Amoris Walker and her book
Amoris Walker, who graduated with Philomath High’s Class of 1997, authored the book, “You and Me in the Trees.” (Photo/artwork courtesy of Amoris Walker)

Amoris Walker already has received glowing reviews for her new children’s book, “You and Me in the Trees,” but she was nervous about reading it to her most important critic.

Walker didn’t read the book to her 2½-year-old daughter, Kahlia, until the finished book finally was ready.

“I was a little terrified,” Walker said. “I’m not going to lie.” What if Kahlia didn’t like the book or just shrugged her shoulders about it? 

“When I finally did read it to her,” Walker recalled in a recent interview, “she asked about the pictures, she recognized different people in there and thought they were people in her life, which is cool.”

And then came the crucial moment of judgment.

“At the end of the book, I said, ‘Did you like Mommy’s book?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah! I did!’ with exactly that inflection. I wish I had a video of it, because it was so genuine and real and I didn’t prompt her for that. … It was so cool.”

The initial inspiration for “You and Me in the Trees,” however, came before Kahlia was born — and, in fact, the book isn’t even Walker’s first stab at a children’s book.

In 2015, Walker, who graduated with Philomath High School’s Class of 1997, was in Florida with her parents. She had just quit her job and was trying to figure out what she was going to do next.

AMORIS WALKER
Age: 41
Family: Husband, Andy Campanella; daughter, Kahlia, 2½;
parents, Morris and Lynn Walker; brother, Skye Walker.
(He did the mural outside TacoVino in downtown Corvallis.)
The four Walker family members made up The EarthWalkers,
a family band that toured throughout the country in the early
1990s, teaching kids about conservation, sustainability and
recycling through music and comedy. 
See Amoris Walker live: She’ll be reading her new children’s
book, “You and Me in the Trees” on Sunday, April 24, as part of
The Thyme Garden’s celebration of Earth Day. The reading is
scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at The Thyme Garden, 20546 Alsea
Highway near Alsea.
Where to find the book: The book is on sale at Grass Roots
Books & Music and Common Fields in Corvallis. Copies can
be checked out through the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
On video: Walker participated in a recent video session sponsored
by Oregon Wild, the conservation group. The session featured a
video reading of the book. Click here to watch it

“And I had a dream one night, and it was a children’s book, and I dreamt it from start to finish.”

She woke up, wrote it all down and then went onto Craigslist to look for illustrators. She found a talented 15-year-old in California named Alyssa Gnos, sent her the book, and paid her to illustrate it. 

That book was not “You and Me in the Trees.”  

Walker put that first book on the back burner, although she thought it would be the first one she got published. She got on with her life — “I traveled all over the world, I started a new company, things changed drastically, I met my husband,” Andy Campanella, now the sales manager for Yachats Brewing.

“I started writing a poem when my husband and I started dating,” Walker said. “We were doing a lot of camping, a lot of outdoor stuff, that was kind of our jam, still is. I started writing this poem called ‘You and Me in the Trees.” The writer in me, the grammar Nazi, wanted to call it ‘You and Me Among the Trees,’ but the poetic justice inside of me said, ‘You and Me in the Trees’ has a better vibe.”

The poem took a somewhat different direction after Kahlia was born, Walker said.

“It kind of morphed from there when I had my baby into being about her and about Mother Earth protecting our habitat for the future generations, which is a tale as old as time, a tale that my parents told me growing up.”

Amoris Walker, husband Andy Campanella and baby Kahlia smile for a snapshot during an outing. Camping trips inspired Walker to write a poem that became “You and Me in the Trees” — her new children’s book. (Photo/artwork courtesy of Amoris Walker)

In fact, Walker — along with her parents, Morris and Lynn, and her brother, Skye — were in a family band called The EarthWalkers, which toured the United States in the early 1990s spreading the word about sustainability and recycling. “So it came full circle for me, really,” Amoris Walker said.

Walker finished the poem and concluded that it — not the book she dreamed up in Florida — should be her first children’s book. She reconnected with Gnos, the illustrator who is now a college student in California. Her illustrations for “You and Me in the Trees” captured Walker’s vision for the book: “She brought my dreams to life, basically, with the illustrations.”

And all of that may have been the easiest part of getting “You and Me in the Trees” published.

The marketplace for children’s books is saturated, especially for newcomers to the field like Walker. (It doesn’t help that books by celebrities are flooding the market as well; in fact, a children’s book by pro football quarterback Russell Wilson was published on the same date that “You and Me in the Trees” came out.) After a lengthy and frustrating search for a publisher, Walker opted for what she called “hybrid self-publishing,” using a company called Mascot Books.

In this hybrid model, authors pay a per-book fee to cover printing costs and can also pay a little extra for marketing. The company gets the book listed on websites such as Amazon and Target and also works to drum up publicity. Walker put together a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs and quickly raised $8,500 to publish about 1,200 books. In retrospect, considering the encouraging early sales of the book (she’s sold about 800 thus far), she wishes she had raised a little more money in the Kickstarter campaign and printed more books — in part because the per-book price of printing has gone up since that initial run.

From start to finish, the effort took about four years.

“Anybody who’s thinking about publishing a book needs to know that it’s going to take far longer than they can ever imagine,” she said.

Still, there was real joy in seeing the finished product in her hands — and she said that Mascot Books did an “awesome” job throughout the process.

So, what about that first book, the one that came to her in a Florida dream? Walker still has plans to get that one published. She’d also like to keep plugging away on a memoir about her days in The Earthwalkers. And she says “You and Me in the Trees” is the first of what could become an eight-book series.

In the meantime, Walker is basking in the uniformly positive response to “You and Me in the Trees,” including a note from a reader who told her that “Your book is a treasure.”

And young Kahlia, the book’s first and most important reviewer, still is enthralled.

“Now whenever we read it, she says, ‘Yeah, it’s Mommy’s book.’ And you open up the page, and there’s (an illustration of) three butterflies, and she says, ‘That’s Mommy, and Baby is that one and Daddy is that one.’ She’s made it hers, which is everything I could ever hope for.”