SALEM – The story started out as a young girl’s wish. The idea sat on a shelf for years, until a conversation at a family cookout paired the illustration talents of a Salem mother of two young girls and a mortgage banker’s dream of publishing a book someday.
What they produced became one of the top 10 children’s books on Internet sales within the first month it after it was published.
Their collaboration is “Fly to the Moon On A Witch’s Broom,” a story by Joe Cundiff with illustrations by Jacqueline Frackelton of Salem.
The story was inspired by Frackelton’s niece, Katherine Louise Boyet, known as “Kate the Great” in the book, who was digging in the sand while on vacation in Boca Grande, Fla., and made a remark about “flying to the moon on a witch’s broom.”
On that same vacation, Kate happened to meet a member of the turtle patrol, which inspired the rest of the story.
Frackelton had the idea for a story, and she started drawing illustrations for it. But there it sat, on a shelf for years, said Frackelton, who is mom to Lauren, 9, and Madelaine, 5, wife to David, and teaches physical education part time at St. Anne’s Episcopal Day School in Salem.
Joe Cundiff is a mortgage banker with Atlantic Bay in Salem, and he’s been writing – but not publishing – for years. He has two young daughters himself, Jayde, 7, and Jordyn, who just turned 10.
Jackie mentioned her idea to Cundiff one night when the two families were together. Kate is the daughter of her husband’s sister, Katherine Boyet.
By the time he had driven home to Cave Spring, Cundiff had the first lines for the rhyming story: “Kate the Great could hardly wait for the night of Halloween.” By the next morning, he had finished the story.
And then it sat on a shelf for another couple of years, until daughter Jordyn kept asking, “Have you published your book yet,” and encouragement from friend Chad Corbett. Both were with him at the Jan. 2 meeting of the Rotary Club of Salem where Cundiff, a former president of the club, told about his publishing adventure.
First, another former club president, Mark Henrickson, read the book to the club.
It was fitting that Cundiff should tell the story of how the book came about, “because it began right here in this room,” he said. “David [Frackelton] and I became friends through Rotary.” Both are fathers of two daughters, and both have black Lab dogs.
“David asked me what I really wanted to do, and I said, ‘I’d like to write.’ ”
After the Rotary meeting last week at the Salem Civic Center, Cundiff and Frackelton signed copies of the soft-cover children’s book published by Outskirts Press. It is a self-publishing house that prints on demand, rather than authors having to order a certain number of books.
Getting the book published came from “the power of encouragement,” said Cundiff, who already has another Halloween book in mind, “Little Miss Switch the Misfit Witch,” as well as a chapter book for older children, “The Adventures of Briggs and Coy.”
The latter is about a German shepherd and a coyote who become friends, Cundiff said.
Both the author and the illustrator include their families in the book. In the back are paintings by Maddie, Lauren, Jayde and Jordyn.
Already Cundiff and Frackelton have sold out of their first two printings and are on their third. Books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites, as well as from the author and illustrator.