Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted

Robbie Campbell lost his livelihood when the pandemic shut down Shambhala Music Festival. Instead, he spent part of 2020 working on a children’s book called Tulip that is now available. Photo: Submitted

In a lousy year, a Kootenay man was saved by a pink T-rex

Robbie Campbell became a children’s author after the pandemic cost him his livelihood

A dancing Tyrannosaurus rex helped turn Robbie Campbell’s frown upside down.

Last April, Campbell lost his livelihood when Shambhala Music Festival announced it would be postponed for 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Campbell’s company books acts for the event, as well as builds a stage, hires lighting staff and provides video. But the festival’s cancellation, the same week his wife had just given birth to their fourth child, meant he had no work for the year.

“It was devastating,” he says.

But at home near Nelson, Campbell turned his attention to an image of a T-rex trying, and failing, to fly that he thought could be the seed of a children’s book he might read to his kids.

That book turned out to be Tulip, the story of a pink T-rex who grows up with birds, which Campbell published in December.

Campbell’s kids inspired the plot of the book about a dinosaur who fails at flight only to discover a different talent.

“Every parent gets really worried about their kids when they’re younger,” says Campbell. “Are they developing fast enough? Are they keeping up with that kid who can already talk and that kid who can crawl? You want the best for your child.”

Campbell has had plenty of experience worrying about his kids. His oldest child is autistic, and Campbell used to fret over his son’s future.

But as the years went on, Campbell realized he shouldn’t have been concerned.

“You worry as a parent. You think, oh man, is he going to make it in life? Are things going to be good for him?

“But now he’s 17 and brilliant. He’s Forex trading and he’s so strong and so helpful. You realize, man, all those things that I worried about were just crazy. Kids are all different.”

Telling Tulip’s story, however, wasn’t so open and shut.

Campbell is a trained graphic designer who opted to draw the book by hand instead of digitally as a way of making it stand out on book stands. But first he had to write it.

“It’s exceedingly difficult to write a children’s book, believe it or not, because of the level of simplicity you have to write it with,” he says. “That was a real wake up call for me when I was doing it. I didn’t realize just how difficult it was to write a kid’s book.”

Meet Tulip, the protagonist of a new children’s book by Robbie Campbell. Illustration: Robbie Campbell

Meet Tulip, the protagonist of a new children’s book by Robbie Campbell. Illustration: Robbie Campbell

He then faced another challenge in finding a publisher. The pandemic, he found, had made publishers reluctant to take a book from an unknown author.

Eventually Campbell opted to self-publish the book, which is now available at Nelson’s Otter Books, Coles Books and on Amazon.

He isn’t making a career pivot to full-time children’s author, but Campbell is excited by an idea he has for a second book. Tulip has been a hit with his kids, and Campbell says he’s had families reach out to say how much they’ve enjoyed it.

“They’re waiting for me to write another one.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Literature