Bemidji Book Fesitval: Houseman publishes third book of series
BLACKDUCK -- It's no coincidence Don Houseman has three children and he just completed his third children's book in a series.
Houseman, who was an art teacher at Blackduck High School for 34 years before retiring in 2006, created the books for his grandchildren, dedicating each to one of his children. The books tell the story of barnyard animals that are named after Houseman's parents and other ancestry.
He has used the books -- which he wrote, illustrated and self-published -- as tools to teach his seven grandchildren the names of their great-grandparents and great aunts and uncles.
Houseman is taking part in the Bemidji Book Festival held by the Bemidji Public Library this week. He will sign books from 1 to 3 p.m.today at Book World, 316 Beltrami Ave. NW, in Bemidji, and be included in the Area Author Showcase at 5 tonight at the American Legion, 217 Minnesota Ave. NW, in Bemidji.
Houseman's third book, "Christmas Comes to Harvey and His Friends," was released June 1. The books tells the story of Harvey the horse and Noma the cow, who are named after his father and mother. In the storyline, the church in town loses its nativity scene and the farm animals have to fill in with a few difficulties along the way, such as the pig having to take on the sheep role.
"It really kind of evolved out of my grandfather telling me stories and so then I ended up writing a book in 2009," Houseman said. "And it really went well."
Houseman had the books printed with his illustrations at Arrow Printing in Bemidji. His drawings, done with an ink pen, are black and white and one item on the each page will have color.
"In 'Winnie-the-Pooh', I always wanted the kite to have a color," Houseman said.
Growing up, Houseman said he loved E.H. Shepard, illustrator of 'Winnie-the-Pooh,' and Garth Williams, who illustrated "Charlotte's Web" and "Little House on the Prairie."
"Each of the books, I did probably 28 illustrations with specific passages in mind," Houseman said.
The first book of the trilogy is titled "How Harvey and His Friends Saved the Barn" and the second is "Harvey and His Friends' Great Fishing Adventure," which published in 2010. Houseman said it take him around a year's time to complete each book.
Houseman made the decision to self-publish after weighing the pros and cons, but ultimately he wanted total control over his books.
"It wasn't that I was afraid to send it to a publisher, it's just that if in the realm of art you kind of want control of everything," Houseman said. "If you send it to a publisher, the publisher is going to pick the illustrator."
Houseman also helps with workshops for the Region 2 Arts Council. Earlier this month, he was in Baudette speaking on self-publishing and helped with an acrylic paint workshop. He said that most who attend the workshop on self-publishing ask about marketing, which he admits he's not the greatest at either. However, he does update his blog regularly at www.stuff-on-paper.blogspot.com.
"The rule of thumb is: If you self-publish you carry your books with you because you never know when you might sell some," Houseman said.
His books are on sale at Northlander Gift Shop in Blackduck and Book World and Northwoods Gallery and Framing in Bemidji.