Missouri mom's bedtime stories turns into book

Sunday, June 21, 2009

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The tale started at bedtime. First, a routine: some stalling, whispered "I love yous," more stalling, blankets tucked in. Then, a request ... tell us a story, mom.

Julie Wilson obliged. It came in bits, a yarn of Bunny Gail and the doings of a bunny day. In the moments before sleep, the children got a moral, some lesson to take into their slumber.

The book started after this bedtime. The quiet of the deep evening, her husband on the night shift, gave the St. Joseph mother moments to give Bunny Gail life on paper.

She had thought of keeping a journal, its entries of everyday activities and funny things said. Julie counted herself inconsistent with that.

"One night I just thought I'm going to write a story for them, and I'm going to put in the things that happen in a normal day," she said.

This worked, and with rhyme. Thad had heard the developing work and encouraged his wife. Son Tristen, now 7, and daughter Alyssa, 5, heard the drafts and lived the back story.

Wilson recounts this in her sunny backyard while watching the children. In hand, a copy of "Bunny Tale," her debut book. An Oklahoma publisher contracted for the children's story last year, and it came onto the market in March.

Bunny Gail, it turns out, likes fun and hates rules. Why eat an apple, she reasons, when a brownie tastes so good? But she has no gift for getting away with her disobedience:

"I don't want to get a bath.

Please not tonight.

Why do bunnies have to be so clean?

It just isn't right."

The bunnies, big brother and little sister, mirror the personalities of the Wilson children.

"At the end, their mom helps them understand why there are rules, why they have these things they have to do," the author said, then laughed at her own spoiler alert. "It all ends well."

Julie Cool was born in St. Joseph and moved to Oregon, Mo., at age 8. At South Holt High School, she took a creative writing course and enjoyed it. She never figured a published work might be in her future.

On reflection, Wilson, who married and moved to St. Joseph in 2000, believes her writing inexperience removed all pressure from constructing "Bunny Tale." Her approach proved a simple one.

"I tried to make it flow, make it rhyme and make a story that you can follow," she says.

In March 2008, acting on research she did on the Internet, she mailed it to three publishing houses known to work with first-time authors. In the same week last May, all three sent her contracts.

"I didn't think it was going to happen that fast," Wilson says. "I've been a stay-at-home mom for a long time, so it was pretty exciting."

The publisher she picked assigned a staff illustrator to put a face on Gail and Joe and their parent bunnies. Later, the publisher let her sort through voices for the audio version of the book.

When the final proofs came her way in January, the art and words put together, the author became more aware of the way certain phrases appeared and the curse of wordiness. Also, she had a mother's fear of household calamity.

"I think I had three days before I had to send it back," she recalls. "I was so afraid something was going to happen to it."

Wilson has other things in mind for another book, maybe a story that reflects her own upbringing. She's in no rush, satisfied now to have conveyed a message in an inventive way, to have her family proud of the finished work.

There will always be quiet time when the kids sleep. Bunny Gail might be up for a sequel.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: