Teacher Dorothy Hawes’ Children’s Book Comes Full Circle at SMUS

Ogopogo Odyssey
If it hadn’t been for a couple “serendipitous” moments courtesy of St. Michaels University School, English teacher Dorothy Hawes likely wouldn’t be celebrating the launch of her children’s book, Ogopogo Odyssey, this week.

The roots of the story begin nearly a dozen years ago, when Dorothy attended a workshop led by children’s author Julie Lawson, put on by the Senior School’s Book Lovers Club.

“We were all looking for ideas of stories to write for kids and because I grew up in the Okanagan I was always interested in the Ogopogo,” Dorothy recalls. “It’s iconic for everyone living in the Okanagan Valley so I thought it’d be cool to write a story about it.” The result of the SMUS-hosted workshop was an early draft of Ogopogo Odyssey.

Through a professional development opportunity at SMUS the following year, she travelled to a writing conference in California where she met artist Maggie Parr.

“I found out she was an illustrator, she handed me her business card that had this little caricature of a dragon on it. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s exactly the kind of caricature I have in mind for the Ogopogo,'” she says. “Had it not been for the professional development opportunity, I wouldn’t have had my serendipitous meeting with Maggie.”

Maggie, an artist from Los Angeles, is a former Disney Imagineering artist who now does freelance work for Disney, designing character portraits, as well as rides and buildings at some of the Disneyland parks around the world.

Maggie drew a couple preliminary illustrations for Ogopogo Odyssey, and Dorothy attempted to find a publisher, but there were no bites.

The story stayed shelved (for the most part) for the better part of a decade. Every so often Dorothy would visit the Junior School to read the story and share some of Maggie’s early illustrations with the young students.

“It was a great exercise for the students. I would share the story and then they would usually go off and illustrate their own page of the story or they would imagine what a particular scene looks like. It gave us an opportunity to talk about the whole idea of myth and story and how we as a culture — and particularly through our First Nations — we are fascinated by storytelling,” Dorothy says.

A couple of years ago, Dorothy tried to resurrect Ogopogo Odyssey and happened to find a publisher in Victoria-based Promontory Press.

“They were fascinated by having Maggie as my illustrator – having a Disney artist is a pretty big deal. But I hadn’t talked to Maggie in years and one of the first questions they asked was, ‘Would Maggie still do the art?’ Long story short, I reached out and she said sure!” Dorothy recalls.

This week, as Dorothy and Maggie launch the book (to be officially released on June 21), the pair went down to the Junior School to once again share the Ogopogo Odyssey with a new generation of students.

“I think it’s neat, as a Senior School teacher, getting to do this. I love this kind of cross-campus interdisciplinary experience. We’re combining art, we’re combining story, we’re combing history, and we’re going across grade levels, too,” Dorothy says. “I hope the kids at the Junior School think it’s great that one of the teachers they might have at the Senior School writes stories for them.”

Maggie also spent Thursday and part of Friday working with young artists at the Junior and Senior schools.

“I really have to thank the school. All of this has fallen into place because of SMUS,” Dorothy says.

Find out more about Ogopogo Odyssey online.

(photo by Kyle Slavin)

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