Horndean's Laura Siemens and Altona's Jozanna Loewen were all smiles Saturday morning at the launch of the first-time author and illustrator's children's book "Sophia's Suitcase" which took place at the Community Exchange in Altona.

Siemens came up with the idea for the book over a year ago, after being inspired by a story from a marine biologist friend of hers. After that it didn’t take long to put it into words.

"She had to go away on a trip to Greenland for a month, and when she got home, she was telling us about it, and said her suitcase never showed up," explained Siemens. "My husband said 'Maybe, it went on its own trip' and I said, 'Wouldn't that be a fun children's book?' A few months later, I decided to actually write it down."

"Sophia’s Suitcase" follows the adventure that one piece of lost luggage takes, using throughout fun language, goofy made-up words and pictures of a very Canadian landscape. The book is named after Siemens' young daughter.

"When I was very pregnant with Sophia, you have this down time, and you're anxious, like, when is this baby going to come," shared Siemens with a laugh. "I channeled that into actually writing down words for the draft, and then tinkering away with it. We then sent it off to some test readers, who are mostly teachers, daycare workers and parents, to get some feedback from them, and then eventually sending it off to the illustrator to put it all together."

Loewen had been asked to be one of those test readers, and it was from there she joined the project with her best friend. As soon as she read through the book the first time, coupling that with the mock-up drawings Siemens provided, she had a good idea of how she wanted the illustrations to layout across the pages.

"Throughout the whole book, the suitcase gained stickers as it travels to different places, so that was my first step," Loewen explained. "Number one, when I was reading the pages even though Sophia is not going with the suitcase, the suitcase is bringing back all these memories and places it had been. The last page of the book has a suitcase open with a bunch of different things in it, and that was actually, I think, the first picture I drew, and was the start of an idea."

Jozanna and Laura shared a reading of the book Saturday morningJozanna and Laura shared a reading of the book Saturday morning

From the beginning, Loewen and Siemens had their daughter's in mind, and how walking this journey together could inspire them one day.

"My take away from having this book was that, for my daughter, she can make something with art, and sell it, and use her gifts for something special," shared Loewen. "I can say, 'Mom drew these pictures, and other people will see these, and this picture sits on people's bookshelves.' That was my inspiration."

"I just wanted to make her proud," said Siemens. "Like she's a baby, but I wanted to I have this idea. I wanted to bring it to fruition, and getting to do it with Jo was a huge added bonus. It's so fun. We just wanted to be able to make our girls proud."

"As an artist, I've sold lots of stuff, and that's wonderful, but to be able to actually do it with someone else is something I haven't experienced before," added Loewen. "Being able to share it with someone as special as Laura is pretty amazing. I'm very lucky to have done that with her, and now every time I see it, I just think of her little daughter, and that just makes me very happy."

This is just the beginning for the writing and illustrating duo, because they have created their own publishing company, Evergreen Art Publishing, which will be producing books with silly storylines and adorable illustrations.

"Our goal, Lord willing, is to produce two books a year, kind of a spring and then a fall/winter one," noted Siemens. "We actually have the next three books planned of what we're doing. Jo has images in her brain already, which is great."

"Sophia's Suitcase"  was named after Siemens' daughter, with book two named after Loewen's, titled "Camper's Collection". The goal is to release it some time in Spring 2024.

book cover

You can listen to CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show Co-Host Chris Sumner's conversation with Laura and Jozanna, below.