In Her Own Words

Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade is a Christian short chapter book for young girls ages four to eight. Thematically, it illustrates Ephesians 6:1 and reminds children that God has given them parents to guide them through life.

The book tells the story of a young girl, Scarlett Gray, who can't wait to attend a Fourth of July Celebration with her parents and her best friend, Georgia. Scarlett Gray promises to follow her parents' safety rules, but the excitement of the parade and her inattentiveness overcome her promise to obey, and, as a result, she gets lost. Scarlett Gray doesn’t actively defy her parents; instead, poor judgment in this situation leads from one bad decision to another, without her even knowing it. Any child can relate to this story about obedience, parental love, and unforeseen consequences.

Some may ask, “Why write a Christian children’s book in the first place?” As a homeschooling mother, I read countless books to our little girl. I purchase almost all our children’s books at Goodwill for a quarter, so we buy many at a time. I always scan books the best I can while in the store (with a toddler in tow), but often, when we actually read the books, I realize many of them are not suitable for our daughter. While most of these books are “best sellers” and very popular, they contain inappropriate words like “dumb,” “stupid,” and “hate,” among others. As a mother, I know my child might say those words some day—and need to be corrected—but I don’t want to feed this kind of language to her.

As parents, my husband and I search for books that not only provide enjoyment for our child, but also instill the good character qualities and godly principles for living we want her to learn. Our daughter loves Veggie Tales, but I can’t help wondering what other positive Christian role models she will remember from childhood TV programs and books. As she matures, what fictional and real-life characters will she admire who model good Christian behavior?

Of course, her family will serve as a reference, but she also needs reinforcement from characters with whom she can identify in books and other media. This is especially important because children imitate and emulate the people they see in real life, on screen, and in books.

As a former therapist, I saw firsthand how outside influences greatly impact our minds, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Therefore, I think it is crucial that parents remain hyper-vigilant about protecting their children, particularly from the inundation of negative and inappropriate messages in contemporary media. As Christian parents, it is incumbent upon us to work with watchful eyes, caring hearts, and discerning minds to keep our children on godly paths. Needless to say, I became very frustrated and disappointed during my search for children’s books that affirmed biblical values and Christian living.

After expressing my frustration to my husband, he strongly encouraged me to do something about it and write a book myself. And that is when the journey began.

However, the book-writing process was more difficult than I anticipated. It is easy to say, “that would be a good story,” but it is very difficult to put pen to paper for even the first word. From the beginning, I faced obstacles I didn’t expect—the first being the often referenced, but seldom understood, writer’s block.

Also, I quickly learned that publishing a book is very expensive. Not only did we incur expense for an illustrator, but also for editors, photographers, and marketing for a self-published book. I did not take into account these challenges when I decided to write Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade.

My parents graciously helped when they could. I also had a garage sale, selling whatever I could. Even after all that, I came up quite short. Around this time, my good friend and I were walking in our subdivision for exercise when we noticed all the nice things people were throwing away.

I have to tell you, this book project drove me to have no shame. For about three months, I drove around our subdivision each Friday morning before my husband went to work and picked up “trashed” items that were in good shape. I was shocked by the number of gently used items that people left by the curb for the garbage truck. I stored everything I found and held a second garage sale with these free finds. I was determined to see the book through because it was a project in which I really believed, not to mention that I had a considerable amount of money invested already.

I learned a great deal through this process. I learned that with hard work, perseverance, and God’s help, anything is possible. And while I am proud of the final product, the process was definitely a learning experience. I plan to implement what I learned along the way, as well as the valuable feedback from others, to make the next Scarlett Gray book even better. I anticipate publishing a new title in the series by spring/summer 2016.

Currently, I am working on an alphabet book that ties each letter of the alphabet to a Bible verse. As with the Christian- themed chapter book, I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t this already exist?” So, I decided to write it. For the alphabet book, I’m keeping the same illustrator I used for Scarlett Gray because she is a joy to work with and her illustrations are beautiful. I anticipate this new book being available by fall 2015.

One exciting result of my writing venture is the founding of Scarlett Gray Publishing, LLC—a Christian publishing company dedicated to producing children’s books centered on God’s word. My hope is that parents can share our books confidently with their children, knowing the message meets their high standards. We want young readers to follow our characters through age-appropriate dilemmas and mistakes in life. But most importantly, we want to provide young readers with life’s big picture by pointing them to God and encouraging them to follow in His ways. Ultimately, our aim is to inspire young readers to seek God in their daily lives and to honor Him with their choices.

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