Dicie Kimsey Headrick was just getting ready for work and dealing with being 8 and a half months pregnant.
She wasn’t brainstorming ideas for a children’s book, but that is what she got.
It was a typical morning 10 years ago and Headrick, then an English teacher at William Blount High School, was preparing to leave for class.
“I was standing in the bathroom at home and all of sudden the phrase ‘Althea Spineeta with curls in her hair’ came to my mind,” she said. “I was focused on getting work done and anticipating the birth of our first child, but I wrote the phrase down on a piece of paper, and thought, ‘What is that and where did it come from?’ I stuck it on bedside table. A week later, once again all of a sudden verses started coming so quickly I could hardly write them as fast as I thought them.”
The verses to what became Headrick’s first children’s book came quickly, but the process of getting from the bedside table to print took nine years. But now, however, the fruit of her labor is published, “Althea Spineeta with Curls in Her Hair.” Headrick will have a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, in the Sharon Lawson Room of the Blount County Public Library.
Headrick said that the whole first draft of the story came out in less than 30 minutes. Over the course of nine years she always took the work back out and worked on it. “There would be gaps I felt needed to be tweaked, and I would make changes and put it away,” she said.
After her second child, a daughter, was born, life got even more hectic and this meant less time to focus on the story. But writing always held a special place in Headrick’s heart, so she tried to always make time for it.
“I have written poetry since I was a small child. It is something I’ve always done,” she said. “Mostly I would tuck them away in a drawer and keep them there. Sometimes I would write poems for people in my family for special occasions but never anything I felt so compelled to share with the public.”
Headrick said she was hesitant to pursue publishing her story, even though friends and family encouraged her. “Everyone thinks they can write a children’s book. You have to have an agent, have a foot in the door for publishers to even look at your stuff. I kept getting encouragement from friends who said, ‘You need to do something,’ but your friends and family like everything you do,” she said.
After an acquaintance who is a published author read the manuscript, Headrick decided it was time to seriously look at finding a publisher. “He said, ‘You definitely need to pursue this. It is publishable,’” she said.
She found Publish America in Baltimore. “It is not the type who makes you have an agent, which is perfect for me. Basically the whole project was one I couldn’t put on a shelf. It was one I felt needed to be shared,” she said.
Headrick credits God for inspiring her to write the story. “The curls represent whatever physical aspect of ourselves we are unhappy with,” she said. “I like that the ultimate message and what Althea discovers throughout the course of the story is that we are all creations of God and nothing about us is accident. He designs us, and, because of that, we are beautiful in His eyes. If we can see ourselves through His eyes, we can see others through His eyes. We’re all worthy of love and respect and are beautiful because of His love for us.”
Headrick said she sent her manuscript to Publish America in Baltimore about a year ago and received information back that they were interested in the manuscript. At that point she found an illustrator in Hendersonville, Tenn., whom she collaborated with through email. “She would send drafts to me, and I would OK those or make suggestions or ask for certain things to be added,” she said.
The author submitted everything in August, 2010, and got ready for the waiting game of receiving proof pages from the publishing company.
“They sent electronic layouts, and I would make suggestions and changes and check for typos. I finished the final electronic version of the book about two months ago,” she said. “The actual book showed up at the end of January.”
Headrick said she believed God inspired her to write the story and also brought to mind the Bible verses she included on each page. “The illustrator didn’t even have the Bible verses when she did the illustrations. It is amazing that when I sat down to proof it, they somehow went together,” she said. “It looks like someone picked those passages to go with the illustration. So many things along way revealed to me that this wasn’t me, it was God-inspired. I felt a strong desire to have it just be all about Him.”
Headrick said she had an epiphany after sending the book to the publisher that she wanted to help someone other than just herself by selling the book. Proceeds from books purchased through Headrick or from The Village Tinker on West Broadway in Maryville will go to the Pregnancy Resource Center.
“Obviously, the purpose was to get the book into as many hands as possible, but still, something in this whole process was missing,” she said. “I felt it wasn’t about money even from the start. I felt a desire to give back, and I started praying. I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but I felt led to give.”
Within a couple of days, the Pregnancy Resource Center came to her mind, even though she had no affiliation with the organization. When she went to a Wednesday night Bible study at East Maryville Baptist Church, there was a promotion for the Pregnancy Resource Center going on at the church and this was a sign to Headrick. “I thought this isn’t me orchestrating this, it truly is God,” she said. “It occurred to me, what a perfect partnership it would be. The message every person is special totally parallels the message in the book. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The book can also be found at Hastings and online at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Publishamerica.com, but proceeds from those sales do not go to the Pregnancy Resource Center.
The author said the book is 36 pages long and has a readability aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds.
During the Feb. 27 event, there will be readings at 2 and 3 p.m. Signed copies will be available. Each book is priced at $20.