language of the place she now can call home.
“It takes a lot of work. It’s easy to say I want to be a writer, and the process is hard, but the result is rewarding. And you definitely can’t do it yourself; it is a teamwork project,” concluded Knudsen.
Irena Knudsen has her own blog where you can check out her stories. She is also part of the Aarhus Creative Women’s Club, which is having their first exhibition, ‘Inspired by Aarhus’, on the November 20 at DOKK1, from 11:00 – 15:00. Featuring an international group of artists and crafters showcasing decorative art, jewellery, paintings, sewn creations and other handmade goodies, enjoy a bit of passion for art and participate in the workshops. Is an event you shouldn’t miss!
Ris’ Treehouse and other Fairytales is available on Amazon for Kindle (only 4.99 GBP), or to download for printing. It includes 40 pages for your children to submerge themselves into a fairytale world inspired by a city like Aarhus. At the end of the book there are also a further 10 pages with illustrations for them to colour after they read the stories.