BARKHAMSTED — Debbie Washington has always enjoyed writing.
There’s a novel in progress, and she’s won prizes for her short stories, she said. But a children’s book was the project that got her published.
“A Fish in a Tree” tells the story of a fish-shaped balloon that’s stuck in a tree. It is set free by several animal friends, but the story, written in rhyme and suitable for ages 4-8, teaches children that balloons, when they are let go, are a hazard for wildlife, and encourages little readers to find ways to reuse, recycle or renew instead of just throwing things away.
“I’m not in favor of letting balloons go, because it’s bad for the environment and can injure animals,” Washington said.
“So the balloon goes on a trip after it’s rescued from the tree, and a boy finds it and repurposes it. So there’s a message about recycling, and rebirth,” she said.
“The idea for the book came to me when my grandson, who was 3 at the time, said, ‘I saw a fish in a tree.’ I said, ‘How can that be?’ and my husband, George, said, ‘I think there’s a story there.’ So I started writing it.”
That grandson is 4 now, and loves reading “A Fish in a Tree.”
“I have some nice pictures of my grandchildren reading it,” she said. “They enjoy it. Even my youngest granddaughter, who’s almost 2, loves the story.”
Washington is holding a book launch party from 1-3 p.m. Nov. 14 at Six Spoons Chocolatier, 141 Main St. in New Hartford, where she’ll sign her book and sell it at a discounted price. It’s also a way for her to support a local business, she said.
Washington is retired from the U.S. Postal Service after a 34-year career; for the last 17 years, she was postmaster in East Hartland. She and her husband have two grown children and six grandchildren, with another one on the way.
To get “A Fish in a Tree” published, Washington chose to use an editor. “The initial draft was finished the first night, and I thought I was done,” she said. “I used an editor (who worked for Scholastic Books), and hired a professional illustrator, Chad Thompson, because I don’t draw. He did a beautiful job. I was very happy with the work he did.”
The book took less than a year to complete. “I pushed along,” she said. “I wanted to get it done. It’s been a journey and an experience.”
Washington’s book was published by Purple Diamond Press, with publisher C.M. Harris.
“It’s a new publishing company that’s just starting out, so it worked out well for all of us,” she said. “They helped me set up my website, and got it listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target. I appreciated working with this company because I wanted to get it in print. This company only takes children’s books that have a special message — anti-bullying, the environment; so my story worked.”
When asked whether she was writing another book, she said, “I’m always working on something.
“I write short stories — I’d like to do a book of those. They’re not for children, though,” she said. “I have a novel going. I’m always writing. It’s just something I’ve always done for myself. I came in second, twice, with a short story (entered with the) Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.”
Washington thought she’d have more time to write once she retired, but there are never enough hours in the day.
“There’s the senior center, lots of babysitting. ... I’m enjoying it, but I wish there were more hours, or more energy,” she said.
She’s also trying to enjoy each day. “Life threw me a curve ball in September — I had a heart attack,” she said. “So I try to make the most of things now.”
“A Fish in a Tree” is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target and at dcwashingtonbooks.com.