A long time in the making
Woodbury resident Erin Madden has been writing for as long as she can remember.
"I've always been writing - it was basically a hobby" Madden said. "My mother actually inspired me to start writing by giving me my first diary.
"I like taking my real-life experiences and putting them into an exaggerated story."
Madden is in the process of releasing her first-ever children's book "Pokey" at the beginning of April.
"Pokey" tells the story of a "loveable little caterpillar who finds himself hopelessly chasing his favorite baseball cap which was snatched by the wind and carried far, far away. Pokey's ability to make new friends helps comfort him on his long adventurous journey to find his way home," according to Madden.
"It's basically a story about friendship," she said.
Much like Pokey the character, Madden's children's book has had a long and winding journey. In fact, "Pokey" first came into being when Madden was just 11 years old.
Madden, who teaches fifth grade at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Vermillion, Minn., wrote "Pokey" as part of a school assignment when she was in sixth grade.
At the time when Madden first wrote "Pokey," her teacher suggested she enter her story into a contest. Madden didn't win the contest, but said she did win in the long run.
"Entering it into the contest gives you confidence as an 11-year-old," she said. "It's always been a story that I love, so that kind of stuck with me in the back of my head."
Over the years Madden has read "Pokey" to various audiences, including her students and various youth groups at the YMCA.
"If the kids love it there must be something about the story," she said. "It should be published for others to enjoy."
Once Madden decided she wanted to try and get "Pokey" published, she went to work putting it together.
The first step she took was to reread "Pokey" and see if there were any areas that could be improved upon.
"I didn't change a whole lot to it because I wanted to keep my 11-year-old mind," she said, "even though as an adult, there were things grammatically that I wanted to change."
In addition to writing the story, Madden also illustrated "Pokey" herself as well.
"I've always dabbled in art as well," she said. "I have a plethora of hobbies."
Once "Pokey" was where she wanted it to be, Madden said she went to work researching the various publication routes available to her.
Eventually, she said she decided on self-publication with Author's House because it seemed like the easiest route.
"I've heard so many horror stories about submitting your story and being rejected," she said, "and I wanted my story as is."
After just a couple of months of working with Author's House, "Pokey" was ready for the printers.
Once the book is released, it will be available online at both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Madden said "Pokey" isn't the end of her writing career, however, since she has a variety of other stories already written or in the works.
"If everything goes well, I hope there's more to come," she said. "I have these little special moments or memories that I've had throughout my life that I have turned into a story."
Madden said she intends to stick with the children's literature genre because she loves every aspect of it.
"I don't know what it is about children's literature that I love," she said. "There's usually a message in there, it's magical and it's imaginative - there's just something I love about it."
Madden said she is very excited about the release of "Pokey" and hopes it reaches all children.
"It's kind of a fun loving story that you can always share from a parent or a child," she said. "The journey is long, and even if you get lost, there's always someone there to help you."