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From bedtime story to published book

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When Woodbury resident Scott McNally learned that he was going to be a father, one of his first thoughts was to find children’s bedtime stories.

“Everyone told me I had to get ‘Goodnight, Moon,’” McNally said, “but it just wasn’t what I envisioned or what I expected to read, so I decided to just write my own story.”

With the help of his illustrator, fellow Woodbury resident Robyn McNaull, McNally released his first children’s book, “Hoot-Hoot, Goodnight,” last month.

“Hoot-Hoot, Goodnight” is a rhyming story, with hand-painted illustrations, about Emma, McNally’s daughter, as she explores her neighborhood, armed with a wagon full of treasures, and the animals in it.

“I like animals, I grew up in Minnesota, so I can pass on that interest to my daughter,” McNally said of his story. “You can literally see every single one of these animals in Woodbury.”

McNally, who works in marketing at 3M, and McNaull, who is a preschool teacher, gave a presentation to students at Woodbury Preschool, located at Woodbury/Peaceful Grove United Methodist Church, where McNaull teaches, on Dec. 10.

From neighbors to partners

When McNally, who has a background in journalism, first decided to write “Hoot-Hoot, Goodnight” his intent never was to publish it, he just wanted to have it to read to his daughter.

However, the more he thought about it, the more fun it seemed to actually publish it as a book.

All he needed was an illustrator, and luckily his neighbor, McNaull, seemed like the perfect person to ask.

McNally and McNaull both live in the Dancing Water development

McNaull always had an interest in art, specifically painting;s he even painted children’s murals for many of her neighbors, including McNally.

However, it took some convincing for McNaull to take on the role of illustrator.

“I told him, Um, no because I have no idea how to do that,” she said.

However, McNaull eventually warmed to the idea.

“There was a large learning curve,” she said.

Since he had already written the story, the next step was for McNally and McNaull was to start brainstorming how the book should look.

“Scott wanted the animals to look realistic,” McNaull said, “but you have to have a hook for little kids, it has to be relatable to them in someway.”

While the animals may look realistic, McNally said, some of the actions may not be.

“One thing that Robyn really brought to the project was that she was able to bring it down to kid level,” he said. “She softened it.”

McNally said McNaull’s input benefitted the book.

“She did a good job of understanding what kids wanted to see,” he said, “because before my daughter I had never been around kids.”

In the end it took McNally and McNaull over two years to complete the book.

“It was a labor of love,” McNaull said.

Connecting with children

The great thing about “Hoot-Hoot, Midnight,” McNally said, is that there’s something that every child can relate to.

The children in McNally’s and McNaul’’s neighborhood especially since McNaull took a lot of inspiration from the children’s around her.

“All of the children of the neighborhood have kind of taken over ownership of the book,” McNaull said. “They all see something that makes them think of themselves.”

McNally said he has a few other ideas in his head about other possible children’s books, but for the time being he’s still trying to learn the life of an author.

“Working with a publisher is kind of like going to the hospital and having a baby because the doctors and nurses are there for you, they help you through the process and then tell you what to expect afterwards, but then they kick you out and it’s ‘Go fly little birdie,’” he said. “That’s how working with a publisher is, we don’t have any interaction with them anymore.”

While McNally and McNaull said they have been grateful for the reception “Hoot-Hoot, Goodnight” has received, it’s not entirely surprising.

“You’re never too old for a goodnight story,” McNally said.

“Hoot-Hoot, Goodnight,” written by Scott McNally and illustrated by Robyn McNaull, is available at several Woodbury stores including The Woods, Kowalski’s Markets and Barnes and Noble. The book can also be found at hoothootgoodnight.com.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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