Eva op haar boekpresentatie bij Dekker v.d. Vegt in Nijmegen
Eva op haar boekpresentatie bij Dekker v.d. Vegt in Nijmegen

During her leave, Eva wrote and illustrated a children's book: 'A dream came true'

Taking regular leave of absence for a secret mission. That is exactly what Eva de Waal has been doing for the past few months. The marketing & communications specialist at Radboud University used the days off to work on a personal project: publishing her own children's book Kamilla in Nimma. 'Special that it is now available for everyone.'

For a long time, hardly anyone knew. 'Only my parents, my boyfriend, sister and brother-in-law knew I was working on a children's book,' Eva reflects. 'That was deliberate: it was my personal project, it felt nice to work on it in my own bubble, not to feel any outside pressure. On top of that, a lot had to be arranged beforehand to actually be able to market a book. So I did everything myself: writing, illustrating, but also publishing. As a result, everything was still uncertain for a while, which is why I kept my dream quiet for a while.'

Kamilla in Nimma bij hotel Credible

Writing and drawing

This dream she already had as a child. 'I used to love writing stories, especially during the summers when we went on holiday with the family to the south of France. There are still notebooks full of my writings from those days. Later, while studying Journalism, I also learnt to design. So another childhood passion of mine resurfaced: drawing. I have continued with that ever since, especially when I lived in Paris for a period during my later Master's degree in French Language & Culture. For instance, I sketched the Eiffel Tower and other highlights there, with the aim of capturing memories for myself. During that time, I discovered how much I enjoyed drawing a city.'

A camel in Nijmegen

Back in the Netherlands, the thought of making a book about a city crossed Eva's mind more and more often. 'I imagined how nice it would then be not only to write it, but also to take care of the illustrations myself. So the idea for a children's book was born, in which text and drawings together tell the story.' Yet it was not Paris that inspired her for the story, but her other favourite city: Nijmegen. 'This is where I lived, studied and experienced a lot. I discovered that there was no specific children's book about Nijmegen yet. I did know that I wanted an animal in the leading role. After all, animals often do well in children's stories and I love to draw them.'

Eva then used Google to search for unusual Nijmegen animals. 'Eventually, I read that a camel lived near a castle in the Valkhof around 1405 and that a camel is a real walking animal. I combined that fact with the Vierdaagse. And so my book Kamilla in Nimma was born: the story of a camel that would like to be the first animal ever to take part in Nijmegen's most famous walking event'.

Use of leave absence

During the creative process, Eva had a clear goal. Ideally, she wanted to release her book ahead of this summer's Vierdaagse. 'Last year I already spent a lot of hours writing and especially drawing, but I did that mainly on my Fridays off and on the weekends. So since I had a deadline this year, I decided to use my hours of leave to work more intensively on my book. Well, work? It mostly felt like a hobby. Early this year, my boyfriend and I went to Paris again for two weeks. There I grabbed my drawing stuff every morning and got enough inspiration to continue sketching.'

Eva de Waal

From the French capital, Eva's thoughts automatically drifted to Nijmegen. After another week's leave last spring, she proudly presented the final result mid-June at Nijmegen bookshop Dekker v.d. Vegt. She did so in the presence of, among others, writer Adriaan van Dis, many Radboud colleagues and mayor Hubert Bruls, who plays an important role in her book as a character. 'That was quite an exciting moment,' she confesses. 'I have been working on my book alone for a while and suddenly it is out in the open. It is very special that it is available now for everyone: a dream has come true. Colleagues have all responded enthusiastically when I told them in April that I was going to publish a book. Their interest and commitment makes me feel good.'

Enthusiastic at work

Meanwhile, she has already received many reactions on the final result. 'Children are enthusiastic about the camel and adults say they recognise many places of Nijmegen in it. It's nice to serve different reading groups.' As an expert by experience, she can definitely recommend Radboud colleagues to also use their hours of leave to fulfil a dream. 'We have plenty of hours of leave here at Radboud University, so there is definitely room for it. And because I myself had so much fun with this personal project outside work, I was also more enthusiastic at work. So it provides new energy in more ways than one.'

Would you like to know more about Eva's book Kamilla in Nimma or are you interested in buying her book? 

Kamilla in Nimma

Kamilla in Nimma on Instagram

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The photos from this article were taken by Paul Rapp and Ivo Hilgenberg.