UA Little Rock Alumna Kay Jones never set out to be a writer.
As a grandmother of five, her grandchildren, as she calls the cousins, come together at holidays and hilarity ensues.
“One of the things they love to do is put on shows together,” said Jones. “They get elaborate ideas of tickets, costumes, and acting out the performance.”
After a series of watching productions by her grandchildren, Jones had an idea to write a book for them. The book “The Cousins are Coming” was born.
“I wrote it to give to them as a Christmas gift,” said Jones. “They kept acting it out over and over again. They loved it more than I ever imagined they would.”
After seeing how much her grandchildren loved the book, Jones shared it with other children. She found they thoroughly enjoyed it too. That’s when the idea to publish it began.
“I had a friend who worked in the publishing industry. His company doesn’t publish children’s books, but I thought he might tell me if it was worth pursuing,” said Jones. “I sent him the manuscript, and he followed up, suggesting I proceed. He helped me gain connections to publishers who might be interested.”
After submitting her manuscript, Jones heard back, and there was interest. However, she would have to wait. The publishing industry was behind from the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would take more than a year before the publisher could work on her book.
“Once they were ready to start working, the process took about five months,” said Jones. “There were initial edits, meeting with the illustrator, and back and forth edits that needed along the way.”
When the cousins found out the book was going to be published, they were excited and overjoyed.
“Their picture is in the book, and it’s dedicated to them,” said Jones. “They call me Kay-Kay, and they think it’s incredible they’re going to be part of a book. I did have to explain they aren’t the exact characters in the published book because there were some changes made in publishing. One of the cousins thought it was good because ‘they didn’t look like the pictures’. That said, they are very excited and anxious to have a copy.”
The book is currently available for pre-order and is expected to ship at the end of May. It will be available at most major book outlets.
As a second-grade teacher in Dallas, Jones says her current students are also eager for the book to ship.
“The whole class has ordered a copy, and every day they ask me if it’s almost time to arrive. I hope it comes in before school is out, so that we can read it together. At a minimum, I want to share the process and use it as a teaching moment,” said Jones. “I want them to learn about writing, editing, and revising. Those are important lessons, and this gives me the opportunity to share that part of the experience.”
As an educator, Jones has taught school in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, with most of her time in the classroom in Arkansas.
“I have been blessed to teach in several Central Arkansas schools,” said Jones. “They have all been incredible schools, with great students.”
She earned her master’s from UA Little Rock and credits that advanced degree with changing how she approached education.
“I went back when my youngest child was in high school,” said Jones. “From that point on, I can honestly say my lens was different. I saw and approached teaching differently. UA Little Rock really changed how I saw things. It was more focused on facilitation of learning and helping students develop curiosity.”
A curiosity that has served her well during her more than 40 years in the classroom. And the curiosity to explore a new role — that of a published author.