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Choose Your Days

Omaha World-Herald

Out of heartache, Paula Wallace created a book full of hope
By Sarah Bakerhansen, Omaha World-Herald

Omaha artist Paula Wallace finished 35 paintings before she figured out the story behind “Choose Your Days,” a book she’s been working on since 2012 that will come out in print this spring.
Wallace, who works out of a studio in the Hot Shops Art Center in north downtown, said the idea for the story began when a close friend of hers had a friend die of cancer. Wallace wanted to express condolences for her friend’s loss, but found herself at a loss over how to do it right.
“We all know heartache when we lose someone who is really close to us,” she said.
She thought about illustrating a poem, but the work felt too sad. Her goal wasn’t sadness, though, it was hope.
“Thirty-five paintings later, one thing led to another, and it just sort of ballooned,” she said.
Wallace created a series of characters in those 35 works she made during the course of a summer and, in her studio, laid them in a loose chronological order. A story started forming in her head. That same afternoon, some visitors stopped into her studio and asked her about the paintings, so she told them the story.
“By the end, they were crying,” she said.
That happened again and again, so much so that Wallace decided to make the paintings into a book. She gave one to the friend who inspired the work in the first place and printed a few more. She showed the pieces at the now-closed Dundee Gallery in 2012 and sold some books then.
She showed more work at The Josie Harper Hospice House; there, she included the text on the walls so viewers could read the story. She’s had friends translate her text into both Italian and Spanish.
“I was kind of amazed at how popular it was,” she said.
That fall, a friend suggested that she submit it to a publisher. Though she was hesitant, she did.
She continued to work on the book off and on, stretching the story with more illustrations. Years passed and Wallace worked on other projects, but the book kept popping up.
People kept connecting with Wallace’s story, about a girl called Corky, named after a woman Wallace considered a second mother. As a child, Old Bear, another character in the story, gives Corky the keys to all her days, a list of things to do and a list of things to dream. She grows, and as her days grow short, she returns to Old Bear to ask for more days. Old Bear reminds her that she holds the keys to all her days — whatever they might be.
Wallace kept in touch with the publisher, Cinco Puntos Press, and finally, it picked up her book, what she calls a “picture book for adults.” It will be released this spring.
“We are all given so much time, and we have the choice about how we approach our day,” Wallace said. “Here are your days. Make them sunny or gray.”
- February 1, 2016  Visit Website

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