December 05, 2013When Josie Monahan opened her present from grandpa Christmas Day last year, the unexpectedness of what she saw brought her to tears. For Monahan's grandpa, Ted Gushee, unbeknownst to anyone in the family, had had his 10-year-old granddaughter's writing professionally illustrated and turned into a book.
"I was actually crying," said Monahan, a sixth grader at Brownell Middle School. "It was really exciting. Nobody, not even my grandma, had a clue about that. We didn't even know it was going to be a book."
The book, Writings of a Young Girl, is an unedited collection of Monahan's original poems, short stories, songs and random thoughts, with illustrations from Rebecca Green. It features Monahan's musings about nature, animals, weather and the ways of the world as seen through the eyes of a 6 to 9 year old, the years during which Josie wrote the pieces published in the book.
"I started writing everything down since I was like 5 or 6," Monahan said. "I just felt like expressing what I saw and what I felt."
Josie Monahan proudly shows off her book. Photo courtesy of Laura Monahan
Turns out, from the time Monahan first started writing, her mother, Laura, had been collecting random poems or songs or short stories and would send them to Gushee in Arizona.
Always one to encourage Josie's writing, Gushee, too, had his own collection from the times he and Josie spent writing together and chose 20 to have illustrated and published.
"I would send him different things," Laura said. "It's like the Easter bunny dropping little" it's trash, and then I pick it up and it's like this beautiful-something thought on it. So, I started sending those to my dad since the time she was 6. We had no idea he was hiring a professional illustrator. He was so proud of it."
As was Josie. She has used this unexpected experience to inspire others, young and old, to develop and shape their own voices. She most recently visited Kerby Elementary School and spoke to second graders about writing and publishing her book.
"They were actually asking a lot of questions and writing me a lot of things too," Monahan said. "I didn't think they were going to be that excited."
The students' excitement, Josie's mother has noticed, has had a positive impact on Josie, making her more accepting of her own writing voice.
"What I'm seeing from her is, when she sees how much it inspires kids of those younger ages, to be able to have the guts to say, 'You know what, I've just got to put pen to paper and not worry about if it's junk. It's not junk. No words are junk. It's my thoughts,'" Laura Monahan said. "It's a nice message."
For more information on Josie Monahan or her book, visit josie