By Carol Marsh
GREENVILLE — Over the last century, some of the most beloved literary works have been written with children in mind. Who could forget modern classics like Green Eggs and Ham by Theodor Seuss Geisel (a.k.a. “Dr. Seuss), The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, or Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown? Adults who grew up turning these pages, reading each word, and admiring colorful illustrations now read these beloved stories to their children and grandchildren, and the lessons they teach often speak across generations.
Yet, to compose a well-written children’s book often requires patience, inspiration, and the gift to catch the words as they come — something that Greenville native and author Elizabeth Mathews Lewis knows very well.
Although she was not always passionate about writing, Lewis has been surrounded by books, a lifelong love of reading, and creative writers within her family — especially her mom, who writes poetry. Children’s books have always interested her, both as an educator and library paraprofessional at Greenville’s South Elementary School.
The creative process of crafting and writing a good story is one that comes from the heart, according to Lewis, who allows the stories, characters, and imaginative worlds to emerge and evolve — morning, afternoon, or sometimes, in the middle of the night.
“I’ve always enjoyed children’s books. One of my favorite jobs was being at the library,” said Lewis. “In March, my youngest daughter, Ripley, had knee surgery and when she came home from the hospital, I was unable to sleep. The first book I wrote — The Gloomy Classroom — just popped into my mind. I literally typed the whole thing out on my phone, in the dark, at 3 a.m.!”
Published in April, 2021, Lewis’ first book, The Gloomy Classroom, helps Pre-K through Grade 3 students understand that being positive, kind, and creative can change the atmosphere at school — both in the heart and the classroom.
“The Gloomy Classroom is based off a conversation I had with my oldest daughter, Leah, who teaches elementary students in Dayton,” explained Lewis. “I felt like kids were really struggling with all the disruptions COVID had made in their routine — let alone, many kids do not like going to school…The main character, a teacher — Miss Lew — shows the kids how we can be kind and spread joy. That one thought created the storyline for The Gloomy Classroom.”
Catching another dream along the way, Lewis published her second book, Llama and Ama, in July, 2021. A book about the lifelong adventure of friendship, Llama and Ama is a book loosely based upon Lewis’ lasting friendship with her own childhood pal.
“Llama And Ama is loosely based off the friendship I have had with my best friend, Amy Green, of over 50 years,” said Lewis. “Llama meets Ama, a black cat with green eyes, in a forest between their houses, and they both were forbidden to go into it. Llama rescues Ama, which is the beginning of their friendship and adventures… There wasn’t a forest that separated our houses in real life, but there was a field. And Amy and I still go on adventures together!”
With any children’s book, illustrations often bring the words, story and characters to life through color, tone and hue. Finding an illustrator who understands and connects with the work is vital, according to Lewis.
“I found my illustrator, Jhency Marie DB, on FIVERR. I fell in love with her quirky, artistic style and knew she was the illustrator for me,” said Lewis. “I sent her the story and page layout, and she made each illustration based on the page. Every time she would send me a new page it was like she was reading my mind. It’s magical to see my story come to life. I hope to someday meet her in person.”
When asked what advice she would give to others looking to write children’s books, Lewis reflected upon her creative journey over the past several months.
“It’s not as easy at it seems,” said Lewis. “Writing the story and finding the illustrator was the ‘easy part,’ but there’s a lot that you learn along the way… Self-publishing and marketing are the hardest and most expensive. Because I also work full-time, it’s hard to do everything myself.”
Lewis credits her family, and especially her husband, Dirk Lewis, as among her biggest fans, and hopes that she can find opportunities to share her love of reading and writing children’s literature, both within Darke County and beyond, perhaps at local libraries, schools, public readings, and book fairs. Her books are available through Amazon.
“I would love to share or read my book,” said Lewis, adding, “And I hope to share more adventures of Llama and Ama!”
Questions for the author? Find author Elizabeth Mathews Lewis on Instagram and Facebook @muffin_fable, or send her an email at [email protected]
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for The Daily Advocate. Have an event or suggestion to share? She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.