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The Flower That (Eventually) Grew

Local author explores the theme of belonging and growing at our own pace
Author: Alley L. Biniarz
Photographer: Victoria Anne D’Anna
2 years ago
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We’ve all searched for some form of belonging.

Whether it was through grade school and high school or even through adulthood, most of us can relate to Lily, a character in a locally written and illustrated book, who feels like she’s a weed in a garden full of flowers — growing just a little bit differently than everyone else.

“Everybody goes through something like this in life. You feel like you should be fitting in and you don’t realize that you’ve always belonged in your own way,” Lily’s creator and author of the book The Flower That Wouldn’t Grow, Victoria Anne D’Anna says.

Victoria wanted to celebrate “late bloomers” through this book, which is done through Lily, a flower in a garden who is smaller than the others. While everyone else has a full crown of petals, Lily has but a small sprout atop her head. Worried that she’ll never grow, Lily leaves the garden in search of her perfect place to be planted. Though, after a few attempts of growing elsewhere, Lily realizes that the soil isn’t always richer in someone else’s garden. She finds that it’s richest in herself; all she needed was a little patience and acceptance of her own pace of growth.

Just like Lily, Victoria has also felt like a late bloomer, and says that she has based the book on her own experiences around belonging.

During grade school and high school, she had moments where she struggled with self-confidence, Victoria hoped she would feel differently through university. She remembers the defining moment for her — as an artist and a person — while taking her double major in Visual Arts and English Language and Literature at the University of Windsor. Victoria says it happened while she was in school doing work for one of her studio classes; she and her classmates were set up in a circle drawing and observing each other’s work.

“I noticed my style was different from my other classmates’, so I tried to blend my work into their style,” Victoria explains, initially feeling like her work didn’t fit into the arts space. “I thought maybe I shouldn’t be in arts school, that it wasn’t working out for me.”

It was later in her Children’s Literature class, when they’d begun studying Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where for the first time Victoria saw a style like hers. She became inspired by his linework and storytelling and began mimicking the delicate drawings until she eventually found a style all her own.

Like Lewis Carroll’s work, Victoria brings her illustrations to life through whimsical imagery mixed with realism, which makes her work accessible for both children and adults. This debut picture book showcases her minimalist aesthetic and combines it with an easy to recognize message for all readers. However, the process for publishing her work challenged Victoria, showing her once again that her growth had its own course in mind.

The Flower that Wouldn’t Grow is the fourth book she’s written and illustrated, and her second attempt at getting published.

“I poured my heart into my first book and got rejection letter after rejection letter,” she says, eventually taking a break from her first book to work on The Flower That Wouldn’t Grow. “But the same thing kept happening and I thought, maybe I’m just not meant for the market. It’s not this book’s time. It’s hard when you pour your heart out into something and nobody sees that.”

After seven months of sending it to publishers, Victoria finally opened a letter of acceptance and a contract agreement. She landed the ideal publisher who recognized her message and vision and worked collaboratively to bring the story to its full potential.

“This book does have a strong message that’s easy to understand, whether for a smaller child or their parent, and I think it’s a message that stands out. Rather than tearing it apart, the publisher gave me constructive feedback and we made it stronger together.”

Victoria shares that releasing the book into the world was more difficult than she’d imagined. She worried that after all the time spent on the book; the six months of writing the book between her job, the seven months of waiting for a publisher, and another year to get the book on the shelves, whether people would take her seriously. So far, Victoria has received encouraging and positive feedback, which has given her more confidence as a writer and illustrator.

Victoria has continuously learned from Lily and has used her book’s message to unpack this notion of embracing growing at our own pace. She adds that it’s especially important in today’s world of social media, where Victoria says people are constantly showcasing their best lives and comparing their internet realities to others. “Some are having babies, buying a house, landing their dream job, and I felt like I was lagging behind and not catching up to these things. Now I know that if I go at my own pace and follow my timeline, I’ll get to where I need to be.”

Victoria says there’s nothing worse in the world than to feel like you don’t belong or don’t have an outlet to express yourself. She hopes this book brings readers a form of confidence to find beauty in all the qualities that make them different from others, but also to see how we’re all alike in our search for belonging.

The Flower That Wouldn’t Grow serves as a resource to empower late bloomers with the beauty and positivity of personal and physical growth. Through Lily’s journey of finding her stride, we’re reminded that we are always in the right stage at the right time. The picture book is available for purchase through Amazon and at several local bookshops in Windsor. The Flower That Wouldn’t Grow can also be signed out to read at the Windsor, LaSalle, and Leamington Public Libraries.

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