By Venus Sung, Family and MWRSeptember 26, 2013
For some aspiring authors, it takes a long time to get a book published. But for Valerie Perry, it was an easy one.
"Sweetie and Coco Go to the Zoo" is a book about two young friends who visit various animals on a day trip they take together. The book is designed to encourage young readers understand the different sounds zoo animals can make. The idea came to Perry from her youngest daughter Jada, who was 3 years old at the time.
"Jada named her right hand Sweetie. She's a girl and she's brown. Her left hand is a boy and yellow and is based on her [real life] friend Otis," Perry said. "She used to blame Sweetie for things that got her into trouble and I would tell her, 'You're in trouble too for letting Sweetie do that.'"
But the adventures of Sweetie and Coco inspired Perry and she quickly created a few drafts about the two friends. "It just kind of stuck with me one early morning and I decided, why not try? So I decided to write," she said.
It was never Perry's intention to become a children's book author. A 20-year Air Force veteran with a degree in management from Wayland Baptist University, she has been working at Fort Wainwright as a contract specialist for the past two years.
Originally from Biloxi, Miss., she wrote short stories as a child or jotted a few ideas down throughout the years, "but it was nothing serious," she said.
After producing five stories on Sweetie and Coco, Perry contacted a friend who helped get her story into the right hands. It was a short process. Perry wrote her book during Thanksgiving in 2011. She then submitted the manuscript December 29 and about a week later, received a contract through Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC.
"It happened overnight. It was so quick," Perry said. "What I really wanted to do initially, was to create 5 or 6 stories as a book set about Sweetie and Coco but the publishing company decided to wait to see how [the first book] 'Go to the Zoo' did," Perry said.
Although the writing process was relatively easy, marketing a new product is difficult. She finds that holding book signings in an area like Alaska restricts some of the mobility in getting her book out to a wider audience in person.
Perry occasionally holds book signings throughout the local community but would rather read to her young fans than attend these functions.
"When I go out and read to the kids, that's where I get my pleasure," she said.
Her husband, Jerome Perry, and her older children, 22-year old daughter Britney, and 17-year old son Edward, have all been very supportive. They, as well as family friends, are eagerly anticipating the next book in the Sweetie and Coco series.
Her daughter Jada especially loves that she and her friend Otis are written in the book and is particularly fond of the page on elephants. As for future endeavors, Perry is contemplating writing full-time.
"I love what I do but sometimes you want to work on your own terms and if [this dream] should blossom, I prefer to do this," she said.
Perry would also like to be involved with the Literacy Council and read to kids in schools throughout the community. Whatever she decides though, Perry steadfastly focuses on family.
"I revolve my life around Jada. She's keeping me occupied and busy. While being on active duty, it was tough to put my attention on the older kids so now I'd like to focus on my daughter and spend time with her."
She doesn't know what the future will hold but will continue to write in her free time.
To aspiring authors, Perry offers a few words of advice. "Go for it. Don't wait. You never know what the answer will be, but don't give up because there's always someone who wants to read your story."