Shaw turns project into published book
What started as an idea for a fun project turned into a successfully published children’s book for Allison Shaw of Madison.
“Mimsy & Me: The Remarkable Ragtime Rhythm,” is a follow-up to Shaw’s first children’s book of the same name, “Mimsy & Me.” It tells the story of a girl named Joy Ann and her grandmother, who owns a magic porch that transports them into the stories she tells. The children’s book was published in August, and the publishing process only took around a year.
“The main theme is about Scott Joplin, an African American musician who specialized in ragtime back in the late 19th century,” said Allison Shaw, author of The Remarkable Ragtime Rythym. “The book takes you out of rural Mississippi to a really important part of our history, the Chicago Fair in 1893.”
Shaw lived the first part of her life with her parents, Jon and Sharon Gatlin, in a little area called Egypt, a small community in Chickasaw County and moved to northern Madison County near Pickens.
“When I was around seven years old we moved to my grandparents’ land in Madison, where I lived most of my life,” she said. “The grandmother in “Mimsy and Me” is based on my real-life grandmother, who I was across the street from.”
Shaw’s interest in writing stories came from observing things around her, and from her father when he homeschooled her and taught her about things like communication.
“Through my dad I learned to love words, and how good they are when connecting with people,” she said.
Before writing “Mimsy and Me,” Shaw traveled to China and taught English for around seven months.
“After that, I moved back to Mississippi, got married to my husband Brad, and started my family,” she said.
Shaw said “Mimsy and Me” started out as a simple idea, and she read drafts of the story to her two daughters, Caitlin and Madeline, who she described as almost editors of the story.
“It was such a fun process since I got to engage with my kids, and they were really helpful,” she said.
Shaw said the most challenging part of the process was the self-publishing and managing a budget while hiring different people, such as an illustrator, editor, and graphic designer.
“It took a lot more community effort than I expected,” she said. “It was worth it, though, and I got to work with David Jackson, who did all of the illustrations. Working with him was one of my favorite parts of the whole project.”
Shaw’s other favorite part of writing the book was doing research about American history in the 1890s and learning about not just Scott Joplin, but other African-American talents that brought a lot of insight into what the 20th century would look like.
“Learning about that part of history really opened my eyes and I wanted to make sure Joplin’s work is recognized and stays relevant,” she said. “I hope through this book that people can further appreciate Joplin’s work.”
David Jackson, the illustrator for The Remarkable Ragtime Rythym, praised Shaw for her work and how fun it was to work with her and do the art for the story.
“To date, this has been the most enjoyable project I’ve ever done and the proudest I’ve ever been of my work,” Jackson said. “I hope I’ll have more opportunities to do this. Art isn’t only about making money, it’s about impacting lives.”
Jackson is currently in his third year as a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and does his art projects on the side during his classes. He was inspired to start drawing after watching his father draw things like tigers and other animals. Over the years his projects became bigger and greater.
“When it comes to my projects, people either see my card or Facebook posts of my art, and that’s how Allison found me,” he said. “Once we talked, I got the scope of the book and was confident I could do it.”
Jackson noted that his first children’s book he drew for was right after he graduated college. He received more drawing opportunities from college professors after that, and he felt he could make it more than just a hobby.
“I’ve been doing this as a side job for the past 10 years and I love it,” he said. “This was such a fun project. Allison is a great writer and it was an honor working with her. I really appreciate her being so patient.”
Copies of “Mimsy and Me: The Remarkable Ragtime Rhythm,” can be found at Lemuria Book Store in Jackson. For more information, go to lemuriabooks.com.