Colorado children’s book author C. Jeffrey Nunnally visited Westridge Elementary school in Littleton, CO on Friday, March 11th, 2016. During his visit he spoke with many students, and I attended the presentation to the 5th and 6th graders. It was funny because he was actually teaching 5th grade at the time that he got the idea to write the children’s book. “This House Needs A Mouse” is a wonderful picture book that was illustrated by Tamara Z. Brink.
The author spoke with the students about where inspiration comes from, the process of making a book, and how we, as students, can make books too. Everyone brainstormed where ideas for stories come from, including dreams, past experiences, friends, family, teachers, pictures, art, life, and random trains of thoughts. He spent about half of the 45 minutes reading his book and about half talking to the students and answering questions that they had about himself, his book, and the writing process in general.
He has two children named Jackson and Kai. As they grow older, he personally gets ideas on stories from their lives. In fact, Jackson’s crumbs as a child were the inspiration for this book. His kids also like to suggest ideas for the illustrations in his books.
The process for making a book is simple. First, you come up with an idea and let it grow. Everytime you get a good thought, you write it down. Eventually, you take all of the thoughts and decide to blend them together to make a book. You make a rough draft and ask people their opinions. If it is a picture book, most people will give you simple feedback like “Oh, that is cute.” But what you really want is critical feedback about what you did wrong so you want to go to other authors. Once you get the feedback, you edit your book as many times as needed. Then you either send it to a publisher or self-publish it.
It took Mr. Nunnally 7 years from when he had the initial idea to when the book was actually published. For 5 years he spent letting the idea kind of grow (in his mind but also in his writer’s notebook). Then, after he wrote the book (which actually only took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to write the first draft but two years to illustrate it), he had 18 edits before the final version.
Mr. Nunnally likes to work out and enjoys taking his family out to explore Colorado on the weekends. His family recently enjoyed visiting Union Station one weekend. His wife Betsy is also an author and is about to publish a book which is also based on something that Jackson, their oldest child, did as a young toddler.