In her mother’s basement, surrounded by boxes of books from her youth, Middletown author Annette M. Clayton rediscovered her love for children’s literature.
A mother of twins herself, Clayton felt a sense of déjà vu as she flipped through the familiar pages. She remembers being particularly fond of the “The Berenstain Bears” collection as a child.
“You open a page and say to yourself, I remember how I felt when my mom read them to me,” Clayton said. “That’s kind of when I fell in love with children’s books.”
About seven years after this basement excursion, Clayton has been published twice in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and has his own books on the way.
In “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Clever, Inquisitive, Caring Cat,” Clayton’s short story “Pick Me” illustrates how a fuzzy kitten found in a hoarding situation literally jumped into Clayton’s arms and became a Member of the family. The story marks its first publication.
“I held the kitten close to my chest, its soft fur brushing my arms,” Clayton writes. “I looked into his ocean blue eyes. She let out the smallest meow, and I was screwed.
Clayton’s daughters nicknamed the kitten Marshmallow for its mostly white fur. Over a year later, the feline spends his days trying to climb the family Christmas tree and curl up with the girls in bed at night.
Marshmallow came at a time when girls’ activities were being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It really gave their lives a sense of normalcy and something to look forward to,” Clayton said.
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Clever, Inquisitive and Caring Cat” published in September.
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Blessings” came soon after. In the Christmas book, Clayton talks about her family’s celebration of Three Kings Day, a tradition her grandmother celebrated in Puerto Rico and passed down to her. The holiday falls on January 6 and is a day that represents the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem. In Puerto Rican tradition, according to Clayton, we put grass in a shoebox under the bed for the kings’ camels to eat, much like leaving milk and cookies for Santa or carrots for his reindeer. When you wake up, you will find gifts in your box.
Wanting to continue the tradition with her daughters, Clayton went to the library looking for books on the subject that she could read to her children at bedtime and was dismayed that they couldn’t find any, so she decided. to write a children’s book herself, in addition to her story “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. Although it took him over a year to write, it only took publisher Familius three weeks to offer him a book deal. The Three Kings Day picture book is slated for release in 2024.
Before starting to work on children’s books, Clayton was determined to write books for young adults. After having her own children, she pursued an MA in Writing and Literature at McDaniel College, which she obtained in 2017.
“I think as a writer I don’t really necessarily like to focus on one thing. I really enjoy exploring different avenues. Some of my books are really silly. Some of them are sweet. Some of them are sincere. I’m always interested in trying something new, ”she said.
Employed in human resources, Clayton gets up early to write before work, coffee in hand, and continues her craft after her daughters go to bed.
With the publishing industry experiencing a number of delays due to COVID, it was especially gratifying when Clayton finally got his own copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Smart, Inquisitive and Caring Cat.”
“I have had so many author friends who have had their books delayed for a year, some for 18 months,” Clayton explained. “So to finally have it in your hands was wonderful. “
She hopes that the happiness that writing brings her reaches readers.
“Writing fills me with happiness and creativity, even though the publishing world is difficult and filled with rejection,” she said. “But when someone reads something I’ve written and it fires their imagination or brings them joy, it’s the most rewarding thing I can ask for.”
Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller