Former Manitou Teacher Publishes Children’s Book

Kaitlyn Cashdollar, Senior Reporter

Joshua Kemp, a former science teacher at Manitou Springs High School, recently published his first book, “Mary Andromeda and the Amazing Eye.” Kemp left halfway through last school year, explaining to his students that he was following his dreams of becoming a children’s author. “I still wanted to teach science, but I wanted to do it through characters and stories rather than in a classroom,” he said.

Kemp spent four months writing as a full-time job, resulting in the final draft of his book. The planning came more naturally for him, opposed to writing, which was difficult at times. “Writer’s un-block is really exhilarating, when some idea comes to you that just fits perfectly and solves a bunch of problems you got into with your story. So, writer’s block usually just means your subconscious is working hard on something that will come out eventually. You have to be patient,” Kemp said.

In 2014, Kemp was chaperoning the annual winter dance at Manitou when the idea for his book came to him. The combination of the dresses at the dance and his daughters’ Disney princess dresses around his house sparked inspiration for “Mary Andromeda and the Amazing Eye.”

“Something about seeing the fancy dresses at the Snowcoming Dance, and me wishing that Disney princesses offered a better example for little girls who wanted to pursue academics, made me think of a ‘science-princess on an island’ sort of thing,” he said. “For a long time I thought I would write a series for early readers, like with cartoon characters and bright colors, but as I started writing, I realized that Mary Andromeda was much deeper and I was more interested in writing for an older audience. So, the science-princess thing evolved into a more complex story with these middle-school-aged kids and a rich backstory. It’s more of a coming-of-age or hero’s journey thing now.”

Kemp plans on writing at least five total books in the “Journals of Evergreen Isle” series, for each of his five main characters stranded on the island, but the open-ended nature of the first book could result in 10 or 20 books.

First-time authors with no connections to publishing companies typically have to wait around for responses from publishers, and more often then not, they never come. For this reason, Kemp decided to take his book’s fate into his own hands. He is the publisher, marketer, editor, designer, writer and webmaster for his book. This is, in many ways, much easier then being published through a company. However, Kemp said that if his book was successful enough, he would definitely consider it.

“My kids are nine, six and two now, and [my wife or I] have read aloud to them almost every night for nine years. There are so many classic books for kids that I liked when I was young, but I liked even more when I read them out loud to my children,” he said. “Also, stories can change a person in a way that nothing else can, and I felt like I could inspire a wonder of science and nature to a broader audience by becoming an author.”

Even though Kemp left Manitou, the school still inspired him. Along with famous scientists, some of the characters in his book were named after his peers that are still teaching at the school. Ben, one of the children in the book, shares a name with two Manitou teachers. “You’ll have to guess which real-life Ben was the inspiration… or maybe it was both,” said Kemp.

Kemp has a Bachelor’s degree in art, which became very useful when he designed the cover and all of the illustrations in his book. Each chapter has a drawing above the title, which gives the book an artistic theme. “I like doing graphic design and sketching logos and coming up with how certain characters would sign their names. At some point it would be awesome to have a great illustrator depict the characters, but then again, I like it when the appearance of the characters is purely in the imagination of the reader, not something given to them by an illustrator.”

“Writing is more like going on a walk and sometimes taking a wrong turn and then needing to figure out how to get back on the main trial. You always learn something about writing in those unexpected diversions, and sometimes they are crucial to your book. The primary plot-twist at the end of the book didn’t occur to me until I had written about half of it, when my plot was a bunch of loose ends. But I wouldn’t want to spoil what that twist is, of course.”

Kemp’s book is currently only on iBooks. To purchase a copy, click here.