Where some hear quacks, Sue Waby hears laughs.
The Auburn woman's many visits to Hoopes Park and many walks among its chatty, welcoming ducks inspired her to write a children's book, "The Delighted Ducks of Hoopes Park."
I spoke to Waby about the idea for the recently released book, the illustration process and why Auburn children will enjoy it:
Q. Is this your first children's book? Or your first book?
A. Yes to both.
Q. So where'd the inspiration come from?
A. Well, I live near the park and go walking by frequently, and when I hear the ducks, to me, they always sound like they're laughing. I won't give you my impression. I think, "They can't be laughing at people, they have to be laughing because they're happy." And I thought there was a children's story in there, and I wrote it a year and a half ago. And then it was a matter of having it illustrated. My daughter said I could do it myself. I said I can't, even though I dabble in art. I asked a few people, and they were busy or had other commitments, so I sat on it for one and a half years. Finally, this summer, I took a week and went up to Seventh Lake in the Adirondacks and painted all week and did the illustrations. Once I got that done, I was able to put the book together and lay it out and have it printed.
Q. What was the illustration process like? What were you trying to convey with the imagery?
A. I painted in watercolor. They're definitely illustrations, as opposed to something more realistic. When I was up north with my mother-in-law and sister, the more I painted, the more I was having fun with it. I was putting characters in there and thinking about who this person might be — it might be someone I'm familiar with. I thought it'd be a much more labor-intensive process, but it was something I had fun with. I had 18 pictures and the more I did it, the more I wanted to do it.
Q. How long have you been going to Hoopes Park?
A. Since I was a child. We've lived near the park for 28 years, so I do go over there frequently. Even as a kid I used to go there when they used to have the fish ponds.
Q. How did you go from being there and having this idea about the ducks to writing a story about it? What was the next step?
A. I kept thinking about what the ducks would be laughing for — what's their purpose? I just enjoy the park so much when I go over, whether I'm walking for exercise or having time with my granddaughter, nieces and nephews, feeding the ducks. It occurred to me that they're greeting people. It's their home; we go and visit it. They're just happy people are coming to enjoy their home.
Q. What's the story of the book?
A. It takes you through a year of the park and all the different things that go on, whether it's the Easter egg hunt or the music that's presented there, or the people coming with the flags who were there. And there's a page where I paint the flags and say the ducks were very happy to have visitors, but know people are there to show respect for the men and women who served our country, and there will be laughter later. It's a solemn thing. Then I talk about the soap box derby, and then in the fall people come, but they might be more bundled up. Then at Christmas time the park is adorned with Christmas decorations and the ducks know they have to leave because the pond will freeze. And if we're lucky, we can be up on their home, skating. Then the water thaws and before you know it, we hear the ducks again and we're happy to see them.
Q. Do you think that "The Delighted Ducks of Hoopes Park" has more of an appeal to local children than most books written for them?
A. I guess that's the thing — it's a place that children are familiar with. I dedicated it to my own granddaughter, and when I received the book I sat down and read it to her — though I was working on it, I didn't let her see it. And she immediately recognized things — "I go to the Easter egg hunts," she said. It's something they can relate to, and it brings some excitement to them. They know the things they've been there for, and it's on a more personal level.
Q. Where is the book available?
A. Right now it's available at the Finger Lakes Art Cooperative, and we're also doing Art in the Park at Hoopes Park Saturday, Oct. 5. It will be available for sale there if people want their books signed or personalized.