One of my earliest memories of writing short stories goes back to an October day in South Boston when I was 9 years old and my sister was 2. We were visiting our great-aunt who had a concrete backyard, lined with roses and hollyhocks. There were no toys at our aunt’s house, except for a large Scribble Pad and box of crayons that were saved for rainy days. Though hide and seek was usually our game of choice, on that particular day, a Halloween story came to me that I felt compelled to write on the Scribble Pad for my sister. While she skipped around the yard, chasing butterflies and humming to herself, I was busy writing and drawing pictures for the not-so-scary tale. When I shared the story with her, she enjoyed it so much that her happiness inspired me to want to keep writing more stories for her.
Several years later, after I left my legal secretary job when my own children came along, I enjoyed creating stories for them too, until they entered kindergarten and elementary school. Our schedules then got very busy with homework assignments and school activities, so my story writing took a long break. That is, until a story came to me out of the blue while out on a drive with my grown children.
On a sparkling, sunny, summer day, my family and I took a ride to a local park by the harbor in our town. As I looked out to the bay and little Button Island, the first four rhyming lines about a family of bunnies began to form in my mind. I jotted them down on a take-out menu that I found in the glove compartment. Later, at home, the rest of the children’s story flowed easily and was generally completed soon after. Over the next few months, I would go back to the story to edit or add to it until I felt it was just right. At this point, I began to get ideas for doing something charitable with the story, but had no idea just how or where to begin the process. I took my time in researching self-publishing companies, and continued to write several more short children’s stories in the meantime.
I had assumed that working with a local publisher would make sense, as I imagined I would have to meet in person to discuss and produce the finished product. So, I contacted a couple of local self-publishers, but found that their royalties and fees were too high, and they wanted complete control over my text and illustrations. Then my sister shared a link to a self-publisher that her husband’s cousin worked with. That link led me to Mascot Books! Josh Patrick promptly responded to my many questions about the process and was very enthusiastic about my stories. After he patiently answered several more questions, I signed on with Mascot!
I was amazed at how easy it was to create my first book through emails and a few phone calls with a company that was down in Virginia, especially since my computer knowledge is very limited. Every single person I came into contact with at Mascot was very professional and caring about the project. Even though I am not a professional artist, Mascot’s art department was also very helpful in answering my questions and exceeded my expectations when they followed my detailed requests and got creative with parts of my drawings to enhance the text.
I’ll never forget the day in October, when I opened the first box of my newly published Buttons the Bunny of Button Cove Lane books that arrived at my door. I was in awe of the quality of my homespun tale that Mascot Books produced! The finished product gave me the confidence I needed to be able to use it for raising funds for children’s charities. I immediately drove to my daughter’s school and donated a copy of the book for her to read to her special education students. From there, I drove to several elementary schools in my town and donated copies to their libraries, which they were happy to have.
In the next few weeks, I donated copies to preschools and family and friends as I tried to figure out how to go about using the proceeds from my book sales for fundraising. I decided to contact a wonderful nurse and friend in my neighborhood who worked at a nearby hospital. This hospital provides medical services for over 750,000 residents in southeastern Massachusetts, including children. I asked her if she knew of any children’s charities that were in need of donations and awareness. I then explained my plan for using my book to donate to great causes. I did not realize at the time that she was also the Charitable Foundation’s Clinical Liaison for the hospital! She asked me to bring a copy of the book and invited me to meet her at the hospital so she could give me a tour of the Pediatric Emergency Department that was in need of donations.
When I met her at the hospital, she introduced me to her colleagues and caring staff and explained to them my plans to donate proceeds from my book for buying much needed supplies for their department. I was touched by their many hugs and enthusiasm for my plans for the book, and was very honored to help the department out in my own small way. Within weeks, the hospital printed up stickers for me to affix on the inside cover of my book that explained where the proceeds would go while raising awareness for the often overlooked Pediatric ER.
In just a few years, I have come to know many generous and caring people who have purchased the books for the hospital’s children’s charities. I’m also very grateful to have had an opportunity to read my book to preschool children and get immediate feedback. I have received countless, heartfelt thank you notes from readers, and was especially touched by a letter from one of my daughter’s special education students. It has been heartwarming to know that the readers received the gentle, lulling message of the story that I hoped it would convey like a warm hug.
I’m also thankful to others who have assisted me in offering the books for sale, which have included our local and generous preschool, our town’s historical society and our cats’ kind veterinarian’s animal hospital! It has been a joy to meet supporters in person during book signings and to be interviewed by our town newspaper. It’s always a thrill to see my bunny book in the hospital’s gift shop nestled in with toy rabbits and Easter gifts every spring.
We raised enough funds that first year to purchase an iPad for the Pediatric ER with enough left over to purchase apps, as well. The Child Life Specialist told me that not only is the iPad useful in distracting young patients from difficult and painful procedures in the ER, but in some cases, it distracts them enough so that less pain medication is needed!
Once we met our goal in the ER, we redirected our proceeds to a new “Angel Eye” webcam program in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that would enable parents and family to stay connected to their newborn babies receiving extended care there. We donated our proceeds, along with the many generous large corporations, companies, and individuals who also donated to this great cause. So many donations were raised, that the NICU was able to purchase 30 webcams and put aside enough funds to cover the next 5 years! I was especially honored to attend an event for donors to see the new cameras in action and hear from families who were the first to use the new webcams and how comforting they were to use during a difficult time.
I plan to publish several more children’s books that I have written in the Buttons the Bunny of Button Cove Lane series and others not related to the series, including the original Halloween story I wrote for my little sister decades ago! My sole goal is to continue to raise funds for great causes.
I could never have accomplished and exceeded my dream of self-publishing my first book and using it to donate to good causes without the great staff at Mascot Books! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mascot Books!
-Sue Murphy Capobianco
Buttons the Bunny of Button Cove Lane is available for purchase here. Please leave any questions for the author in the comments and we’ll have her answer in a future blog post.