A little mouse named Ollie
My first experience publishing a children’s book came with good friend and client Kim Luke. I had already helped her with her Circle of Sun young adult fantasy series when she came up with the absolute cutest little mouse character named Ollie. Ollie happened to live at Fort Osage Farms, a Christmas tree farm owned by author Kim and her husband Bob (and now a hot wedding venue). In the children’s chapter books Kim authored, little Ollie has some amazing adventures. Artist Jaclee Slaba brought Ollie and his friends to life in her wonderful sketches and colorful cover designs. (See Kim’s books on her author website. https://www.kimlukeauthor.com/
A retired teacher gave Personal Chapters our next opportunity to help a budding children’s author. Except that Lila Bartel really hadn’t thought much about doing a book until she stopped by our booth at the Washburn Rural Arts and Crafts Fair a few years ago. I talked to her about doing a memoir and the friend who accompanied her urged Lila to pursue the project, especially if it included her lifetime work of watercolors.
Lila thought about it for a year or so, then contacted me about her idea to explore all the questions she had asked as a child about the wonder of God’s creation. “What Was God Thinking?” is now a wonderful little book that is, surprisingly, enjoyed more by adults than children. You can find it on Amazon.
Lila Bartel discovered a passion for watercolor art while in the middle of her 47-year teaching career. Her book, What Was God Thinking, contains a tiny portion of her lifetime work.
Next came teacher Lila Bartel . . .
And what an amazing journey it has been for a farm girl from Moundridge, Kansas, who moved to Topeka, KS in 1967 when she married fellow educator John Bartel. Lila went to a small liberal arts college and later to K-State for a masters in gifted education. She dedicated 47 years to teaching in Topeka schools but didn’t start painting watercolors until 1989. She went to a class taught by Diane Lawrence of Berryton, KS and admits this was the start of a new passion. Since that day Lila has painted some 2,000 watercolors, averaging one a week. Publishing What Was God Thinking gave her a new way to look at her art and make it more accessible to a wider audience.
Lila explains, “The pictures were there (for the book) and it was our job to pick the best ones. The surprising thing for me was that it reflected my own questions as a child. It was so visceral with me. Even my book was something else I want to know. At my age, I am still wanting to know.”
Now Lila finds herself amazed at how many doors she has opened with one little book. “The publicity that comes from it is scary but exciting. I now know what Stephen King meant when he said, ‘Writing is easy. It’s like opening a vein and bleeding all over the page.'”
But Lila’s “bleeding” resulted in a chance to collaborate with another area children’s author. She teamed up with Kimberly Stringer to do the illustrations for Loving Lauren.
Loving Lauren is the story of a special needs child who finally gets to have the same field trip experience as the rest of her classmates, despite being confined to a wheelchair. The book is available at Amazon.
Kimberly Stringer, Wichita, is the owner of Kreative Kids, a pre-school she began 35 years ago after she finished her early childhood degree. This unique school, that operates from Kimberly’s re-purposed and expanded garage with two full time teachers, features a mostly outdoor curriculum. The school focuses solely on hands-on learning experiences, not on new digital technology.
Kim has always been a storyteller, introducing students to her fictional characters like Leonard the Leprechaun. This little green man is not the wily character most of us know. This lonely little guy wants to have friends so he hides messages in balloons. The balloons must be popped to find the messages. Every year, Kim’s preschoolers dress like Leonard and play hide-and- seek, hoping to find him in the outdoor classroom. Leonard will soon find his way into a series of books.
But in the meantime, Kim had another story she wanted to publish. Her cousin’s special needs child experienced an amazing encounter with a cow at the county fair, in spite of (or perhaps because of) being immobilized in a wheelchair. Kim wrote the book and pitched it to several publishers, but the project was rejected or ignored. Until one of the grandmothers of a student told Kim about Lila Bartel and her book.
Author-illustrator collaboration begins
The collaboration between author and illustrator and Personal Chapters has now spanned several months and years. Kim has been surprised and gratified by selling out of her first printings of Loving Lauren, but she is already pushing ahead with several new children’s books and realizing a dream she’s always had.
Kimberly Stringer is breathing new life into the stories she has always told and acted out with her pre-schoolers. Matter of fact, just the other day, when she watched one of her students swallow a bubble, she wrote the text to another book right on the spot. Another book she has published with Personal Chapters is called There Are Rocks in My Pockets. It features a boy (once one of her students) who loved going on walks in the outdoor classroom and picking up rocks to hide in his pockets.
“I’m just giddy,” admits Kimberly. She advises other would-be authors, “Don’t give up. This was a 20-year process. I almost gave up. But it could just take one person who knows that person who can help. Follow through the minute you get some information.”
Helping with an author’s dreams
Kimberly adds, “When I get something going, I can’t stop. I’m thrilled that I found someone who could help me with my dream.”And as a coach, mentor and publisher, Personal Chapters is all about helping fulfill dreams. Matter of fact, we’ve been in the dream-and-publish-a-book business since 2003. Clients like Kim and Lila and Kimberly give us so much satisfaction as we watch them grow, learn and prosper.