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Cloutier brings kids' book to light

Tammy Cloutier shows a copy of her book, "Firefly Freddie," which she wrote around eight years ago and had published in 2010. Since then, Cloutier has been busy marketing the book, aimed at ages 2 to 10.

ELLSWORTH -- A lot of her childhood can be found in the pages of the children's book Tammy Cloutier wrote.

Cloutier's idea for "Firefly Freddie" came from her memories of encountering many of the bugs on her family's property while she was growing up in Texas, she said. As for the writing it contains, she inherited that skill from her father, Ron Browne, who enjoys being a writer.

"He's written the poems we send back and forth at Christmas," she said.

In fact, the Ellsworth resident credits her dad's influence on a dedication page in her book, aimed at ages 2 to 10. It reads: "Thank you to my father, Ronald C. Browne, for passing on to me his gift for writing, and to my late nephew, Travis Miller (1993-2009)."

Miller was an artist and painter whose talents she asked to be reflected in the book's illustrations, done by Benton Rudd. She said Rudd's contributions were arranged with her input by the publishing company she lined up.

"I wanted it to be kind of Disney-ish," she said. "The fireflies should look happy and they do."

Cloutier penned the book eight years ago when she was a stay-at-home mom and it didn't take her very long to finish it, she said. She felt she had a good subject.

"I have to be inspired, then the writing flows almost like a river," she said.

The words in the opening two sentences came to her in the middle of a night. She wrote them down right away: "Firefly Freddie was too large to fly. The other fireflies made him cry."

It was approximately 1 a.m. and she tried to get back to sleep, but couldn't, she said. So she decided to keep writing until the story was completed.

The book's cover describes it as "a delightful story that is sure to entertain children and parents alike. Kids will surely learn the lesson that no matter who they are, everyone has something to offer."

The Houston native said she put her writing in a drawer and didn't do more with it until moving to Wisconsin in 2008.

The mother of three finally acted to have it published once all of her children were in school. The youngest, Mason Cloutier, now 8, was entering Lindgren at the time; the others are Alyssa Cloutier, 13, an Ellsworth Middle School student, and Colt Jurgenson, 21, living in Austin, Texas.

Cloutier researched potential publishers online, she said. Tate Publishing of Oklahoma City, which she chose, was doing a webinar when she accessed the company's site.

"I liked what I heard," she said, noting the firm is Christian-based, but publishes all kinds of books.

The writer submitted her work and was told to expect a response in six weeks -- either a letter of rejection or a call with acceptance, she said. Only 4 percent of the manuscripts the publisher receives are accepted, so she was pleased to get the latter.

Having her book published was a yearlong process. She was required to sign off on every aspect and is grateful everything could be done via the Internet. Besides the 24-page soft-cover volume, a free audio book download is available to buyers.

The author has been promoting her book, though she admitted finding marketing difficult. She's read to first- and second-grade classes at Hillcrest Elementary School, for example, and is willing to do likewise at other schools (for arrangements, call her at 715-273-3943).

She'll soon have "Firefly Freddie" available at Flat Pennies Ice Cream in Bay City; Nesbitt's Nursery in Prescott, the Calypso Salon and M&I Bank, both in Ellsworth, already carry it.

"Some of the proceeds are going to the Friends of the Ellsworth Library," she said, mentioning she eventually hopes to develop a website including a video.

Cloutier hinted she has other writings tucked away in drawers and these could become future books.

Her dedication page to "Firefly Freddie" concludes with this wish: "May all who read this story, smile with your light and shine with your creativity."