GV student publishes children’s chapter book

Courtesy Photo / danwrightbokks.com
Dan Wright signs books for students at one of his school visits

Courtesy Photo / danwrightbokks.com Dan Wright signs books for students at one of his school visits

Emanuel Johnson

Most college writing students work hard in school to publish books after college as part of their career goals and aspirations, but Dan Wright, a Human Resources major, did it just for fun.

The Grand Valley State University senior recently published “The Wild Adventures of Eli Johnson & Curly Bill,” a 107-page children’s book set in the mid-1800s that follows the duo’s search for gold during the Gold Rush. Along the way they encounter wild animals and hazardous situations while trying to avoid a particular group of bandits.

The book is the first installment in a planned series.

Wright, who is set to graduate from the GVSU in May, said the bulk of the book’s plot was directly inspired by stories from his father, Bill Wright.

Dan Wright said his father, a fourth grade teacher at Tri-Unity Elementary School in Wyoming, Mich., used to tell his classes all sorts of stories about things that had happened to him.

“We’re originally from Alaska, so we’re used to doing all kinds of outdoors stuff,” said Wright, who had his father as a teacher in the sixth grade. “So he’s got a lot of stories, and a lot of these stories that are in the book are things that have actually happened to him.”

One of the stories his father told his classes involved Bill Wright hunting for rams in the mountains of Alaska.

“You have a guy on the bottom that tells you where to go hunt them since those mountains are so steep,” Dan Wright said. “So this guy is down there waving at him and telling him, ‘Something’s behind you,’ but he can’t see him … (Bill) turns around when he hears a gunshot, BAM, and right about 10 feet behind him is a wolverine, and they’re extremely vicious.”

Bill Wright, who co-authored the book, said he had always envisioned putting his stories into print but could not find a way to paint the picture he wanted.

“I had always wanted to write a book about the stories, but I just couldn’t do it,” he said. I could always tell the stories, but I just couldn’t get it down on print. But (Dan) was just a gifted writer, so he asked me to tape record them, and he wrote book one.”

Dan Wright did not put the book together without help, however. He said one of the cooler parts of the process was using the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors to help him construct his work.

“I actually edited a lot of (the book) at Grand Valley at the writing center,” he said. “After that I went through a professional editor and got it professionally edited, but (the writing center) gave me a lot of good pointers along the way.”

Ellen Schendel, the director of the Fred Meijer Writing Center, said seeing students like Dan Wright succeed is one of the best parts of working with writers.

“This is a really important thing for a college campus to have – a place where writers can go to have their writing tested out on readers and ask them what they think of it,” she said. “I’m really glad that we have a place like that on campus, and it’s fabulous when students like Dan take advantage of it, not just for writing in their classes, but for other kinds of writing that they do.”

But, as with many tales of success, this story is not without its own tragedy. While Dan Wright said one of his major reasons for writing the book was to get his father’s legacy in print, he added that one of the things that pushed him to get it done was the death of his sister, Julie Wright, at age 21.

Julie Wright was involved in a car crash in February 2010, and details about the accident are still sketchy.

“We kind of used the book as a way to come together as a family, and it’s been something to get us excited together,” said an emotional Dan Wright. “Ever since then, we’ve been touring local elementary schools and giving presentations. We had been talking about it a little beforehand, but that made us say, ‘Let’s do this – let’s go for it.’”

During his elementary school tours, Dan Wright carries seven to nine animal furs and a beaver den replica that he shows to students, teachers and parents. He said he does this to reflect the survival theme demonstrated in the book.

“I’m kind of an animal fanatic, so we try to involve a lot of animals in the book,” he said. “We try to inspire people to go out into the wild and rediscover how awesome it is in nature.”

As for distribution, Dan Wright said he is looking to go as big as possible. He said some teachers in the area have already started using the book in their curriculum.

Bill Wright said he hopes the book will inspire young children to read more.

“So many of our young kids are just not reading that much, and most of them have no idea what a beaver lodge looks like or what trapping is all about or what life in the 1800s was like,” he said.

“The Wild Adventures of Eli Johnson & Curly Bill” is available for $9.99 through the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites. It can also be purchased through Dan Wright’s own personal website, www.danwrightbooks.com.

As for future installments, Bill Wright said the second book is already on a tape recorder.

“I have two or three written in my head already,” Dan Wright said.

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