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Watertowns Parker finds niche in childrens books

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Parker knew she wanted to write and filled journals with her stories from her elementary days on up. She learned to read at 3, so her kindergarten teacher had her read The Night Before Christmas at their Christmas party for her classmates and their parents.

“I held the book in front of my face so nobody could see me. Now I do readings for kids in churches and schools, so all this time God has been preparing me for my career. I just didn’t know it,” said Parker, who worked on her high school newspaper and yearbook staffs.

Her high school English teachers, Mrs. Vastola, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Christian and Mrs. Edginton, encouraged her along the way. One wrote on the top of one of Parker’s compositions: “Whatever you do in life make sure writing is a part of it.”

“I’ve saved that paper all those years,” said Parker, who graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a major in English and a minor in writing. She spent two semesters as an intern with Nashville’s Thomas Nelson Publishing in the children’s division, which eventually led to a full-time position—for nine months. 

“I had not been there long, and there was a cutback. I thought it the worst thing in the world, but it turned out to be the best thing in the world,” she recalled. “They told me, ‘We still want you to work full time as a freelancer.’ So I would go into the office for three days a week, but I could take on other things. I could write and edit and work for other divisions of the company.”

That led Parker to penning cover copy for books and catalog copy, and then on to bigger and better things. Among other assignments she helped N.Y. Times best-selling author Andy Andrews adapt his book, The Traveler’s Gift, into a teen version, The Young Traveler’s Gift, and she worked with Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo, famous for his appearances with David Letterman, on “Good Morning, America” and his own TV shows, on his autobiography, Jungle Jack: My Wild Life, as well as on four children’s books.

Parker published her first children’s book, A Night Night Prayer, in 2008, and has since released four other books, with two more coming in spring.

Her debut book, she believes was “a God thing.”

“I was getting my son, who was 3, to bed, and he was wiggling and wobbling, and the thought came into my mind that everything needs to rest: children, birds, trees, the sun. After I got him to sleep, I jotted down several verses,” she remembers.

“A few days later at work, a vice president said, ‘Amy, we need a bedtime book for one of our buyers.’ I told her, ‘I’ve got it. I wrote it a week ago.’ She was a little leery but told me to send it to her. She read it, and said, ‘I love this. Let’s do it.’”

The book has sold more than 100,000 copies—not bad for a children’s Christian book.

Breaking into the children’s book market tough is a tough cookie. Parker, obviously, had a foothold because of her relationship with Thomas Nelson. Her advice for those contemplating writing children’s books:

“It has to be unique. It’s got be good. Persistence is the No. 1 word. It has to be something that you are really passionate about. . . . Do your homework. Keep at it. Get a copy of Writer’s Market. Follow the rules and be ready to do the work that is involved.

“It‘s not an easy, glamorous thing, and your heart is going to be broken 15,000 times, but at the end is the payoff and reviews that say, ‘My child reads this book every night before he goes to bed.’ It’s all worth it.”

Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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