Self-publishing from the Heart

“Maddy and the Magic Penny,” a children’s book I published at the end of last year, was inspired by two children – my daughter, Maddy, and a cancer patient nicknamed Paco.

When she was 4 and had a tough day at preschool, Maddy asked why I couldn’t go to school with her. Her question led me to write a story about a parent who is transformed into a little girl for a day to help her daughter out with her problems at school.

I met Francisco “Paco” Martinez and his family through the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation volunteer program at Cottage Hospital. He died in February 2006 at the age of 7 and his death made me realize that I was responsible for making a dream of a children’s book happen. “Maddy and the Magic Penny” is dedicated to him.

My goal in writing this book, in addition to entertaining young minds, is to visit schools and inspire kids to create their own stories. In publishing the book myself I also realized that I’m not alone. With advances in printing technology, other Montecito residents are turning to self-publishing as an avenue to market books that like mine are intended to champion non-profit causes and inspire and entertain parents and children.

Two of those residents are Brian and Patricia Kelly, who are staunch advocates for educating the public about autism and are major fundraisers for research of the disorder. The Kellys, who donated $2.35 million to The Autism Research and Training Center at UCSB, recently published “The Autism Acceptance Book,” which they hope to use to promote understanding about young people with autism.

The book was inspired by their son Patrick, who at 2 years old was diagnosed with autism when the Kellys lived on the East Coast. Professional therapists had classified Patrick as functioning on a high level and they determined he would do best under an inclusion model, which means bringing a child with special needs into a regular classroom.

After becoming frustrated by a Massachusetts school that resisted attempts of an inclusion model, the Kellys looked at other communities to raise their family. They soon found Montecito Union, which Brian says “embraces special needs and families.”

While the Kellys’ book is concerned with educating children about other children, Montecito attorney Dave Grokenberger’s book puts a twist on a similar theme – changing the attitudes of parents when it comes to children. After 25 years of watching seven children go through junior tennis, everyone of them Channel League champions, Grokenberger developed a way to convey messages about sports through playing cards. He created Pro Zone playing cards, each printed with an inspirational message. For instance, one reads “POSITIVE – Remember your victories but live in the moment.” His children and their friends enjoyed the cards and came up with sayings of their own that would help them during a tennis match.

A former top state-ranked tennis player, Grokenberger followed up his playing cards with a book called “The Tennis Parent & Player's COURTSIDE Quick-Reference Survival Guide.” He says he wrote the book after watching well-intentioned parents have the wrong attitude when watching their children play tennis matches.

“I watched parents not communicate well and abuse their kids unintentionally,” he says. “They would say things to their child like, ‘I can’t believe you did that!’ after a missed shot. I wanted to teach parents how to talk and not talk to an athlete.”

While he’s sold about 5,000 decks of cards and 50 books, Grokenberger stays modest in his wants. He’s donated 30 of his books and dispersed other copies to friends and family.

“If it changes one child or parent for the better, it is worth it,” he says.

Where to Find Them

On January 24, from 3 pm to 5 pm, I will be signing copies of “Maddy and the Magic Penny” at Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 East Valley Road. Snacks and drinks will be served, including the Magic Pennytini martini drink. The book signing is open to the public – bring the kids. Twenty percent of proceeds will be donated to the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, which assists families with children undergoing cancer treatment.

“The Autism Acceptance Book” is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. It is also provided free to just about anyone who wants to use it to promote awareness and understanding of autism. For more info call 969-7225.

Dave Grokenberger’s books and cards can be found at the Tennis Shop of Montecito and Montecito Sports.