'Remarkable Relly' and the 'Impeccable Ponytail'

Mother and daughter combine on children's book

By Josh Bickford
Posted 1/8/20

Many years ago, when Alica and her mother Relly would go to Newport Creamery for lunch, Relly would doodle on the placemats and beautiful pictures would come to life. Tiny little people and charming …

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'Remarkable Relly' and the 'Impeccable Ponytail'

Mother and daughter combine on children's book


Many years ago, when Alica and her mother Relly would go to Newport Creamery for lunch, Relly would doodle on the placemats and beautiful pictures would come to life. Tiny little people and charming animals would fill the white paper before the food arrived and cluttered out the drawings.

"When I was growing up, we always thought of my mom as the artist in our family," said Alica Martwick. "She drew all the time."

So, when Alica, now a Portland, Ore. resident, finished writing her second children's book she turned to her mother for the illustrations.

"I live on the other side of the country now, but I share with her all the projects I’m working on — she’s an honest and helpful critic and a tireless cheerleader," said Alica. "She really liked the story of 'One IMPECCABLE Ponytail' and told me I should get someone to illustrate it, and I thought, ‘who better?’ and asked her to do it."

Relly Weltman, a Barrington resident for more than 50 years, was hesitant to accept the offer but she eventually agreed. 

"I was very resistant," said Relly, who turns 82 this month. "I sent her four drawings. She said 'No, there needs to be a picture with each page.' I said this is going to be a real pain in the neck. So we had a lot of this back and forth — mailing drawings and sketches."

The end result — a 24-page children's book, complete with cover art — was finished recently and can be found at Barrington Books. 

Where it started

Alica grew up in Barrington and went to local schools, and she has always enjoyed writing. 

In fact, she still has a poem she wrote when she was in the second grade for the Hampden Meadows School newsletter. 

"And then real life bashed some of the confidence out of me," she said, "so it took me a very long time to finally get brave and start writing instead of wishing to. 

"When I turned 50, I realized that in the big scheme of things, I’m very small and the world will not stop spinning if I make my little stories and art and write my little songs, so I might as well make them because I want to."

Alica also decided to spend less time trying to find an agent or publisher. Instead she opted to self-publish her creations. So far she has completed three books, including the collaboration with her mom. 

"Even with no promotion or big publishing house behind me, my books are finding their way into readers’ hands, and I’ve been asked about speaking to kindergarten classes and to high school writing classes, and that is amazing, especially considering that I released these three books in just the past few months," she said. 

The opportunity to work with her mother on "One IMPECCABLE Ponytail" has been very rewarding, said Alica. Relly agreed — she said she truly enjoyed the opportunity to share so much time with her daughter.

"Alica and I are on the phone all of the time," Relly said. "We're very close this way. We see things in a very similar viewpoint."

However, the challenge of completed dozens of sketches and finished drawings for the children's book was, at times, overwhelming, said Relly. 

"I had so many doubts about my ability, but she (Alica) was encouraging me," Relly said.  

Alica said illustrating a children's book can be very challenging for an experienced artist. Alica said Relly doubted whether she was up for the task… "especially when she’d think we were finished and I’d surprise her with a list of what still needed to be done. But I knew that her unique style would lend itself to picture books and had every confidence in her."

Alica said her mother studied fashion design when she first arrived in the United States. That experience, said Alica, helped Relly when it came time to draw the people in "One IMPECCABLE Ponytail." The pages of the book are filled with the main character, a little girl named Bee who's hair is "wild and monstrous" and "sometimes it's a ferocious mess." Bee appears with countless hair styles and facial expressions — a delicate balance of ink over colored pencil illustrations. 

"Her people always look very natural and believable and have a lovely innocence to them, and I wanted that for my story’s characters," Alica said. 

"There were a few times I thought she was going to quit on me but she persevered, and I’m grateful because I think the end result is a really delightful book."

Relly said it is easy to lose confidence as you get older, but the more time she spent on this project, the more fun she had. 

Future plans

Alica said she would love to work with her mother on another book, but is not sure she could convince Relly to agree.

"I’m letting her enjoy having a book out in the real world for a while – it’s really fun to hear that kids love your book, and it’s been a delight for her to see her book available in the Barrington Book Store, where she herself always shops for books and gifts. 

Alica said one of the reasons she enjoyed working with her mother on "One IMPECCABLE Ponytail" was being part of the energy that her mother had for the project.

"People have this misperception that seniors just hang around tatting doilies and watching Dr. Phil," Alica said. "But when I visit with my mom and her friends … I am very aware that she and her friends are just like me, just a little further along the timeline. They still meet for lunch at the bagel shop. They still take classes… They’re in book clubs and theater groups, and a couple of her friends attend discussion sessions at Temple Habonim.

"They’re an amazing circle of dear friends who raised their families in Barrington and then stayed on, and I love that this community has so many enriching opportunities available to them. Which I guess is what this story is really about - that in her 80s, Relly was still up for trying something she’d never tried before. Remarkable Relly. Wait, I have to go jot that down!"

What's the book about?

Alica Martwick, author of "One IMPECCABLE Ponytail," said she was inspired to write the children's book after reading about a father who was unable to give his daughter a ponytail. " I thought about my own husband, who is like an engineer combined with a wizard combined with a superhero, and I was pretty certain that he would not find it hard to tie a ponytail — he’d find it hard to tie ONLY a ponytail." Alica said the idea grew from there. Relly Weltman, Alica's mother, illustrated the book. "We’ve gotten great response and I’m proud because the book seems to appeal to adults and kids alike," said Alica. "And a personal bonus, of course, is that there’s now a collection of my mom’s drawings for posterity — all those years of her drawings, we didn’t save any of her doodles!"

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"One IMPECCABLE Ponytail" is Alica Martwick's third book, following “No-No, NO!”, and her poetry collection, “THE WORLD, CLEVERLY DISGUISED with poetry and art supplies." For more information, visit AlicaMartwick.com

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