Former Southwest editor writes childrens book

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 Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
 Grove City resident and retired editor of the Southwest Messenger, Janet Shailer, wrote “Dutch Pike Trilogy,” a children’s book including several stories based on life in rural Grove City. Proceeds from the book will benefit Southwest Public Libraries.

The German heritage of Grove City lives on via the animals inhabiting author Janet Shailer’s world of “Dutch Pike Trilogy,” a children’s book featuring a trio of stories based on local rural life.

Drawing from a family legacy dating back to the mid-1800s – when her great-great-grandparents emigrated from Saxony and were among the first settlers in Grove City – Shailer crafts her tales by weaving facts with the fictional exploits of animals, such as those in "Mrs. Doobitty and Mr. Flytrap Guard the Farm."

Mrs. Doobitty, a guard goose, is based on her grandmother, who kept the family farm on Grove City Road in operation by selling homegrown vegetables at the Central Market in Columbus. She would transport produce via wagon with the help of her children. Shailer said her grandmother, like the character in the story, was very bossy. The laid back Mr. Flytrap, a snoozing hound dog, was inspired by her grandfather.

"I love history and I love to write," said Shailer, who worked on the book for four years before publishing it under her own imprint, Bennettsbridge Publishing, which is named after a village in Ireland she visited with her husband. She retired in 2006 as the editor of the Southwest Messenger.

"About four years ago, I had written a couple of columns about farm life on Hiner Road. A friend said I should take some of the columns and turn them into children’s stories. The idea planted a seed, so I started working on the Dutch Pike stories. The trilogy is named after the original name for Grove City Road. There were a lot of German immigrants who settled in the area and the English-speaking people couldn’t pronounce the word "Deutsche" (German), so they said Dutch instead."

Originally, the book was to contain only a single story, but Shailer said she decided to make it into a trilogy because she had so many ideas and missed life on her farm.

A story involving a cat named Whipple is based on an animal that once lived on Shailer’s former Hiner Road farm, where she kept horses and took in stray felines dropped off at the foot of her driveway. The name of Whipple’s best friend, Dudley, was taken from Dudley Avenue, the former eastern edge of Grove City and the road where Shailer’s grandparents lived.

Otto, a puppy who alerts his teacher and schoolmates to a tornado, is named for a grandmother’s oldest brother and the building illustrated in the book is based on the Orders Road schoolhouse. Bob Johnson, one of three artists who created original artwork for Dutch Pike Trilogy including "Otto and the Terrible Tornado," attended the Columbus College of Art and Design and is a long-time Grove City resident.

Singer and composer Vanessa Hanson, who teaches piano and voice in Toronto, Canada illustrated "Whipple Helps a Friend" and Grove City resident Stacey Riggs, who also attended CCAD and won many awards for work in the visual arts, created the images for "Mrs. Doobitty…"

Shailer’s writing career began when she was in elementary school and penned simple stories. In the eighth grade, she, like her mother, won a writing contest. However, her love of tinkering with electronic equipment, fostered by a collection her father worked on in the family basement, lead to a degree in radio/television/ and film from Bowling Green.

When she moved to the west coast with her husband in 1970, she decided to become a broadcast engineer and later accepted a job in Rochester, NY before moving back to central Ohio and taking a position with Channel 4. After she left the NBC affiliate, she freelanced as a writer, was elected Jackson Township Clerk in 1988 for a four-year term, and worked for the Messenger as a writer and editorial assistant before becoming an editor in 1997.

By self-publishing her book, Shailer maintained not only creative command, but also financial control and is donating all of the proceeds of 500 copies to the Southwest Public Library to assist in the purchase of children’s books.

"I love local history and I wanted to create something for children to enjoy," said Shailer. "Most of all, I wanted to do something for the community. The SWPL is the only library system in Franklin County not funded by local property tax – all of their levies have failed – and is just able to keep its head above water by the good graces of the state."

She added, "The books are on sale at the library’s circulation desk for $7 and all of the money stays with the library."

As for future publications, Shailer said she has a lot of ideas and if she can find a funding source, she’ll pen another series of tales. For now, she’s content to retell her stories to her infant grandson.

"I read the book to him, but I look forward to when I can read it with him. He loves the pictures, but at this point, he’d rather chew on it."

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