Deborah Elum’s forthcoming children’s book is the latest example of a decades-long love for writing that began in College Station.
The Houston-based writer and producer has written magazine articles, sitcoms and several books for adults and children. But Elum said it all started with a poem at A&M Consolidated Middle School.
“My sixth-grade English teacher ... helped me discover my love for writing,” Elum said. “I really did not like writing term papers and essays. Yet, when I had an opportunity to write my first poem for a class assignment, it sparked a creative flame that never went out.”
She said her newest project, a children’s picture book titled Miss McDoogle Has the Giggles, was inspired by a teacher she had when she first moved to College Station as a fourth grader in the 1970s. One of many new experiences that year was a music class, and Elum said her teacher’s energy and positivity made a lasting impression.
“The music teacher at South Knoll [Elementary School] taught about singing and musical notes,” Elum said. “I had such a wonderful fourth-grade music teacher that made singing a fun experience, and every student enjoyed her class.”
The first in a planned series, Elum’s book follows the fictional Miss McDoogle and her cat, Jingles, as they bring that same kind of amusing energy to their bedtime routine. Charis Nees, owner of Copy Post & Ship in Humble, recently read a proof of the book and said the eccentric Miss McDoogle is sure to make kids smile.
“She does everything a little bit differently,” Nees said. “Like when she goes to bed, she does a song and a little dance and puts on a big flowery hat.”
Nees — who has known Elum for more than a decade and helps ship copies of her books to friends and family — said one thing kids can take away from the story is that it’s OK to be themselves.
“If you march to the beat of a different drum, then that’s OK — to be yourself and find people that appreciate you for who you are,” Nees said.
Drawing on her experience as a youth director and substitute teacher, Elum said she hopes the book helps remind readers that teachers have lives and families outside of school that often shape who they are as educators. Whether she’s writing for kids or adults, Elum said she’s no stranger to combining important lessons such as these with the humorous style she has become known for.
Her first children’s book, Tommy Brown Misbehaving, follows the misadventures of a kitten and his young owner, showing kids that caring for an animal is no small task.
“At the end of it, there is a lesson that will help children understand responsibilities, understand pet ownership [and] telling the truth — those types of moral-based messages I wanted to bring to the reader,” Elum said.
Outside of her own writing, Elum has helped fellow authors share their stories with the world. She started All That Productions Inc. shortly after publishing her first book, A Church with Spots and Wrinkles.
“I sent it off to a large publishing house which picked up the story,” Elum said. “And they were going to publish the book, but when they sent it back to me they had changed the manuscript in a direction I really didn’t want it to go. So then I just took the project back and I raised the money and I published my first title.
“After that, people started coming to me asking me ‘well, can you help me publish? Do you know how to publish?’ And that’s kind of how I started my own publishing-consulting company.”
Elum certainly hasn’t forgotten where she got her start. She often returns to College Station to visit family, and while the city has grown, she said so much of what she loves about her childhood home has remained the same.
“College Station is a very unique place, and it’s a blend of so many cultures,” Elum said. “It has that small-town, hometown feel to it, but it still has things of a big city. ... It was a wonderful experience growing up there — people helping people, neighbors helping neighbors. It’s still a wonderful place.”
Miss McDoogle Has the Giggles will be released on Monday. The book will be available from All The Productions Inc. and Amazon.