More than 15 years ago, Maria Knier wrote and illustrated a book, "The Bezert," and then set it aside to pursue other avenues, including Ayurveda, graphic design, event planning and parenting.
OnMilwaukee.com recently caught up with Knier and talked about the creative process and all things Bezert.
"Even though I shelved the book project for more than a decade it was still always tucked neatly in the back of my mind," says Knier.
On Monday, Nov. 10, "The Bezert" will be published by Little Bahalia Publishing – owned by Milwaukee artist Stacy Williams-Ng – after a recent re-editing and re-illustrating of the original copy. "The Bezert" will be available at Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound and Amazon.com.
On Tuesday, Nov. 18, the Wauwatosa Library hosts a book launch at 6:30 p.m. During the event, Knier will give a "dramatic reading" of the story with her 11-year-old son and 14 other kids from Highland Community School.
"I just hope my sister's amazingly artful cookies and cupcakes don't steal the show," jokes Knier.
For more upcoming events for "The Bezert," go here.
The book – which is a full color, illustrated story book – documents Bezert’s journey into the unknown world and the discovery of his personal strengths and skills. It is written in "Dr. Seuss"-type rhyme and it's a book that Knier believes will be appreciated by readers of all ages.
"It is not so much a ‘children's book’ as it is a book that speaks to the child in each of us," she says. "The abstract themes in the book are things I wish I would have learned as truths when I was younger and then maybe I would not have had to experience them the hard way growing up."
OnMilwaukee.com: Is this your first book?
Maria Knier: This is indeed my first book. Although I've always enjoyed writing, at this point I consider myself as more of an "illustrator who writes" than a real live author.
OMC: What inspired you to write this book and how did you come up with the idea for the story?
MK: I wrote this book many years ago when I was doing freelance editorial illustration full time. I have always really enjoyed the process of communicating a visual concept from a story or article.
At that time I had also just begun studying Ayurveda and learning about holistic healing sciences and I was inspired by a few books I had recently read. I played around with different themes of balance and universal truths in my work and then created an illustrated series of eight paintings, spread them out on the floor of my studio, and started writing about each of them.
Then I just kept on writing, and pretty soon I had the backbone of the entire book. I figured if I enjoyed creating visuals from other peoples writings, why not illustrate some of my own? I created the beginning and the conclusion of the story, and then I just kept filling in more and more in between until the story felt complete.
OMC: What about this book do you think readers will particularly attach to?
MK: The intent of the book is to tap into a sort of childlike innocence that I feel is essential to inspiring pure creativity. Young and old alike can appreciate this. Trust and trusting yourself are also key elements of the book. Again, themes that I think young and old can appreciate and often do struggle with at times. If a simple little character like Bezert can overcome his fears, it seems like anyone can do it.
OMC: Do you plan to write more books?
MK: I do have two sequels written and I can hardly wait to write and illustrate more. I have always wanted to create an environment around "The Bezert" as well. Some sort of 3-D or possibly even 4-D interactive experiential installation that evokes more from the viewer. The sky's the limit.
OMC: What else do you do / have you done that you would like to have readers know about you?
MK: I have dreamed of being an artist and writing an illustrated book since the age of 4 when I can remember tirelessly drawing the "contest cartoons" in the back of the TV Guides in the '70s. My mom would pretend to mail them in for me and I'd have high hopes of winning the competition and gaining entry to one of the art schools as a prize although I was far too young to do so. I actually have some of these drawings framed in my studio for inspiration.
OMC: Where does "Bezert" come from?
MK: My dad and his brother actually created the word "Bezert" along with an entire dictionary of other strange words. When I was growing up he used this endearing name when referring to small children or other cute little things.
OMC Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
MK: My husband and I both grew up in Sheboygan although we did not know each other when we lived there. We met in Milwaukee 24 years ago and have lived here ever since. I moved to Milwaukee to attend MIAD and graduated in 1993 with a BFA in Illustration. We love living in the Washington Heights neighborhood with our son, who's almost 11, and all our crazy pets.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.