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Chance meeting leads to writing children's book

Staff writer

Former Marion resident and author Mary Alice Parmley has numerous unpublished children’s books, but as a result of a chance meeting, one of them will be published and available from booksellers in late September.

“Traveler: A Story of Trust, Faith, and Hope Encircled by Love,” tells the story of the nativity from the perspective of a lost beagle named Traveler who is taken in by an innkeeper and becomes a witness to the birth of Jesus.

“I have seven books that I have never published, and they’re all illustrated,” Parmley said.

Traveler is making its way to print ahead of those books because of travel, and a chance encounter.

Parmley was on a Thanksgiving weekend flight to Michigan with her daughter, Mary Ann Siller, when she struck up a conversation with a man seated next to her.

“I enjoy people and I get acquainted,” Parmley said.

Parmley related the story of Traveler, and said the man gave her encouragement to publish it.

“He said ‘Mary Alice, you’ve got something there, you have to get that down,’” Parmley recalled.

But he went beyond providing encouragement – he said he had a niece who would be a perfect choice to illustrate the story.

“’It’s going to be my wife’s sister’s child. She’s one of the most creative people you’ll ever meet,’” he said, according to Parmely.

Parmley connected via phone and e-mail with the woman, Jackie Ohnstead of Omaha, Neb., and sent the manuscript to her. Parmley was startled when Ohnstead sent the first illustrations for her review.

“My reaction – My God, how could that have happened?,” Parmley said. “I do believe I had that picture in my mind, and it was exactly what I wanted.”

Parmley’s 44-year career as a teacher motivates and informs her writing and storytelling.

“If you tell children a story, it helps them to remember something,” Parmley said. “You have to do it to help them strengthen themselves. To me it’s a sharing of ideas and concern for somebody else.”

While Parmley’s new book tells the story of the nativity, she says she wrote the book to have broader appeal than a strict retelling of that story.

“Traveler appeared to me when I wanted to do something religious, and you have to be exremenly careful when you write a religious story because it has to mean something to many, many people,” Parmley said.

“Traveler is a book anybody would enjoy,” she said.

The book is in the final stages of printing, according to Parmely, and will be available through booksellers and through her website, www.mrsparmley.com.

Last modified Sept. 22, 2011

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