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Finding inspiration: Children's author looks to nature for ideas

Phyllis Root shows an illustration in one of her children’s books to Hunter Nelson, 5, at a Book Festival presentation Tuesday at the Bemidji Public Library. Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- About 20 people gathered Tuesday at the Bemidji Public Library to listen to author Phyllis Root describe how a children's book is made.

Root is the author of 40 children's books and is currently in the middle of having another book published. Root told the audience her inspiration for her books comes from things she loves to do, such as going on nature hikes.

"The most important thing I've learned is that you should write about something you love," Root said.

During the hour long presentation, Root read books she has authored to both the adults and the children who attended. Her books mostly focus on things found in nature. To get inspiration for her writing, she visits the locations she writes about and does research on the topic featured in order to make her books more factual.

For her book "If You Want to See a Caribou," Root travelled with a friend to find the large animal.

"It was a lot of fun to try to take something that had really happened to me and put it in a book," she said.

According to Root, the process of publishing a book can be long and tedious. First she must think of an idea for her story. After shaping the story how she wants, she then has to present the book to an editor to decide whether or not it will be published.

Root said sometimes a manuscript has to be sent off to multiple editors.

"A lot of times they write back and they say 'Gee thanks you we appreciate that you've sent us your story but we're not going to publish it,'" Root said.

The author said rejection from editors doesn't phase her.

"It really doesn't matter because I wrote a story that I wanted to write; I told a story that I wanted to tell."

Root said the time from the conception of the idea for a story to the time it's finished can take anywhere from a few months to more than 10 years.

At the event Root read a manuscript of her new story "The Lost Forest" to the audience. The story focuses on the famous "Lost 40" forest located inside Chippewa National Forest. The reading was the first time Root's story had been heard by members of the public.

Audience member Tara Heglund brought her children Chloe, 5, Grace, 7, and Christian, 12, to listen to Root's stories and said they enjoyed the presentation.

"I like listening to poetry and writing and I just wanted to check it out," Heglund said.

Wednesday's schedule of Book Festival Events

10:30 a.m. "Adventurous Life: A Biography Told Through Children's Books" book presentation with Ann McGovern in the American Indian resource Center on the BSU campus, 1500 Birchmont Drive NE.

2 p.m. "Everything I Know About Creative Writing: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous" workshop with Paulette Bates Alden at the Bemidji Public Library.

7 p.m. "A Journey From an Idea to a Published Book" book presentation with Ann McGovern in the American Indian Resource Center.

For more information on the book festival and a full schedule of events visit