Gillian Meghan Walters can finally add the title “author” to her resume.
The registered clinical counsellor just wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, King Zoom and the Great Seal Pup Rescue, after she and her son had a chance encounter with an orphaned harbour seal pup in Nanoose Bay last year.
“I have written many stories, but it was this particular experience that motivated me enough to publish,” she said in a news release. “I had been swimming at the same location for 40 years and this was the first time I had observed a lone seal pup.”
The 50-page book, which Walters said is at the six-to-10-year-old reading level, tells the true story of what happened during that encounter.
“It was exciting and scary because you don’t know what to do,” she said in an interview with The NEWS.
While King Zoom is Walter’s first published book, this isn’t her first stab at the arts. Writing and painting throughout childhood, Walter began her bachelor of arts degree with a focus on photography and painting at Vancouver Island University in 1992. During this time, she won two juried photography awards.
Eventually, however, she changed her focus and graduated with a Masters of arts degree in counselling psychology from Seattle City University in 2007.
“It seemed like more of a career goal,” she said of the switch. “I’ve always wanted to help people.”
Walters started to write and tell stories in earnest again when her son came along 11 years ago.
One of the things she really wanted to accomplish was for her child, who is Jamaican Canadian, to see his cultural identity reflected in the material.
“I just didn’t see much of it (dark-skinned characters in children’s books),” she said.
In order to share her book with others, Walters turned to the self-publishing world. She attended a conference on the practice in Nanaimo, where she learned the steps she needed to take and made connections with a Victoria-based editor and graphic designer that eventually helped her put everything together.
“Things just kind of happened,” Walters said, expressing she felt that going to the conference and getting family support “aligned” at just the right time. “I just got really into it,” she said.
At the moment, Walters is tackling the marketing side of things. Her first stop was at the Nanoose Studio Tour Showcase last weekend.
Walters also plans to contact bookstores for a tour up and down the Island this summer.
Alongside all of this, the newly minted author is working on more King Zoom books, all of which are based on true stories.
“I have a few books under my belt,” she said.
While Walters is now mainly focusing on writing stories and painting, her counselling career hasn’t entirely fallen to the wayside. She continues to run creative movement expressive arts therapy groups for women and children with developmental issues. Her training in counselling psychology is filtering into her writing.
Walters said her upcoming books will include themes of what it’s like to live with Tourette syndrome, ADHD and other behavioural issues, as well as how it feels to be different.
As for King Zoom and the Great Seal Pup Rescue, Walters said her first book has a focus on mindfulness and compassion.
“The adventure became an education in compassion,” she said in a press release. “It helped solidify our family’s philosophy of living mindfully and compassionately.”
To learn more about Walters and her books, visit her website gillianmeghanwalters.com. A portion of the proceeds made on King Zoom and the Great Seal Pup Rescue will be donated to the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre on Salt Spring Island, which played an integral part to the seal pup story. To learn more about that organization, visit their website at sealrescue.org.