West Virginia author, illustrator publishes children's book

In this undated photo, Megan France signs copies of her first children's book, "Pudgy Paul and the Rainy Day," at Black Dog Coffee in Charles Town, W.Va.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Megan France recently self-published her first children's book, "Pudgy Paul and the Rainy Day," and the book has a personal meaning behind it.

"I started drawing Pudgy Paul as a means of escape from a rather dark time in my life," France, an author and illustrator, said. "There is something about this innocent, cute, rolie-polie boy that just made me smile and laugh and kind of relax about my worries in life," France said. "This little guy has a funny way of pressing through life's challenges and curiosities. I hope my books and product line inspire people young and old to smile and feel uplifted."

After grad school and prior to the book, France said she didn't know what she wanted to do. She graduated with a master's degree in theater with a costume design focus.

"I was working as a costume designer, and one of the things they teach you is how to work with eater color to make sure you can draw your sketches," France said. "That was one of the things I played around with. After I came back from grad school, like a lot of people in our generation, they say, 'Well, now what?' There is not really a plan right after."

Not being from West Virginia or the Eastern Panhandle originally, France fell in love with a man working for the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, she said.

"This is not the greatest place to have a career in theater. They have amazing community theater here, but it can be hard to make a career out of it. Trying to find a way to make a career happen, I started to draw a little guy," she said.

After later moving to the Eastern Panhandle and before starting the book, France said that she started a line of product with the character she drew. She began selling it at local craft fairs in the area. She sold greeting cards, baby rompers, art, prints, bags and mugs.

"Most people just thought it was this cute little image; they didn't get that there was a whole character," France said. "But I had this whole story line of who this kid was in the background of my mind."

France said that when she shared the stories in her mind about Pudgy Paul, that they encouraged her to write the book. She then moved into doing a kick-starter campaign.

"A kick-starter campaign is a fundraiser online that allows a certain amount of time to make money and to make this product happen," France said. "The idea is that you are helping me and purchasing the book in advance."

At Black Dog Coffee in Charles Town on Aug. 24, France signed copies of her book for visitors, as well as those who supported her during her kick-starter campaign after meeting her goal.

"Without the support of hundreds, this would never have been possible," France said.

France's neighbor, Cynthia Krasner, said she has loved being a part of this journey with France.

"Going into her craft room when she was starting it, she had 500,000 sticky notes everywhere," Krasner said. "Walking in there was hysterical."

Aside from the book and the character product, France schedules presentations while reading her publication.

"Kids will always be honest, and it is so fun," France said.

The book can be purchased on its official website or on Amazon.

"My favorite part of the process was seeing how the images come together and realizing how it is going to work. Another one of my favorite parts has been all the different people who have agreed to model for me randomly," France said.

She said that this would be the first in a series of books about Pudgy Paul.

"At the back of the book, the last page gives a hint about what I hope the next book will be about," France said.

For more information, visit www.pudgypaul.com or email thepudgypaul@gmail.com.

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Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

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