By Chris Bavender
“A long time ago, in a land far away, as dew drops shimmered on summer’s first day, with a shiver and a stir in the petals of a flower, a pixie was born.”
And with those opening words of “The Summer Fairy,” a family tradition springs to life.
“My mother-in-law was a teacher in Cincinnati, and when my husband (Larry) and his two sisters were little, on the last day of school they were always excited because they knew that meant a note from the summer fairy and treats,” said Elizabeth Kelly Gillihan, author of The Summer Fairy. “It might be goggles for the pool, a book for the summer or a pair of sunglasses. It became this fun tradition that they actually did all the way through high school and college.”
Elizabeth and Larry met during high school. By the time college rolled around – both attended the University of Miami-Ohio – the summer fairy was also leaving a note and gifts for her.
Elizabeth knew when the couple had children she wanted to continue the tradition.
“We started doing this with our oldest when he was in pre-k and our friends started to ask about it and thought it was neat and fun so I made a little paper book and read it to the kids and gave it to friends,” the 35-year-old Carmel resident and mother of four said. “I kept thinking I wish I could turn it into a real book – if just for my family – the nieces and nephews.”
She sent the manuscript out to several agents but never heard back from them.
“I learned some interesting things doing that – 40 percent of children’s’ picture books are written by celebrities or adult authors and then around 50 percent are existing kids’ authors who are more classic, so it’s difficult to get in there,” Elizabeth said.
But the former elementary school teacher knew she wouldn’t be happy unless she tried. So she and a friend headed to New York City to try to find a publisher for her book.
“I had a long stem flower with the manuscript and we walked up to each publishing house in person – sometimes walked through the mailroom – and sometimes we were stopped by security – all just trying to get to right person,” Elizabeth said. “I was able to sit down with one of the editors at Harper Collins and she gave me great feedback but basically said it’s a hard industry to get in and she gave me some things to improve on.”
Fast-forward to 2014 and “The Summer Fairy” is now a self-published hard cover children’s picture book with whimsical illustrations by fellow Carmel resident, Jennifer Zivoin.
“I was so excited to be a part of ‘The Summer Fairy,’ both because I felt that the story would lend itself to creating some really beautiful pieces of art, and because my inner little girl has always wanted an opportunity to draw fairies for a living,” Zivoin said. “For this book, I wanted to use color and lighting to create warm, luminous illustrations that would convey a magical quality in everyday summer scenes. However, my favorite part of working on the project was seeing my daughter’s excitement as each page was painted. I hope that other kids will also be able to connect with and enjoy ‘The Summer Fairy’ as well.”
In late May, Elizabeth will be part of Book Expo America – one of the biggest in the world – in New York City when about 20,000 book retailers will be present.
But before that, Elizabeth and Zivoin will do a reading of “The Summer Fairy” at 11 a.m. May 24 at the Barnes and Noble at Clay Terrace Mall. The book is currently available at several boutique stores in Indianapolis including Toy Store Earth Explorer, Delaney’s Shoppe in Noblesville, Kits and Kaboodle Toys, 4Kids Books and Toys and My Toy. It can also be purchased online at www.thesummerfairy.com
“I am doing everything possible to get the word out there because it is self-published,” Elizabeth said. “This is really for everyone – it’s something fun to do as a family and I hope others can make it their tradition too.”
The book concludes with: “For it’s time for the Summer Fairy to spread her power, and for this pixie to leave her beautiful flower.”