Author weaves family tradition into fantastical children’s books
Kay Stone, a former Greenville native and current resident of Chesapeake, Va., is using her rich family traditions to fuel a career as an author of children’s books.
Stone—lovingly referred to as “K”—began her writing career at the age of 68 following a fruitful career as a teacher.
And though her status as a children’ s author is a relatively recent development, it’s a career she has subconsciously been building and perfecting since she was a child here in the Camellia City.
“All while I was growing up, I always wanted to write,” Stone said. “I made A’s in high school English, but I never stood out as someone that my wonderful teachers bragged on, but I always loved doing it.
“And then when I was in college, I found out that I was a good writer because people would come to me and ask me to help me with their papers, whether they were creative or expository essays that we had to write about. When I became a teacher, I read books to my children—especially when I was teaching first grade—and I always had two stacks of books: one was ‘I’ll check this out again,’ and the other was ‘I could write a book as good as that one.’”
As a seventh grade teacher, she took her own assignments that she gave to the class as though she were a student herself, and read them aloud so that her class would learn to know her as a person. The lessons of sharing her life through her writing persisted well after her teaching career.
Her most recent work, “The Beach Fairy,” was the product of such traditions.
The titular beach fairy was an invention of hers one night after taking her fearful granddaughter to the beach one evening. The presence of the mythical beach fairy not only cheered her granddaughter’s spirits, but it took on a life of its own as America’s first beach fairy.
“That began our family tradition of beach fairy visits,” Stone said. “We’ve enjoyed that tradition for 11 years, and it’s something that we’re probably never going to give up.”
Her first children’s story, “Santa’s Secret Wish,” had a similar origin. Her second granddaughter wrote a letter to Santa in January, thanking him for the gifts she’d received the previous year. Moved by her granddaughter’s actions, Stone cooked up a narrative about a lonely Santa, looking for letters from thankful recipients.
“And we have that tradition in my family. On Christmas morning, my children would go to their stocking, even before they could read, and there would be a letter from Santa,” Stone said. “And as they got older, they began to read them themselves, and they were encouraging letters that recorded accomplishments that they’d made during the year.”
Included in the back of every copy of “Santa’s Secret Wish” is a piece of stationary so that children can write their own thank-you letters to Santa, and keep her tradition alive among other families.
Those aren’t the only stories Stone has shared with her family, however.
“I only have two granddaughters, and I talk about growing up in Greenville to them,” Stone said.
“They know all of my Greenville experiences. Growing up in a small town is quite different from what they’re experiencing up here, and I hope one day I can bring them down and show them the house I grew up in on 301 Overlook Road. It was across from the junior high when I was growing up. I told them stories about going to the Ritz Theatre, and I might even write a book about that.”
Stone’s focus on family tradition has created fiction very much steeped in real life, and that lore has in turn been woven into the lives of others. It’s a habit she developed as an educator, and she believes it to be her ultimate calling in life.
“I was always sharing our other family traditions with my students,” Stone said.
“I told them that I don’t know what you will be, but you will probably be a parent. And you need to find ways to make holidays special, and I’ve probably carried that to the extreme. Those kinds of things are important. They’re the real most important things about your life.”
Both “The Beach Fairy” and “Santa’s Secret Wish” are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, with the former title also being available as an eBook.
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