Local author pens children’s book

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/27/18

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Donna F. Orchard does not consider herself to be a children’s author.

The retired educator and administrator, now a resident of Robertsdale, took a collection of essays …

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Local author pens children’s book

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ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Donna F. Orchard does not consider herself to be a children’s author.

The retired educator and administrator, now a resident of Robertsdale, took a collection of essays she had written throughout her career and put them together into a series of books called “The Roughneck Trilogy.”

The first two books, “Roughneck Daddy” and “Roughneck: A Daughter’s Story,” follows her from childhood into adulthood, while the third book, “Behind the Schoolhouse Door,” follows her career as a teacher and administrator, focusing on adult topics such as segregation and fighting through the prejudice of being a woman in the educational system.

“I really had no intention of writing a children’s book,” she said. “I’m not a children’s author. I had no idea how to even go about writing and publishing a children’s book.”

But it was a game that she played with her grandchildren that gave her the idea.

Orchard has four grandchildren, all by her son. Her oldest granddaughter, now in her 20s, is attending college; her oldest grandson, 17, is in high school; her youngest granddaughter, 14, is in middle school; and her youngest grandson, 9, is in elementary school.

“They were all riding in my car one day when an 18-wheeler got stuck in the tunnel on the Bay Way,” she said. “While we were sitting in traffic, my oldest grandson shouts out ‘Nanner Bug!’ when he spots a yellow Volkswagon Beetle behind us.”

Thus the “Nanner” game was born. Every time the four grandchildren went anywhere with her in the car, they would spot yellow vehicles along the road.

“I didn’t think there were that many yellow vehicles on the road anymore,” she said. “Turns out I was wrong.”

And while she now only gets the occasional opportunity to play “Nanner” with her youngest grandchild, Orchard has continued the game, even when she is in the car alone.

“It became kind of a spiritual practice,” she said. “Whenever I would go somewhere I would start searching for a yellow car. When I found one, I would think of each of my grandchildren, where they were and what they might be doing in that moment. Then my day could begin.”

The game eventually became an idea for a book, “Nanners for Nana” which follows the adventures of a woman and her four grandchildren, Mary Gold, Bee Buddy, Sunshine and Mac-n-cheese (all names associated with the color yellow), riding around looking for yellow cars, getting into arguments as to what constitutes a “Nanner,” then over who spotted the most, but in all just having fun together.

“My grandchildren don’t call me Nana, but we thought Nana and Nanner went well together, so the name kind of stuck,” she said.

Orchard said she contacted a friend, a fellow member of the Pensters writing group, about how to go about writing the book.

“There is a definite formula for writing a children’s book and getting it published,” she said.

The book is written in rhyming verse and includes a surprise ending.

She also had to find someone to illustrate the book. For that she turned to her friend, Fred Marchman, local artist and instructor at what was then Faulkner State, now Coastal Alabama Community College in Fairhope.

“He said he would do it, but first I needed to meet one of his students, who was a really talented young artist,” she said, “so I went to the class and meet his students, but he wasn’t there. I asked the students if it was unusual for him to miss class and they all said it was.”

Turns out that Marchman had died the night before. The student, 20-year-old Kayla Jones would later agree to illustrate the book in his stead.

“It’s been a real honor and it was definitely an interesting experience,” said the Fairhope native, a 2014 graduate of Fairhope High School. Jones won a graphic arts scholarship to Faulkner by submitting artwork to the school. She finished her degree in 2016 and does freelance artwork, including website design, in addition to holding down two jobs.

For Orchard and Jones, it has been about a two-year process to get the book published.

“I got about halfway through the book and stopped because I just wasn’t sure I could get it published,” said Orchard. After a while, though, she said, she was able to finish the book and ended up getting the book self-published through another friend.

Orchard held a reading for her book Dec. 1 at Page & Palette in Fairhope where it has sold out, she said. Anyone wishing to own a copy of the book can order it from Page & Palette. Her books are also available on amazon.com. You can find more information about the author at donnakorchard.wordpress.com.