Chance encounter provides amazing experience
A chance encounter in the office of The Commuter, Northampton Community College (NCC) student newspaper, has resulted in a successful collaboration between an author, Gail Scudder, and an NCC fine arts major, William Thompson, on a children’s book, Too in A Hurry.
As described by Scudder, “Bobby Hillard, inspired by his neighbor's arrowhead collection, pesters his mother all summer to allow him to join his neighbors Charlie and Lester on their daily hikes along the Delaware River so he can search for his own arrowheads, but his mother always says no. At the end of summer, Bobby's mother finally says yes, and Lester shows him how to search for his treasured arrowheads, but the task is more difficult than Bobby realizes. Feeling sad and discouraged after searching for hours, Bobby decides to rest under a tree. He then receives a message from Indian Chief Nomad, who seems to appear before him, telling him to keep looking. Will Bobby understand the message and find his treasure, or will he give up and go home empty-handed?”
In August 2018, Scudder enrolled as an audit in Professor Melissa Koberlein’s class “Pathways to Publishing for the Aspiring Author,” part of NCC’s new publishing for writers program. She found the class inspiring. “Melissa Koberlein is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and gives her students first-hand experience in publishing and promoting their books,” Scudder says.
During the same semester, she picked up a copy of the student newspaper, The Commuter. As a 20-year, former reporter and photographer for The Morning Call, she felt she could be of help with some of the writing. There, in the newspaper office, she met Thompson, a student cartoonist dropping off his work for the next issue. She mentioned that she was writing a children’s book, and Thompson offered to do the illustrations. She looked at his portfolio and liked his work. Thompson liked her storyline, and a collaboration was born. Thompson was especially intrigued by the book’s naturalistic environment and characters.
After working at a Giant supermarket, Thompson would come home and sketch each page by hand. Using his window as a lightbox, he’d trace the rough sketch, using many colored pencils. He scanned the illustrations and edited them in Adobe Illustrator, formatting where the text should go.
Throughout the summer, Scudder and Thompson met regularly. Thompson would bring a few drawings, and together, they would assess them.
“It was a very exciting time,” says Scudder, “seeing the illustrations come to life with color and design. It was a learning process for both of us. We related well, and William’s illustrations were stunning and mostly on-the-spot, with a few changes.” By September 2019, the book was completed.
For Thompson’s part, “It was truly a labor of love. This was the first grand-scale project I’d worked on, and it was a beautiful sight,” he says. He approached the project with confidence he gained from Professor Cindy Vojnovic, who had always encouraged him to think big.
“I’d love to thank Gail for taking a chance on me, someone who didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree yet,” he says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner for this project. I’ve always dreamed of being an illustrator, so it was really great to see my art officially published and recognized.” Thompson is proud to have his illustrations as part of his portfolio when he applies to art school.
In addition to Too in a Hurry, Scudder is also the author of another children’s book, Questionary Tales of Jethro and Bianca and the just-completed biography of the owner of Strickland’s Mountain Inn, in the Poconos. She is now writing a true crime novel.
The rapport Scudder and Thompson enjoyed while working on the book has evolved into a friendship.