Printed on: November 11, 2012

Starting anew

By Christina Lords

Idaho Falls resident Tonya Arenaz had a somewhat strange obsession during the 2007 holiday season.

She methodically went from store to store, taking the time to scour the shelves for one thing: Christmas cards.

Make no mistake. These cards weren't for sending. They were for keeping -- her way to illustrate for her newest written story.

As a stay-at-home mom with two daughters and four grandchildren, Arenaz always wanted to take the time to sit down and write stories for her family.

Arenaz, 54, recently celebrated the release of her first published work, a children's ABC book, "C is for Christmas." The book was released in October by Covenant Communications, a publishing company affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Covenant is an independent publisher of novels, nonfiction, music and audio productions owned by Deseret Books.

"I knew I wanted to have a legacy for my children and my grandchildren," she said. "My grandmother had a lot of love for writing, too, and I have many of her (pieces) ... I like to think she's up there rooting me on."

After submitting the book four years ago, Arenaz said she's tickled to finally see her book on store shelves. It's available at Walmart, Deseret Book and Amazon.

"I'm just so excited; every once and I while I just have to go visit my book," she said.

Arenaz remembered the first ABC book she ever read, "A is for Annabelle." She's loved them ever since.

"C is for Christmas" editor Samantha Van Walraven said Arenaz's book stood out among the numerous Christmas books the publisher reviews every year.

"We loved the different aspects of Tonya's book because it was at a child's level," Van Walraven said. "We get a lot of books in that are just way above children's heads because some authors don't think enough about their audience."

Arenaz's writing style was a welcome change, Van Walraven said, so much so that the publishing company has asked the author to develop an ABC book about the Book of Mormon.

"We love that this is a book that parents can use to help explain things to their child," Van Walraven said. "This ABC book provided a teaching moment between parent and child, and it provided a good way for children to learn about Christ and the season. That's really appealing for us."

Arenaz, who moved to Idaho Falls from Las Vegas more than 20 years ago, said she gained confidence in her writing by attending writing courses at Eastern Idaho Technical College.

"Idaho Falls really is an impressive place for involvement in the arts," she said. "For artists, authors and musicians, it really is a good place to be."

Arenaz said she's looking forward to submitting some of her secular stories for publication.

"It really is so exciting to have my first published book," she said. "Who knows ... I might be a one shot wonder, but I think some of my best stories are the ones I still have to send out."

Features writer Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762.