Why a Reunion Can Boost Your Feel-Good
I have been meaning to write the story of (big inhale here) how two little girls from Tarpon Springs, Florida, who barely knew each other during school, came to work together thirty years later to create one of the most charming “through the eyes of a child” stories, have it illustrated by a giving, dynamic artist across the Pacific in Queensland, Australia, and then publish it with overwhelming cheers from the reading public (exhale).
Girl One: Author Theresa “Tess” (Merrill) Eagles (incredible gymnast and overall mischief maker back in the day)
Girl Two: Publisher and Editor Janet Fix (nerd of the word, ‘nuf said)
Girl Three: Illustrator Linda Cowan (has history with tattoo art and is riotously funny)
But I never got around to telling the story, at least not in depth. Now, Matt Shelnutt, editor for the Madison County Record near Tess’ hometown of Huntsville, Arkansas, has done it for us, and better than I could have ever achieved. Here’s the story below, reprinted with permission from Matt.
Enjoy . . . and remember the moral of the story: GO TO YOUR CLASS REUNIONS.
Eagles’ first book, ‘My Dog Can Dig to China,’ was released last month
by Matt Shelnutt
Ball Creek resident Theresa “Tess” Eagles’ goal of selling one million copies of her first children’s book is bold, but it’s certainly not unachievable given her enthusiasm and spirit.
“She’s an animal in that she will not stop until she’s reached that goal,” said Janet Fix, who published Eagles’ book, “My Dog Can Dig to China,” about a month ago.
Fix said that she is not sure that a children’s book has ever sold that many copies, but that Eagles’ book has already sold several hundred copies with minimal promotion.
“It has already sold more than any other hardcopy children’s books we’ve worked with,” said Fix, who has owned The Word Verve Publishing out of Georgia since 2010. “Her sales for being a newbie are simply phenomenal.”
Fix and Eagles actually went to high school together in Florida, though they didn’t know each other too well at the time. But as the two prepared to attend their 30th class reunion last year, they were able to reconnect and Eagles made Fix the pitch for her first book.
“She just loved the story so much and said, ‘I’m going to help you get this out there’,” Eagles said.
Eagles said her beagle, Cooper, is the “star” of the book, as he was the inspiration for the fictional dog, whose owner, a young girl, is confident her pup can dig to China. Eagles said she actually had the idea a few years ago when she was watching Cooper relentlessly dig in their yard.
“I said, ‘Cooper, you’re going to dig to China if you keep that up’,” Eagles said. “And that whole idea came in mind and I churned on it for a while.”
After the high school reunion, Eagles wrote out the story and sent it to Fix.
Fix said she fell in love with the concept of a little girl boasting all over town of her dog’s ability to China, but with an interesting twist at the end.
“It’s such a simple but sweet story,” Fix said. “And Tess has such a real talent for looking through the eyes of a child when she writes. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Eagles had already been a wood-burn artist for years before penning her first book. As an artist, she felt confident she could also illustrate “My Dog Can Dig to China.” But it just didn’t work out.
“The only thing I can say is you can be a great musician and rip on a guitar, but that doesn’t mean you can play the drums,” Eagles said. “So I told Janet, ‘I just can’t do it’.”
Fortunately, Fix knew of an extremely talented illustrator, Linda Cowen, out of Queensland, Australia. Fix said that Cowen believed in the book so much that she agreed to illustrate it at a very low rate. The author and the illustrator corresponded through email when working on the art for the book.
“I designed the cover and told her exactly what I wanted, and she really did an awesome job on everything,” Eagles said.
Eagles said she was out of town just over a month ago when her first shipment of books arrived at her house. Her daughter called her and informed her of the good news.
“I hadn’t even seen it yet, and she called and told me they had arrived,” Eagles said. “I told her to open them and she did. So then she called me back and said, ‘Mom, I’m so proud of you’.”
That first shipment included 25 books that were pre-ordered. The shipment included 16 additional books that Eagles said she sold the day they arrived.
Each book is priced at $15 and can be purchased by going to www.thewordverve.com. Eagles will also hold a book signing event at the St. Paul Library on Sept. 20 right after school lets out. She will have books there, and a special guest, Cooper, by her side.
Eagles said about half of the profits currently go back to the publisher, but after the publisher is reimbursed for her investment, Eagles will then begin receiving about 90 percent of the profits.
Eagles said her main goal with selling so many copies is to be able to drill a well on her family’s land, but also to help various charities such as the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Spay Arkansas, the Madison County Pet Shelter, and various children’s charities.
“I know it’s a huge dream but I’m not going to say ‘if’, I’m going to say ‘when’,” Eagles said. “This isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take me getting out there and sharing this book.”
Though it is her first book, Eagles said writing for children has been a dream of hers her entire life. But both she and Fix have decided that Eagles’ first book will not be her last.
“She will most certainly have more books in the future,” Fix said. “In fact, I’ve got an entire folder full of her ideas.”