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Murchison librarian publishes book

Nov. 5, 2018 

Jennifer Coleman Seeing the Capitol building from her car window, Jennifer Coleman had fallen enthusiastically head over heels for her daughter’s idea: write a Texas-themed “The Nutcracker” story.

They’d worked out some details of the story – The “Rattlesnake King” and the “Bluebonnet Fairy” among them – on the way to a performance of “The Nutcracker” ballet that winter. Now Coleman was struggling with the approach. 

But she persevered, paying attention to details that might provide inspiration. Then, on a trip to West Texas months later, she found herself looking at a backdrop of the jagged Davis Mountains, at the foot of wide-open, scenic prairie expanses, the sky every bit as striking as the aforementioned.

She felt electricity course through her body.

“I knew right away: This is where the story’s supposed to be set,” Coleman said. “It just couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Five years after her daughter’s inspiration, the Murchison Elementary librarian finds herself prepping for book-signings and the idea of attending a Texas Library Association conference panel – as an invited author. Pelican Publishing released “The Texas Nutcracker” on Oct. 1, with Coleman and illustrator Wade Dillon leading an Oct. 6 book launch in San Antonio.

Written for children in kinder through third grade, the historical fiction focuses on Centennia, a character inspired by Coleman’s visit to Fort Davis, where a placard commemorates the memory of a young girl by that same name. 

In the story, Centennia gathers at Fort Davis with friends and family on Christmas Eve 1883 and she receives the gift of a wooden nutcracker resembling a Texas cavalry soldier. Later that night, magic warps reality and Centennia is transported to an enchanted realm, along with the nutcracker.

The Rattlesnake King and the Bluebonnet Fairy make their appearances, along with the inhabitants of the Land of the Wildflowers.

Coleman’s Centennia-centered version of “The Nutcracker” found acceptance quickly after she sent it out to publishing companies. Within 10 days, a publisher expressed interest in the story, but eventually declined since it was without illustrations.

“The Texas Nutcracker” Pelican, though, later met it with the same enthusiasm, and assigned Dillon to handle the illustrations.

Coincidentally, Coleman received her contract from Pelican in December 2015 – on the same date she had gotten her first rejection letter 30 years earlier.

Looking back at the process of getting “Texas Nutcracker” to print, Coleman said she was stricken by how it survived various roadblocks. 

“It’s a real testament of perseverance because I didn’t give it up,” she said. “It was about listening to those clues.”

“The Texas Nutcracker” is Coleman’s second book. In 2005, she published her first – “Ready, Set, Motivate: How to Capture Young Readers with Visual Aids”. Simply, it was a motivational idea book before Pinterest, she noted.

“But that showed me I could do it,” she said. “That’s when I realized that I’m a writer. I’m a librarian but I’m also this. I’ve learned after all these years to feed the craft.

“Perhaps the most exciting thing is getting to role model to all these kids.” 

On Nov. 15, Coleman and Dillon will be signing copies of “The Texas Nutcracker” at Murchison Elementary’s annual Literacy Night. The event takes place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Murchison. The public is welcome to attend.

She will also be signing copies at the Barnes & Noble in Round Rock, 2701 Parker Road, at 1 p.m. Dec. 22.