Linda Whalen is a relatively new author, but she’s worked with children for years.
“Children have always been my main focus in life, and my husband and family. I have five children of my own,” Whalen said.
The Acampo resident also owned Whalen’s Country Childcare for years. While running the daycare, she frequently made up stories to share with the children — something she had done with her own children when they were young.
So when the teachers there encouraged her to write a children’s book, she decided to give it a try.
After she closed the daycare, she wrote some stories, visited conferences, searched for an agent and learned everything she could about children’s writing.
Now it’s paid off. Her first picture book, “Little Red Rolls Away,” was purchased by Sleeping Bear Press and will be released on Saturday.
It was illustrated by Jennifer Morris, who also created the artwork for “May I Please Have a Cookie?”
The book follows Little Red, a barn, as he moves from his farm and friends to an exciting new home.
When Whalen first opened her box of author copies and saw the finished book, she was thrilled.
“My husband says, ‘You were beaming like a little child,’” she said.
For Whalen, it’s an exciting time.
She first got the idea for Little Red when she was visiting the Midwest, and saw farms cut up by highways. One even had a tunnel underneath so the farmer and his animals could go from one side of his property to another.
She wondered what might happen to the barns — if they were torn down, or moved somewhere else.
Whalen decided she wanted to save one of the barns, even if it was only on paper, and write a story about dealing with changes in life.
Writing a picture book is a much bigger challenge than most people think, Whalen said. They’re short — most publishers limit them to no more than 300 words — but that actually makes it harder, she said.
“Every word has to count,” she said.
Once she wrote the story, she sent it to friends, who offered their feedback and helped her polish it. Then it went to her agent, who also offered critiques. Then to an editor, and again, suggestions.
“The critiquing didn’t end until right up until it went to print,” she said with a laugh.
Whalen got lucky, in that her book found an illustrator and went to print quickly. Many children’s writers spend years waiting for their finished book to be published.
While “Little Red Rolls Away” was not officially out until Saturday, Whalen already has fans. She received an email from someone who got an advanced copy in the Midwest. The reader said “Little Red” was a hit with her granddaughter.
Joey Travolta, the founder and creative director of Inclusion Films, liked the book as well.
“‘Little Red Rolls Away’ will entertain young readers and their families,” he said. “It’s a great resource for children who are dealing with change.”
Whalen was especially excited by Travolta’s endorsement.
“I just think he does fantastic work with the kids,” she said. “He does Hollywood stuff too, but the kids are his focus.”
She also got an endorsement from a licensed social worker, and her son — a military man — suggested “Little Red” could be a great book for military children.
Whalen’s not about to rest on her laurels, though. She has several new stories in the works.
“I’ve got some good, positive stuff coming for children, which is really my goal,” she said.
When she’s not writing, Whalen is also an artist. She has created a couple of logos, and had an art piece — a mother mouse and her babies — accepted into the Mondavi art show a few years ago.
Whalen loves to spend time with her husband, grown children and 13 grandchildren, she added.
She also volunteers at her church, teaching religious education to young church-goers.
“I just can’t get away from doing something with groups of kids!” she said with a laugh.