A passion for all animals
WENDY Lawrence has done a lot of things that most of us can only dream about.
For example, she's had a baby elephant for a pet.
She lived on a coffee and tea plantation in India, alongside leopards and jungle cats, mouse deer, snakes and other exotic creatures.
In the 1970s, she trained with the MI5, Britain's secret service, at a time when more than 100 Russians were expelled from the country for spying.
She spent time working for the World Wildlife Fund at a snake park, before meeting her husband, John, and marrying him in a beautiful 12th century church.
Ms Lawrence, who now lives in Alstonville, has been a volunteer with the Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers for 25 years, helping re- habilitate giant birds of prey including the majestic wedge-tailed eagle, which has a wing span of more than two metres.
And now she has written and self-published a children's book.
Boo and the Big Storm has been 10 years in the making, so she is excited. She collaborated with her neighbour, artist Glen Valuse, who did the book's haunting illustrations.
"I wrote this book and I sent it off (to publishers), and I sent it off, and I sent it off," Ms Lawrence said.
"But the rejections kept coming in.
"After a while I went and saw Glen and asked him to do some drawings for me … then I decided to self-publish. Luckily Glen agreed."
Many months were spent researching the best way to do it, including what type of paper to use, the size and colour of the fonts and the type of binding to use.
She said it was a "hugely steep" learning curve.
Boo, the irresistible main character of her book, is a boobook owl, the smallest and most common owl in Australia.
Ms Lawrence said she wanted the book to teach children about wildlife.
"I've had so much to do with animals over the years. Growing up on the plantation in India, the jungle would have to be cleared and we would get all sorts of animals coming into our care," she said.
"I had my baby 'pet' elephant for six years - it was just incredible.
"I want children to learn about our wildlife and love animals as much as I do; that's a big part of the reason why I've written Boo."
Mr Vause said he couldn't help but get involved in the project after seeing Ms Lawrence's passion for it.
He is an award-winning artist who has studied art in Italy.
"I know how hard it can be to get a project going and to follow your heart," he said. "Wendy is a lot like me; she went through a painful process with the book.
"For me, doing the illustrations came with an ongoing internal struggle because when I finished something, I just kept looking at it and wanting to make it better.
"I was making adjustments right up to the last minute."
To buy a copy of the book or for more information, visit wildpublishing.com.au.