Willernie Mayor B.K. Parent Book Series Garners Awards

Willernie mayor pens award-winning books in her spare time.
B.K. Parent’s books were beautifully illustrated by her niece, Katherine M. Parent.

“It is easy to lose track of time in the woods. After Arial returns to her cottage from a day in the high hills gathering herbs for her nana, she is horrified to discover her home ransacked by a trio of strangers, her grandmother unconscious, and her father missing. Arial’s seemingly normal life in the small village of Mumblesey on Rumblesea Cove has just turned upside down.”

So begins the adventure of the Sommerhjem Journeys Series, which, until 2012, rested solely in the imagination of author B.K. Parent. Luckily for her reading audience and devoted followers, Parent decided to put pen to paper and share this wonderfully creative world. For someone who started writing only shortly before the first of her four books was published, she has definitely jump-started her literary career.

Area residents may recognize her last name for a different reason: B.K. Parent, the author’s pen name, is none other than Willernie mayor Barb Parent.

While it may seem an unlikely pairing, managing a city of 509 residents is, as Parent says, “not an everyday thing; plus, I have a competent city clerk and public works director.”

Originally from Madison, Wisc., Parent received her undergrad degree from the University of Wisconsin there, majoring in education and history, then her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in K-12 counseling, along with a degree as an educational specialist from UW-Stout. She put her degrees to good use as a school psychologist for more than 20 years.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Parent seriously considered writing her first novel. “I have always been a storyteller,” Parent says.

The story formed while driving her niece Katie’s roommate from St. Olaf College to a resort job on the Gunflint Trail. Shared stories of summer jobs and being away from home sparked Parent’s imagination.

Her first book, Journey’s Middle, won the 2012 Midwest Book Award for Young Adult Fiction and was a finalist in the Fiction: Fantasy/Sci Fi/Horror/Paranormal category. The second book, Journey’s Lost and Found, was a finalist in those categories, and the third in the series, Journey’s Seekers, won in both categories. “I was shocked, amazed,” says Parent. Her fourth book, Journey’s Crossroads, was recently released. The fifth and final book in the series will “pull it all together,” she says.

Sommerhjem, the main setting for the series, is “a construct of places I’ve been, except Norway,” says Parent. “England and the North Wales countryside. I visualized Wisconsin, the area between Eau Claire and Tomah. It is part imagination and part places I’ve been or known.”

This same formula applies to other aspects of the stories. Parent incorporates her experiences of sailing and woodworking into the storyline, yet sometimes elements or characters catch even the author by surprise. “One of my characters, the Huntress, appeared in the first book. I thought where did she come from and where am I going with this?”

Parent tapped the artistic talent of her niece Katie, a St. Olaf graduate, to create the illustrations for the book cover. “I had always admired her art and asked her to do the cover.” Katie’s art continues to grace each new book cover, giving visual representation to the mythical land.

The author divides her time between her home in Willernie and a cabin in Wisconsin, writing whenever a free moment allows although she admits she doesn’t have a routine, and some days ideas simply don’t flow.

And to what does Parent attribute the overall success of her books? “It has no sex or violence,” she says. “I wanted to write a story that was complex, which adults would find interesting and be able to hand to youth without worrying about the context of the story. It’s adventure with a hint of magic.”

Find B. K. Parent’s books at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.