By NIKKI DOTSON MERRITT
WAYNE - A Wayne County mother recently published her own children's book in which she both wrote and illustrated herself.
Jillian Mathis Barr, born and raised locally, published her first book titled A Little Boy Loves His Mommy! last month. The book is about a rambunctious little boy who is constantly getting into something or doing something that is making his mommy's life much harder.
The book is based on real life events and all the crazy things her toddler has done since he began crawling. Even though the little boy in the book is making life harder for his mommy, she knows his intentions mean well.
The book process began with illustrations and grew from there.
"My son would do these crazy things and I would sketch out a scene onto a piece of paper," Barr said. "Once I finished the sketch, I cut out an 8 1/2 X 8 1/2 piece of cardstock paper and drew my final illustration.
I wanted the pictures to mimic our home as close as I could and I wanted there to be a lot of detail in the images. As a little girl I loved looking at the pictures in children's book and I would always notice little details that illustrators would add into their drawings. When my drawing was complete, I would create the story based off the illustration. Once all of the illustrations were finished I scanned them and uploaded them to my computer and finished the rest of the book through a downloaded program."
Barr is quite the crafter, having painted one of the tug boats featured around Huntington to help raise month for Hoops Family Children's Hospital, making and selling many hand crocheted items, painting and sell oil and acrylic paintings, hosting painting parties for local churches, painting murals for local businesses, hosting and participating in local craft shows and of course writing and illustrating children's books.
When Barr was in the third grade at Prichard Elementary School, a guest speaker who came to the school to talk to us about his books he had published inspired Barr to look into it both as a child and an adult.
"I don't remember his exact words but he told us that we could publish our own book like he had done and it really inspired me," she said. "I went home that evening and grabbed a little black notebook and began writing my own story. Years later I would run across that book and write another chapter to it. Fast-forward to my high school and college years, I would have assignments where I had to make my own children's book and people really enjoyed them but I never thought anything would become of them."
Barr said in school she always learned best by taking a subject the teacher was teaching and create illustrations from it in her own head which allowed her to hone her skills.
"It was very rare, but when a teacher would assign a project like that, I would really engage in that lesson," she said. "In my mid 20's after I had my son, I would read him books and thought to myself, 'I can do this,' and ideas would begin to pop in my head. I wanted to start writing children's books that I can read to my son and allow him to grow up with books that his own mommy wrote."
Barr grew up in Prichard and graduated from Marshall University in 2016. After which she spent six months teaching in Wayne County until she had her son, who is now a wild toddler. She also substitute teaches one day a week.
"While staying home with my son, I've had a fun and busy time turning my hobbies into a career," she said. "The hardest part about creating and publishing this book was finding the time to finish it. The story line and the illustrations were easy to create, but it was very time consuming. Each illustration took two weeks to complete, and there were many illustrations I did but did not include in the book."
She added that doing a lot of paintings and crocheting for commission, running a home, being a wife and taking care of her son made finishing the book difficult.
"Although the book was time consuming, it was a lot of fun. Every detail in the book is from our real lives such as the clothing, toys, furniture, flooring, and our dog, Shooter," she said. "I have also really enjoyed the support and excitement from family, friends and the community. Also, where I substitute teach one day out of the week, I've come to know a lot of kids throughout our community as well as they've come to know me. Some kids know that I have been working on this book so I'm really excited to sub again this upcoming school year and take my book to share with them."
Barr said she does plan to publish more books.
"I don't see myself ever stopping. Now that I know how the process works, I hope to get better and better at it," she said. "I have already written another book and I'm currently working on the illustrations. I am so excited about this new book because it gets the child involved in the illustrations, and it's a little bit silly. Each page to this new book will be full of color and detail that kids will love looking at. I want to continue creating books that enhances children's cognitive development without them even realizing it. If I can make learning more fun through books, why would I stop?"
"A Little Boy Loves His Mommy!" and another other future books will be available on Amazon.com, The Empire Books & News store in Pullman or directly from Barr by searching her Facebook page called "Jillian Ashley Paintings" or by email at Jmathis2603@gmail.com. The books ISBN# is 9781073729821. A book signing and read aloud are set for Sept. 21, during Chili Fest at The Empire Books & News.