Students learn about writing from local author

Thursday, January 19, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

Students heard first-hand what it's like to write a book and get it published when a local author visited a Lewisburg school last week.

Judy Gill is a substitute teacher and a librarian at Marshall County Memorial Library, and now she's written a children's book called "Wish U Well."

"Writing can be fun," Gill told a class of 4th graders gathered in the library at Oak Grove Elementary, but added, "Being an author is really hard work. Writing books is another form of teaching."

She described getting the inspiration for the book from a true story, and then telling it as a tale, all in rhyme, pouring her whole heart and soul into it.

As a librarian, Gill said, it was easy for her to find out who published children's books, and she sent her manuscript to many of them, not expecting a reply for several months.

Much to her surprise, she heard back from Tate Publishing in 10 days. They liked the book, calling it "marketable" and "full of creativity."

"We are so thrilled to issue a formal offer," said Tate's letter, which also told her they accept only 4 percent of the 10,000 manuscripts they receive each year.

Gill admitted to the students she was so surprised by the letter she called Tate and asked, "Are you sure?"

They were, and a six-month process of producing the 24-page book began, with Gill working closely with Rebecca Riffey, one of the in-house illustrators.

"It was really great - it was a partnership," Gill said, describing the work with Riffey and the staff at Tate that brought her book to life.

Finally, on Oct. 7, the first copy of the book arrived at Gill's house. She told students she held on to the package for two days, and then opened it on her birthday.

"I was trembling," she said. "It was a dream come true. It was the greatest birthday present I ever got."

Tate's Children's Division includes a free audio book digital download with each book, and Gill jumped at the chance to record her own story. Her brother has a recording studio, so they spent three days together, recording her voice, and adding sound effects.

The lights in the library were dimmed, and students listened attentively to the recording as the book's pages were projected on the wall.

They seemed to understand and appreciate the story of an 8-year-old girl named J who finds a special star in her backyard well one day.

"The encounter of the two develops into friendship, acceptance and unconditional love through the four seasons of the year," Gill wrote, describing her book for the Tribune. "The girl's understanding of faith, hope, love and peace through rightful decisions made in her life creates the ambition to pull through her whole life," she continued.

"And now this ending is told

Of how the wishing star shares

The message of how one cares...

Softly in a whisper-ish

State the request of your wish.

In the wishing well, always tell...

Of how you wish someone well!"

"Wish U Well" is available from Tate Publishing now, but its official publication date is Feb. 7.

Gill is already at work on a sequel, to be called "Operation S.O.U.P," in which J "takes on a more meaningful adventure with a small group whose goal is to serve others unconditionally," according to the preview at the beginning of "Wish U Well."

Each student got a "Wish U Well" bookmark from Gill and some parting advice.

"Read as much as you can," she told them, urging them to "write your little heart out."