Retired teacher turns another page with book project

By Brady Bauman

When Karen Little was in second grade, she knew she wanted to write a book.

What she didn’t know then was how long it would take before that would happen.

That’s the way it can go with dreams. Sometimes one has to wait for the right opportunity, and for Little, things eventually fell into place.

Little, 66, is a freshly-retired first-grade teacher from Manhattan’s Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School and now has self-published a book on which she collaborated with her son, Ben Dolezal.

The book, “That Guy Named Nobody,” is aimed for small children. It’s illustrated by Dolezal and follows a brother and sister who are always in trouble with their parents. Whether it’s a messy room, grabbing too many cookies from the cookie jar, leaving toys out in the living room or tracking mud on the kitchen floor, both children plead the Fifth when confronted.

Each time, mom or dad will respond with, “Well, I’ll bet ‘nobody’ did it!”

Hidden in the background of the illustrations, though, is “that guy named Nobody,” who is awash in guilt.

The aim of the book is to help bolster childrens’ reading skills and to teach them to take responsibility for their actions — and to have fun doing it.

“When my kids were little, there was always a mess somewhere in the house,” she said. “And nobody wanted to take responsibility for it, as you can well imagine.

“So we’d always say, ‘Well, I guess nobody did it.’ And that sparked the idea for the book. We just thought it would be fun for other parents to read this story to their children to kind of bring back memories or to think about how nobody ever wants to admit when they make a mistake and to laugh about it.”

Little said she has planned to collaborate with her son for a long time.

“We did it because my son and I always wanted to do a book together, and I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was in second grade. When I turned 60, my older son, (Adam), said, ‘Mom, you’re not getting any younger. What are you waiting for?’”

The role of technology has played a large role in making Little’s dream happen.

Before it was put on sale on, Little’s sons surprised her with the first editions of the book five years ago.

“My mom has always wanted to write a book and I’ve always been interested in art and illustration,” said Ben, who was a graphic designer in Dallas at the time.

“A few years ago we’d always talked about possibly collaborating on a project, but nothing really came of it until my brother stepped in and mentioned to my mom that she should go ahead and put it on paper and see what comes out of it.

He said she sent her the text for the book, but it was a few months before he did anything with it.

“It actually turned out to be close to Christmas time before I get around to working on it,” Dolezal said. “So I illustrated the book, printed and bound for her as a Christmas book. She didn’t know I’d been working on it.”

Initially, Ben said he had 40 copies printed through a private publisher for his mom to give to family and friends. But then he heard about Amazon’s “Createspace” software, which allows prospective writers and illustrators to submit a book online and set a price. From there, Amazon takes over with the printing and distribution.

While the online retail giant takes a substantial cut — the book currently sells for $7.16 and Little and Dolezal are locked in at receiving $1.12 of that —Amazon does the grunt work and suddenly an author’s work is available to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.

So far, they’ve sold 60 copies since it became available on the site a year ago.

“It was never meant to be something to earn some money for us,” said Ben, who now has two twin boys. “It’s about fulfilling and helping my mom’s dream to publish a book.

“When she saw it for sale on Amazon that took it to a whole new level. She thought, ‘Wow, people we don’t even know can buy our book.’ It’s amazing how far we’ve come with that kind of technology. The door’s been opened for people like us who just want to share our work.”

The Nobody character is one Ben, who now teaches graphic design at the University of Texas in Arlington, said he’d drawn before, and when his mom saw it she felt that was the fit for her story.

“Even long before my mom wrote the book she saw the character and told me she’d like that guy to be the embodiment of what this character looks like,” he said. “Once she said that, I thought I’d lock that in for her and say, ‘Yep. That’s Nobody. That’s what Nobody looks like.

He said the character functions sort of like a simpler “Where’s Waldo.”

“He’s always hiding, so the kids enjoy searching for him on each page,” he said.

Little said she and her son are talking about more “Nobody” books to do in the future, but for now, they’re just happy to call themselves a published writer and illustrator.

“We’re just thrilled to accomplish our goal,” she said. “It’s been an adventure. If you keep them up there, dreams really can come true.”

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