A few years ago my friend Shannon, who is also an Army wife, told me that I needed to write a news story about a children’s book that a friend of hers had written. I think I probably rolled my eyes when she said it. When you work in journalism everyone – your friends, your hairdresser, the lady who waxes your eyebrows – has a great story for you. But I love Shannon and I think I owed her a favor, so I listened as she told me about the children’s book her friend Melissa had written.
Truth is, Shannon hooked me at “former Army brat”.
Melissa, a teacher and principal in the Fort Bragg area, had grown up as an Army kid. With her brother, her mother and her active duty dad, she had spent her childhood moving around from post to post. Now, as a grown up, a mom and an educator in a military town, it pained her to see her students struggling through PCS moves – so she wrote a book to help them. Melissa told me that when she was a kid, PCSing had been (mostly) a fun adventure for her family and that she wanted to give that sense of adventure to her students and other kids moving to Fort Bragg.
I instantly loved the book and I wrote a story about it for a magazine in North Carolina. The book, incidentally, is called, Home is Where the Army Sends You – Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I loved how the family in the book learned about all the fun things they could do at their new duty station. I loved the subtle geography and history lessons, all written on a third grade reading level. I loved how quickly children, even those already living near Fort Bragg and those with no military connection, embraced the book.
Melissa and I became friends after that and I began urging her to write more books so that military kids moving to other installations would have something similar. Other people, including former North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, urged her to do that, as well. Melissa listened to all of us (I’d love to say she listened to me, but it’s hard to ignore a Governor) and she wrote a second book: Home is Where the Marine Corps Sends You – Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Both books are currently available for purchase here.)
And then, during a ‘wouldn’t-it-be-fun’ kind of phone conversation a few months ago, Melissa and I decided to become business partners and to expand the Home is Where vision together. So, that great story that Shannon told me about? The one I wasn’t sure I even wanted to hear? It now means that I’ve added “author” and “co-owner” to my business cards – and, I won’t lie, that feels really good.
My first published children’s book, Home is Where the Air Force Sends You – Eglin Air Force Base, Florida will be out soon and I’ve already written a second book, Home is Where the Navy Sends You – Norfolk/Virginia Beach. Both books are being illustrated by military spouses and another military spouse will illustrate our upcoming multi-services book about Washington, D.C.
Better yet, a couple of months ago Home is Where Books (that’s the name of our company, btw) held a high school illustrator contest and a very talented Army teen won. Not only will she be a published illustrator before she even starts college, but Home is Where the Army Sends You – Fort Rucker, Alabama will be her first paid illustrating job, as well. Even better still, we hired a combat veteran – a former Army Ranger – to be our designer.
‘Beating swords into plowshares’ is so last millennia – we’re turning them into words and pixels – and helping military kids at the same time.