Q&A with We’re Happy You’re Here author Julie Wilkins

Q&A with We’re Happy You’re Here author Julie Wilkins

Julie Wilkins’ debut picture book celebrates the joy of preparing to welcome a child, with contemporary illustrations depicting diverse families and their communities of support.

What inspired you to write We’re Happy You’re Here?

This book is inspired by my best friend Curt’s journey to fatherhood. Watching him navigate surrogacy as a single parent was awe-inspiring. I was amazed to witness the love with which Curt weighed considerations of all sizes. I took note of the extreme care and countless human acts (of science, wisdom, and love) which ultimately brought sweet Avery into our world.

At the time, I searched for a book that expressed the idea that every family’s journey is made up of a unique set of these human moments, and when I couldn’t find one, I set out to write it myself. And now, thanks to Orca, We’re Happy You’re Here will be a big bookish hug for many more small humans (and a nod to the grown-ups who help along the way).

What did your process for writing the book look like?

Because the idea for this book started out as a simple gift for my bestie, his daughter and their surrogate, the words flowed easily. My husband then encouraged me to send the story to Orca Book Publishers for consideration, and I was lucky enough to be selected to work with an amazing team to tighten up the text and help make the final manuscript accessible to even more small humans.

Being paired with illustrator Brady Sato was a dream; their most wonderful imagery brought the words to life in a way I could never have imagined! I’m so grateful for the whole process.

What main takeaways do you hope for readers after they finish your book?

Oh, I really hope the little readers who engage with this book feel loved and able to see the many ways people share their individual gifts to bring families together. I would love them to become more curious about their own story and the many special people who played a part in it.

Meanwhile, I hope the adults who read this book can use it to show love and spark conversations about the unique journeys of families—including their own!

Where did your passion for inclusive and diverse literature start?

I’ve always loved kid lit and believe it is an accessible way for humans of all ages to expand their understanding of unique perspectives.

During the pandemic, our family was looking for ways to diversify our home bookshelves and give back to our community. The Inclusive Culture Club was born—with a lending library of over 200 diverse titles and free grant-funded programming to support self-love and acceptance for kids and youth.

From there came Gather Bookshop—rooted in the same values and community love—and I can now proudly say that my own book fits perfectly into our shop shelves.

You own Gather Bookshop! What has your experience been like on the other side of the industry—as an author?

Honestly, I haven’t quite fully processed that I am an author! I will say that, as a bookseller, I now view the titles on our shelves with a new appreciation for how lovingly each one has come to life.

I’ve worked with Orca Book Publishers in many ways over the years: as a non-profit, a bookseller and now an author, and my time with every single member of the team has been wonderful. I can’t help but see the book’s values reflected in our work together, and it has been amazing to watch everyone’s expertise come to life in the process.

What is next for you? Do you have any other books in the works?

Stay tuned! I have certainly always loved storytelling and feel at home communicating via the written word. I’m still wrapping my head around the idea of being a published author and can’t wait see what comes next.

For now, I’m excited to be able to combine my passion for literature and community by growing our Gather Bookshop in Squamish and beyond!

Julie Wilkins is a storyteller and entrepreneur. The owner of Gather Bookshop, an independent bookstore where her passion for inclusive and diverse literature comes alive on the shelves, Julie is excited to be finding her own voice as an author. We’re Happy You’re Here is her first book. Julie lives in Squamish, British Columbia.