Warrenton resident Norma Thatcher talks to Warrenton Lifestyle about her engaging and beautifully illustrated children’s book, published this summer, featuring a little dog who takes a tour around Warrenton’s Main Street visiting local businesses.
Scooter the dog is well known in her hometown of Warrenton. She and her owner Emma take a walk up and down Main Street every day to greet the shop owners. One spring day when her leash is untied, Scooter makes the decision to take the usual walk all by herself. Children will be delighted in Scooter’s adventures as well as in the kindness and generosity of the people in Old Town.
Is this your first book? How long have you been working on it?
Both reading and writing have been of high importance my entire life. The idea for the Scooter book has been rolling around my head for over ten years. I had even put together a storyboard at one point, but never took that “next step.” Last spring as I was anticipating my 70th birthday, I remembered a friend’s firm but friendly encouragement to publish the book.
What gave you the idea for this book?
There were two parts of inspiration. Scooter was a real, very sweet black and white rescue dog with four white paws who belonged to my daughter and son-in-law. And I love my town of Warrenton, its shops, the friendly people, and the atmosphere. My children grew up here and participated in the events depicted in the book. I thought the story of a well-known dog in a small-town community who gets the opportunity to go shopping on her own would delight children.
Why a children’s book?
Of any role I’ve ever had in my life, my favorite is being a mom and grandmother. It’s vital for children to be read to for as long as they’ll listen. Even when a child can read on his or her own, we need to read to our children.
The artwork is very engaging. Who did the illustrations? Why did you choose her?
For a children’s illustrated book like mine, an illustrator can make or break the book. I knew that I didn’t want a cartoonish type of look; I wanted beautiful artwork that would draw a child into the story. There is a ton of advice online in finding an illustrator. I didn’t take any of it. I wanted a personal connection to an illustrator. My friend and website designer/developer Michelle Coe of BlueSkyPhoenix connected me with Loralyn Noragong from San Jose, CA, and we bonded instantly. Even though she had no experience in illustrating a children’s book, and was not used to drawing puppies or people, she felt called by God to reach out to me.
What was the publishing process like? And how did you find a designer and printer?
The ability to self-publish meant that I didn’t have to find an agent or a big-name publisher. I researched and studied and figured out the various steps to take to get one thousand copies of my book printed. A friend recommended the company Allen Wayne in Vint Hill, and they were fabulous to work with. Sarah Lerner’s design work included placing the text onto the illustrated pages. She was so patient with this first-timer. Even when I decided at the last minute to change the font style, her “no problem” attitude reassured me I had chosen well.
I thought most self-publishers go with print-on-demand and sell their books on Amazon. I understand your book is not on Amazon?
Anyone can put a book for sale on Amazon. My book is for children but the message to parents is this: Support small businesses. Shop locally. When you can, instead of going to big box stores, go to your town’s Main Street and shop where the money stays in your town or city. That’s why Scooter Takes a Walk is available for order or purchase through The Open Book, Warrenton’s independent bookstore. I also sell some books directly at local events and signings.
The story is fiction. Are your characters fictional?
Although the story is fictional, all of the dogs, the people, and the places in the book are real. There are many “behind the scenes” stories in my book. My son Tim died in 2008 at the age of 22 of a heroin overdose. Because we hated the addiction and loved the child, I wanted to honor him by having him show up in the book. So he’s pictured as a 10-year-old marching in the Independence Day parade with other Scouts. And since I have close friends who also lost children to accidents, illness, or substance abuse, I had their moms send me photos of them when they were younger, and they are included also. Loralyn considered it an honor to draw these young people whose lives ended too soon and who are forever missed.
Tell me about the people who helped you along the way.
Because Loralyn was in California, I needed to take lots of photographs for her to work from. I wanted to keep it as real as possible. So many people agreed to help with this, and I wish I could name them all. One person was Amber Kiffney who helped me several times. She brought her dog Dixie to body-double for Scooter so that Loralyn could visualize, for example, how a dog would stand in The Open Book while Cammie, the owner, places a book in the dog’s backpack. Her sons Eli and Owen are in the parade as well, as they were kind enough to model their Scout uniforms and wave flags. Amber’s daughter Charlotte posed as the reader to therapy dog Tess in the library scene.
What would you like people to take away from this book and your experience writing it?
I hope people feel encouraged to follow their dreams. Determine what’s in your way and then figure out how to move forward.
Do you plan to write more books?
I’ve already written my second book which is a rhyming book about animals doing silly things. Loralyn has already started some sketching. And my third book is Christmas-themed, about a little lamb who, with the assistance of the family dog and some other farm animals, saves a family’s Christmas tradition.
I notice on your dedication page that after your individual dedications, you’ve written: “And from both of us – To the glory of God for bringing us together in this partnership.”
Yes, the two of us feel certain that God blessed this project. Both of us have strong faith, and we trust we’re walking new intended paths…Loralyn as a newly minted children’s book illustrator and me as a children’s book author. We’re excited to see where the paths take us.
Norma Thatcher will be at The Open Book in Old Town Warrenton October 30, 2021 at 11 a.m. for a book signing.