By MICHELLE McCANN
After hearing that a fellow Beach resident had written a book, Valerie Blackstock was inspired to write and illustrate her own story.
This is why the first-time children’s author, artist, and long-time Beach resident loves the neighbourhood. The creativity of the people living in the area, she said, makes it a special place.
“People encourage each other to do these things without even realizing it,” Blackstock said of the person who influenced her. “She’ll never know that it was her and [that] she made a positive impact, just because she did something she wanted to do.”
In a recent interview with Beach Metro News, the mother of two young children spoke about her self-published picture book, Cherry Tree.
The story playfully depicts a young girl who swallows a cherry seed and as a result, a cherry tree sprouts out of the top of her head. The girl tries to get rid of it, before accepting it as a unique part of herself.
“Often times in our lives, we consume the seed of self-doubt that plagues us and stagnates our growth,” Blackstock said of the book’s message.
“I think if we only allow ourselves to show up as our authentic selves, we could really enjoy our unique and beautiful differences.”
It’s a lesson that Blackstock said she’s struggled with, especially growing up in Nalchik, a small city in the south of Russia.
“It’s a very patriarchal society, so as a kid I was acutely aware of the fact that because I was not a boy, I somehow was less,” Blackstock said.
Before immigrating to Canada at age 15 with her parents, the marketing consultant spent a lot of time with her grandfather, Valeri Yakovlev, a professional artist who created mosaics for buildings in communist-era Russia.
Yakovlev shared his love of art with his granddaughter, instilling a life-long passion for painting and drawing in Blackstock.
“He was very encouraging and truthfully, my happiest memories would be just sitting in the morning and having all my paints and my brushes and just doodling and doing different things,” she said.
The author remembers her grandfather teaching her to draw cherries, a memory she honoured by featuring colourful depictions of a flourishing cherry tree throughout her book.
Cherry Tree is available for purchase at www.amazon.ca/Cherry-Tree-Valerie-Blackstock-ebook/dp/B087HTPVM7
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