Thursday, April 13, 2000

Kentucky author meets fans

Books popular in Kenton Co.

BY Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — While he has no children of his own, eastern Kentucky native Paul Brett Johnson finds inspiration for his award-winning children's books through personal observation, fantasy and folk tales, and “the kid within.”

        Visits to the farmers market near his Lexington home provided the germ for Farmers' Market, he told a student audience Tuesday. And a trip he made out west several years ago has him thinking about doing a story on one of the burros that transport tourists into the Grand Canyon.

        “I keep a recipe box with 3-by-5 cards that's full of ideas,” said Mr. Johnson, who has 14 published books. “Right now, Rosie and the Grand Canyon is one of lots of possibilities in my ideas box, but someday, she could turn into a story.”

        To mark National Library Week, the 52-year-old author/illustrator addressed 200 schoolchildren and parents at the Independence and Covington branches of the Kenton County Public Library on Tuesday, as well as a group Tuesday night in Erlanger.

        “His books are so popular that I can't keep them in our library,” said Kathy Gubser, librarian at A.J. Lindeman Elementary in Erlanger.

        The son of a librarian and grandson of “an embellisher,” Mr. Johnson was inspired to write children's books after taking a course in children's literature at the University of Kentucky.

        Twenty years and several rejection slips later, the free-lance artist decided to get serious about his craft; so he read everything he could on writing for children and how to get published.

        In less than a year, he'd published his first book, The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down, which won the Bluegrass Award in 1995 for its popularity with Kentucky children. A Perfect Pork Stew won the award in 1999, and The Pig Who Ran A Red Light is nominated this year.

        “Am I rich?” Mr. Johnson said, repeating an often-asked question. He chuckled, as he showed children a drawing of a pie showing the author/illustrator's small share of the profits.

        “I get to make my living doing what I like best in the world,” he said. “So I guess you could say I'm rich in that sense.”


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