Literary musings, and news you can use, with amye archer
Local author, comedienne brings Wartz to life
Comedienne Jeannine Luby has a lot to smile about. After the success of her first book, He’s Not Prince Charming When…, she’s now written a brand new children’s book, Wartz and All. I spoke with Scranton’s favorite funny woman about the new book. Here’s what she had to say:
Where did the inspiration come from for this book?
I believe this book is a reconfigured version of a story I started to write about six or seven years ago about animals in the forest. The premise of the story was helping a turtle understand what her purpose was because she didn’t see her gifts. I started to write and put it aside as I often do with stories. In 2010, I self-published my first book He’s Not Prince Charming When…, which contains a few short dating stories, one-liners and humorous captions to original illustrations I envisioned for illustrator Mindy Mendicino, of Clarks Summit, to draw. The illustrations included a cute little frog named Wartz who people just seem to love.
I didn’t have the finances to do this book, but once I decided to submit this project for consideration for a 2012 Lackawanna County Community Arts and Culture Grant, I became very excited. To add to my excitement and inspiration, I found the perfect setting for the story that turned out to be more like a character itself in the book. I enjoy running on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in the Mid Valley. There’s a little pond at the end of one section near Laurel Street in Archbald that just screamed “Wartz lives here.” Once I got that idea in my head, creating the story visually was easy. Each time I ran along the trail I would get new ideas and renew my excitement for the book.
Have you always been a writer? Talk a little about the process of writing this book.
I’ve enjoyed writing creative stories since grade school. I currently perform stand-up comedy and love writing my own material. I do have a long history of writing though. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State and master’s degree in communication arts from Marywood. I knew I wanted to work with Mindy, the illustrator from my first book. She would do a pencil sketch that I would either approve or request changes to and then when the illustration was the way I saw it in my mind, Mindy would draw it in black ink. Once all of the illustrations were completed in May, I added my words. I then did the book layout and cover design with help from my friend, Stephanie Williams, a graphic designer.
What do you hope children will take away from this book?
I think that my message of acceptance is one that doesn’t cease to be important. None of us are perfect and it’s good to take time to notice our flaws or our “warts” and accept them. It’s important to love and accept ourselves as we are. Of course, being kind and respectful to one another is key.
I also hope that people will visit the trail that inspired me. I love northeastern Pennsylvania’s natural beauty so I hope that because the book takes place on a trail and illustrations are modeled after the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, they will visit as a family and walk, run, hike, bike — enjoy together!
What’s next for you? Any more book plans?
I hope to create a series of books featuring Wartz. When I first envisioned this book, my thought was that it could be a series to encourage children to be environmentally responsible, to be active, to make healthier choices when eating, etc. I still have a hope to do that because one of my passions is promoting healthier living. I currently do laughter yoga through my business Laugh to Live! and I worked for Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania where I led programs for school children and wrote healthy lifestyle information for subscribers for more than 11 years. I’m also itching to write the story of “Wartz Goes to France.” I’m visiting Provence this September and already have visions of my frog riding a bike, eating a baguette and hopping through the countryside.
You can meet the author on July 25 as she reads from the book at the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in Archbald. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., and $2 from each book sold will go to the LHVA and County libraries. For more information, visit www.wartzandall.com.
Amye Barrese Archer is a writer and teacher in Scranton. You can read more about her at www.amyearcher.com.