Retired teacher publishes book, opens new chapter
Sue Ewoldt brings message of Huxley and Howard to Traer Library
After spending more than three decades in the classroom helping young children learn to read and write, retired teacher Sue Ewoldt of Traer opened a new chapter in her career by self-publishing a 30-page children’s book, “Huxley and Howard.” She shared her journey to becoming an author with an enthusiastic crowd on March 31 in the Traer Public Library.
“The [plot] was inspired by 35 years of recess duty and classroom conflicts,” Ewoldt shared with the audience that included both the very young for whom the story about two dogs learning respect and kindness is geared, and the not so young.
Ewoldt opened her talk in the Kupka Cultural Center with a quick biography – after retiring from GMG Community School District as a literacy coach, she now spends her days not only writing and promoting her book but also working as the Traer Library children’s librarian, Miss Sue.
Ewoldt then turned to what she does best, reading a story – her story – which is based on her daughter Emily Doyle’s corgi named Huxley and family friend Rachel Kopriva’s parents’ great dane named Howard.
“Remember, you’re in first or second grade,” Ewoldt said before beginning the read-aloud to the mostly adults who made up the audience, “but the message is good for even adults.”
Ewoldt’s publishing journey first began in 2017 when she came up with the title after welcoming her ‘grandpup’ Huxley into the family.
“Young children love books about animals,” Ewoldt said.
She refined the story through her work in the lower elementary classrooms at GMG.
“You can’t expect them to write if you don’t model,” Ewoldt said of her students.
Ewoldt composed the story through her work as a literacy coach but never could quite arrive at an ending, trying all sorts of “complicated” ideas for the story about a corgi who is bullied by the great dane next door.
In December of 2020 Ewoldt said she finally agreed with her GMG students – the two dogs should work out their differences and become friends in the process – and an ending was born.
But turning the story into a book was unfamiliar territory for Ewoldt as a first-time author.
The process “took a lot of patience,” she said.
After settling on Dorrance Publishing Company, 14 months would pass before the first copy was in her hands.
“When I sent [the story] to Dorrance it was just two pages of paper,” Ewoldt said.
Dorrance edited Ewoldt’s manuscript but did not do any revisions. Dorrance also helped with mapping out the book.
“A page designer decided where to break the story apart and where the illustrations would go,” Ewoldt said. “I did try to do it myself and that was confusing.”
Dorrance also matched Ewoldt with an illustrator, Bill Ivins, who used photos Ewoldt sent of the real Huxley and Howard to create the artwork.
“You can see [Ivins] did look at the pictures. The back ends look identical,” Ewoldt said while holding up her book next to a slide of photos of the real Huxley’s backside which is described in the book as looking like “a big stale loaf of bread” – a line that garnered ample laughter from the audience.
Ewoldt sent the book’s cover art back twice to Dorrance for reworking before arriving at the final versions of the characters Huxley and Howard.
The first copy of “Huxley and Howard” arrived in the mail in January of this year, a moment Ewoldt described as “very exciting and rewarding.”
In the weeks and months ahead Ewoldt plans to promote the book and the message of “Huxley and Howard” to local schools, libraries, and community groups – work she enjoys but described as difficult.
“It’s hard to promote yourself,” Ewoldt explained.
Ewoldt said she hopes readers come away from the story of “Huxley and Howard” with the general message of always choose kindness.
As she wrapped up her talk on Thursday evening in Traer, Ewoldt – ever the educator – told the audience it was National Crayon Day, a day designed to celebrate differences while enjoying a favorite pastime.
And also to remember that crayons “have all learned to live together in the same box.”
Those interested in purchasing Ewoldt’s book “Huxley and Howard” can do so by contacting Ewoldt through her Facebook page – Susan K. Ewoldt, Author – or through the publisher’s website, https://bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com/huxley-and-howard/