Don Houseman needed to make sure his mother was all right with being the cow character in his story before his first children's book, "How Harvey and His Friends Save the Barn," was complete.
Houseman, a longtime resident of Blackduck, who was an art teacher for 34 years before retiring in 2006, has undergone the difficult task of becoming a self-published author. Writing, illustrating and publishing a book is something Houseman didn't know he would do. In fact, he threw the original copy of his book away, thinking he wouldn't do anything with it.
"I started writing down this story for my grandchildren so that they could know and remember their ancestors," said Houseman. "All of the characters are named after my grandparents and parents. My mom is the only one alive; that is why I had to make sure she didn't mind being the cow. She is a good sport about it."
Turning the characters into animals was something Houseman felt would better catch children's attention. In writing, he said it is easier for him to build a character from an animal.
Houseman said when he was a youngster, his grandfather didn't read stories; he told them. Houseman was always a main character in these tales, something that always hung with him.
Houseman said the idea for a barnyard story came quickly. He has an artwork business, "Stuff on Paper," and he has lately concentrated on a lot of barn paintings. The two ideas conveniently merged together.
"The story itself just kind of evolved," said Houseman, who wrote "How Harvey and His Friends Save the Barn" in three mornings. "I never thought of making it a book. I eventually started thinking maybe it could be a book, and what do I have to do to make it a book?"
According to Houseman, he bounced several ideas off his family members and close friends to create the story about Harvey the Horse, who is modeled after Houseman's late father, and his friends. Their home, The Grand Old Barn, is falling apart, and somehow they need to show the problem to the oblivious Maynard the Farmer. Together, the animals work out a way to show Maynard what is happening to their cozy home.
"I saw this story as a great way to tell my grandchildren about their great- and great-great-grandparents," Houseman said.
Writing the book was the easy part. The process of getting published was a different story. Houseman said that self-publishing is a big risk he is taking, and he hopes it works out for the best for him.
"I'm trying to be optimistic about this whole process," said Houseman.
Houseman chose Arrow Printing Co. of Bemidji to print his book. His illustrations have the pen-and-ink look because of Houseman's admiration of "Charlotte's Web" and "Winnie the Pooh."
"The pictures are black-and-white, but I did put a little color on each page," said Houseman. "I really think of this story as one that parents can read to their children."
The book, which is dedicated to his grandchildren, came out April 1. Houseman will hold a book signing from 3-6 p.m. today at Wild Hare Bistro and Coffee House, 523 Minnesota Ave. N.W. He will also be launching information on his website, www.stuffonpaper.com. The book is also available online at at Northlander Gift Shop in Blackduck and Bookworld in Bemidji.