Author Marion Mutala draws on the rich Ukrainian heritage in her new set of children’s books.
“In my first book Natalia is playing in the snow and it starts snowing Babushkas, the Ukrainian headscarf,” said the author of Baba’s Babushka:A Magical Ukrainian Christmas and Easter. “One lands on her head and takes her back to Ukraine where she meets her baba as a little girl. Her baba teaches her all the Ukrainian Christmas traditions which are so beautiful, many and true.
“In book two, Natalia is playing in the rain and it starts raining babushkas. A green one lands on her head and takes her back to Ukraine and again sees her baba as teenager now. Baba teaches her the Easter traditions which again are so beautiful and true as well. Baba has someone special in the story which she gives the egg or pysanka to...
“In book three it is fall; note all the seasons and colors. Natalia is out playing in the leaves and a babushka again lands on her head, a rust copper one as it is fall, and it takes her back to Ukraine. Her baba is getting married to dido and teaches her all the wedding traditions just like my grandparents and in the story they will immigrate to Canada just like my grandparents did in 1912.”
Mutala said while the books are for children they are also filled with actual traditions.
“They are children’s book but are historical fiction as they are based on my family,” she said. “The adults love my books as much as the children — just like Harry Potter.”
The inspiration for the books came from Mutala’s own interest in her heritage.
“I was always curious about the early pioneers and my family that emigrated from Ukraine in 2012,” she said. “In 2009, I went to Ukraine and visited the villages where my grandparents came from. The illustrations in my book are based on photographs of my family members and my grandparents are photo shopped in the photograph on the wall in my story.
“My story takes place in Hafford as my grandparents lived there and my mom grew up there. I had to figure out how to get Natalia who is me as a little girl in the story back to Ukraine through time travel. I remember reading Aladdin and his magic carpet and always wanted to fly like a bird. I was trying to figure out how to get Natalia back to Ukraine and it came to me; a babushka is going to fall from the sky and a sweep her up and take her back, vivid imagination I guess.”
Mutala said writing has always been an interest she wanted to pursue.
“Yes. I wanted to be a journalist but I would have had to go to Winnipeg as there was no journalism school in Saskatchewan then,” said Mutala who grew up and went to school in Hanley/Kenaston area. “I got my first guitar when I was in Grade 6, about 12-years-old and started writing songs and have not stopped.
“I write all the time. No real background training unless you call teaching 30-years and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration training.
“In high school I had great teachers and even had a creative writing class in English and we used to analysis Simon and Garfunkle songs in class. It was fun.”
The current book trilogy is something Mutala has been working on for more than a decade.
“I started this series in the year 2000 and my publisher said I had enough for five books,” said the author who has lived in Saskatoon for the past 35 years. “So we decided to break them down.
“I write on anything, anytime and anywhere. I try and carry a pen and paper on me and have a wad of paper by my bed in case the idea comes to me in the middle of the night or will not let me sleep till I write it down.
“What does a writer do? A writer thrives on writing it is in our soul. Writers were meant to write and so we write, and we write, and we write.
“I believe every person has a story to tell and needs to tell it in their way, whether it be through drama, dance, music, art, or the newspaper.”
Passion though is not enough to find a publisher for a book. Mutala said that part of the process took perseverance.
“I submitted my work to many places,” she said. “No bites. Piles of rejection.
“It seems you have to be famous first then you will be published. I decide to go with your nickels worth and self publish in Regina as Heather Nickel had been around for 12 years and has helped people publish over 60 books.”
And her faith in her own efforts has proven itself.
“My book was released October 2011 and it has since won the Anna Pidruchney Award as the bestselling children’s book at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon, two years in a row,” said Mutala. “I am going to my third printing of my first book. I have sold over 3800 copies and it is considered a National best seller. Not too bad for a first time book and prairie gal.
“My second book was released this October and is doing well also.”
And book three is in the works.
“My third book should be out next October, ‘Baba’s Babushka: A magical Ukrainian Wedding’, but I am also working on a murder mystery, a poetry book and two other children’s book plus a historical fiction book.
“I also write a series of articles called ‘Baba’s Bortch …food for thought’.”