Upper Arlington resident Susan Levine just wanted to set out on a field trip with her kids, but ended up at an unexpected destination - becoming a children's book author.
Upper Arlington resident Susan Levine just wanted to set out on a field trip with her kids, but ended up at an unexpected destination — becoming a children's book author.
Her first book, "Packard Takes Flight," is out now.
Levine's journey to becoming an author started when she was asked to help put together a field trip of Columbus landmarks for her child's class.
"I went to the library to do some research and found out there were no children's books about Columbus landmarks," Levine said. "I was surprised. So many places I've visited have books like this, places much smaller than Columbus. So I thought, I should write one."
Thinking about writing a book and actually taking on the task were two different things.
Levine said she let the idea linger, but it wasn't until she heard about the Ohio Department of Natural Resources falcon nest project in downtown Columbus that the story itself came into view for her.
"I immediately thought that the falcons could be a good vehicle to teach kids, by weaving the fictional story of a falcon around the actual history of the sites," Levine said.
Her kids were involved in the publishing process, as well.
Levine said her son has been extremely supportive, and her daughter was one of her best editors, letting her know when phrases or words just weren't what a child would use.
"Packard Takes Flight" tells the story of a young Peregrine Falcon named Packard, who leaves his nest at the top of the Rhodes Tower for the first time and discovers several landmarks of Columbus.
"I think it is really important to teach in a fun way," Levine said. "This book is a chance to learn about the history of Columbus as well as the plight of the endangered peregrine falcons.
The book includes sidebars for all of the landmarks and historical references to allow parents the opportunity to share more in depth information with their children.
After completing her manuscript, the process of finding a publisher felt very long.
"Most publishers denied me based on the regional nature of the book; because of the economy, many weren't taking unsolicited manuscripts," she said.
Then Levine discovered The History Press, located in Charleston S.C., a publisher specializing in regional history and storytelling.
Within two weeks of sending in her manuscript she had a contract. The book was released just in time for the holidays. The process from concept to completion took three years, but only six months once her publisher went to work on it.
Levine found the book's illustrator, Canal Winchester resident Erin Burchwell, by attending several meetings of the Central Ohio Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (www.coscbwi.org). This group meets monthly at the Upper Arlington Public Library.
The library connection isn't lost on Levine.
"Librarians are a great resource for book ideas. When a child comes in asking about a topic, and there isn't a book for it, the librarians are stuck," Levine said. "To me, this book has been an interesting community effort, including the librarians and English teachers at my kids' school being some of my first editors."
Now that the book is in stores, Levine and Burchwell have created a school program that includes a Peregrine Falcon visit (courtesy of the Ohio Bird Sanctuary) as well as lessons about Columbus landmarks, children's writing and illustration.
"Packard Takes Flight" is available at Larson's Toys and Games on Lane Avenue as well as several other local independent and national book retailers for $17.99.