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Writer’s dream of children’s book finally comes to fruition
Nov 24, 2018
WEST ORANGE, NJ — When Kimberly Rowland picked her daughter up from her first-grade class at St. Cloud Elementary School years ago, she heard a story that later inspired her to write the children’s book she had been dreaming about writing for so long. Sixteen years after her initial inspiration, “Nora’s Lollipop” is ready for readers. On Saturday, Dec. 1, the West Orange resident will hold a book signing event at the West Orange Arts Center.
“It came from a story that my daughter told me happened in her class,” Rowland said in an interview with the West Orange Chronicle on Thursday, Nov. 15. “It’s about forgiveness and how small children as well as adults can learn about forgiveness.”
The story follows the character of Nora, who receives a surprise birthday present that later goes missing in her classroom. Nora has to find out who took her gift, and then learn to forgive that person. The book is geared toward elementary school-aged children, and Rowland said young students will be able to see themselves and relate to its characters. Though the story is based on what her daughter Taylor, now 22, told her that day after school at St. Cloud, Rowland said she added many elements of her own.
“About 20 percent of it is from her,” the author said. “And 80 percent is from me. You want to tell a cohesive story, and I wouldn’t be able to tell it the way she could. I also wasn’t there. When kids are in first grade they’re excited and the way they put words together is so comical, I just laughed the whole time. I thought it was so cute and would be a fun story to tell.”
Rowland self-published the book, raising about $500 with a GoFundMe campaign to pay illustrator Jamil Burton. She went through the editing process herself, asking her friends and neighbors to provide feedback.
“There are a lot of rewrites that occur,” Rowland said. “It’s hard for me to see the errors because I’m so close to it, so that was daunting. But the feedback was a gift, because I got to consider it and think about whether or not I wanted to make those changes. The feedback was not the same from every person.”
Several teachers read drafts of the book, in addition to a friend who is a former librarian.
“She asked to take a look at it and make more suggestions,” Rowland said. “Her final input is really what made the book pop. When you’re doing something like this you need an editor, because my mind is thinking so quickly about everything. So those people helped a lot.”
And of course, Rowland’s daughter, who inspired the book, provided feedback as well. Rowland said her daughter was excited to finally see the finished product, bound into a book.
“She was so excited to see it in print that it took her two or three days to really read it and share what she thought,” Rowland said.
Finding an illustrator to work with was also a process, according to Rowland. Several artists fell through before she finally connected with Burton, who Rowland said created the illustrations that brought “Nora’s Lollipop” to life.
“I enjoyed writing it and coming up with the characters and how they would react to this situation,” she said. “And then once I was done I found Jamil, and he drew them exactly how I pictured them. He definitely brought my characters to life.”
The characters in the book reflect the students in her daughter’s first-grade class from so many years ago, so that students reading the book now see themselves in it. It’s representative of all different backgrounds and types of people.
Now that “Nora’s Lollipop” is finally hitting the shelves, Rowland has dozens of new ideas for a follow-up. She had ideas for stories about other characters in “Nora’s Lollipop,” and wants to start working on a mystery series.
“This is the first of many,” Rowland said.
Rowland and Burton will be reading and signing copies of “Nora’s Lollipop” at the West Orange Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To preview the book and buy a copy, visit www.noralollipop.com.
WO WRITER TRIES TO MAKE DREAM OF BEING AN AUTHOR A REALITY
May 16, 2016
WEST ORANGE, NJ — It is often said that children say the darndest things, which is something that Kimberly Rowland knows firsthand. While driving home from St. Cloud Elementary School, Rowland’s then-6-year-old daughter Taylor regaled her with a story about what happened during a girl’s class birthday party that day that Rowland found about as entertaining as something found in a Dr. Seuss book. Playing along with the little girl’s excitement in telling the tale, she had a blast not only seeing her daughter’s enthusiasm for the story but also hearing what happened.
In fact, Rowland found the story so interesting that it stayed with her.
“It was just a phenomenal story, and I had the story in my head for about 15 years,” Rowland recalled to the West Orange Chronicle in a May 6 phone interview. “So I said I was going to put the memory to the paper, and that’s what I did.”
Over a few hours while traveling to a conference by plane, Rowland finally translated Taylor’s story of a girl whose beloved birthday lollipop goes missing into “Nora’s Lollipop,” a children’s book that she is now hoping to share with the world. The only problem is that getting it out to the public is easier said than done. After choosing not to work with traditional publishers out of fear that her work would sit on the backburner for years, as well as the fact that she would have no control over the illustrations, the longtime West Orange resident made the decision to self-publish the book. But self-publishing costs money — approximately $15,000.
So Rowland recently launched a GoFundMe page to help raise the needed funds, collecting $425 in the past two months. And she hopes her fellow West Orange parents will support her cause because she believes “Nora’s Lollipop” will have an impact on children who read it.
“There are times when children are not shaped the way they should be shaped,” Rowland said, adding that boys and girls can learn from her book since she made sure to write it “in a way where the children get an opportunity to see the lessons. And if you have a parent who’s trying to teach a child the right way, it’s reinforced through reading.”
And Rowland believes that parents and children alike will enjoy reading “Nora’s Lollipop,” which centers on a little girl who finally gets the giant lollipop she long desired for her birthday, only to have it disappear during her class party. After searching all over the room for the candy, the teacher informs the class that there will be no recess the next day unless someone admits to stealing the lollipop, prompting one boy to confess. But the boy did not really steal the lollipop — he only wanted save the rest of the class from missing their fun. In the end another boy admits to eating Nora’s candy, and even though the birthday girl was distraught when she first lost it, she forgives him.
What impressed Rowland about the story — which she said is mostly based on her daughter’s actual recollection, with some minor embellishments — is the fact that there are several important lessons for children to pick up on. Most obvious are the virtues of forgiveness and honesty, but there are also some lesser-seen tenets like never taking the blame for someone else and avoiding attachment to material items.
“We don’t want to become so attached where it consumes us,” Rowland said. “(Nora) was so upset — the only thing she focused on was the lollipop. And while we want our children to focus on certain things, we need to teach them how to pick their battles.”
These messages will be sent when funds are raised to publish the book; Rowland said she will work with Balboa Press to decide how the story should be illustrated. Right now, her first choice is a comic book style that she said is currently very popular among children’s authors. Then again, she recently was blown away by the simple yet powerful pictures done by Oliver Jeffers for Drew Daywalt’s “The Day the Crayons Quit,” so she may change her mind.
Meanwhile, Rowland — who holds a doctoral degree in management and technology and works as an adjunct professor of managerial communications at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University while also serving as manager of government and public relations for One Call Care Management — is currently at work on a book about female empowerment. Plus, she said she has many ideas for future children’s books, all inspired by the life of her daughter, now 20 years old.
Before that though, the West Orange author hopes residents will support “Nora’s Lollipop,” her first literary endeavor, so that children around the country will learn the same lessons her own little girl did as a student at St. Cloud.
“It’s my project so I love it, but I would hope that people would want to reinforce the messages that are in my book to the children,” Rowland said. “In addition, it also gives the children an opportunity to read the book themselves and to think.
“You want them to think,” she continued. “You want them to ask questions. You want them to be engaged. So I think it will be a fun book.”