New children's book is a dream come true for two Forsyth County women

Kimberly Bond

(Forsyth County, GA) The publication of a new children’s book, Kiki Comes Home, is an exciting achievement for two Forsyth County women. Sharing the story was something the author, Laurel Hamby, had dreamed about for years. But for Ginny Hubbard, the book’s illustrator, the chance to work on her first illustration project at age 85 was an unexpected gift.

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The book features a story from Hamby's childhood and watercolor illustrations by Hubbard.(Photo/Laurel Hamby)

A true story

The story of Kiki Comes Home was inspired by a story from Hamby’s childhood.

“When I was eight years old, we moved to a new house that was a few miles away,” explained Hamby. “My cat was just not happy, and eventually she ran away.”

“This story is the story of how she came home, but in a very different way than we expected.”

Hamby’s family loved the story and told it over and over again. In the back of her mind, she always thought it would be a great children’s book. But Hamby had a full-time job as a school speech therapist for ten years before having children and deciding to homeschool. There never seemed to be enough time to work on a book – and Hamby said she had no idea how to even get started. At the time, the book project was just a dream.

Becoming an author

As a busy wife and mom, Hamby’s life was full. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed her family’s routines. With fewer activities, Hamby found herself thinking more and more about her book.

At the end of 2020, Hamby decided it was time to start making her dream come true. But she still didn’t know how to get started – until she heard about the Post Road Library’s regular writer’s group. Because of the pandemic, the group was meeting virtually at that time.

“The fact that it was online felt a little more safe,” admitted Hamby. She began attending meetings and sharing ideas with other group members, many of whom had published books. Even when the topics were outside of her comfort level, Hamby found herself enjoying the experience. And she was learning a lot.

“I learned so much from social media and online sources too,” added Hamby.

Before long, she had her story. She hired a book designer online and researched publishing options. She was ready to move forward, but she knew Kiki Comes Home needed to be a picture book. She imagined watercolor paintings to make her childhood story come to life. But Hamby had no idea where to find an artist.

Meeting Ginny

Hamby began sharing her quest to find the right artist with others in her community. Eventually, through a string of friends and neighbors, Hamby met Ginny Hubbard, a grandmother who lived with her family in north Forsyth County. When they connected, Hamby knew she was perfect for the project – even though Hubbard, who was 85 at the time, had never illustrated a book before.

“I’ve always loved to draw and paint,” said Hubbard. “And I’ve always gotten a lot out of looking at art.”

Hubbard was part of an art class through her church where friends met weekly to work on projects together. A friend in the class heard that Hamby was looking for an illustrator who could work with watercolors and thought of Hubbard right away.

Hubbard wasn’t sure at first if she was right for the job. She had never worked as an illustrator before. But, she thought, it’s never too late to try something new.

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Hamby and Hubbard met to discuss their ideas for the book.(Photo/Laurel Hamby)

Hubbard began researching the mountain setting and various animals that Hamby wanted to include in the illustrations. It wound up taking a year to complete the project.

Hubbard said she prayed often that she would be able to finish the paintings. She included a dove in every painting to remind her of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Another secret to finishing her creative work? “Make nothing of your mistakes,” Hubbard advised kindly. “You learn by every little mistake you make.”

The finished product

Once the illustrations were complete, Hamby said she could hardly believe how well the book had turned out.

“She did an amazing job on the illustrations,” Hamby said.

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Hamby and Hubbard attended a book reading at Pine & Pigment.(Photo/Laurel Hamby)

Before long, Hamby was able to share her book with friends and family, and then with the public. She began selling books through her website.

“Everyone has been very enthusiastic. I’ve sold way more books than I ever expected,” says Hamby. “It still sometimes doesn’t feel real.”

Recently, Hamby and Hubbard attended a book reading for Kiki Comes Home at Pine & Pigment, a DIY studio and arts and crafts boutique at The Collection. Hamby shared her story with the audience while Hubbard looked on, smiling.

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Hamby enjoyed sharing this story inspired by her childhood pet.(Photo/Laurel Hamby)

“It was really wonderful,” shared Hubbard. Now age 87, Hubbard said she is open to working on another illustration project in the future if the right one comes along.

As for Hamby, she is thrilled about the success of her first book. She’s not sure what her next writing project will be, but she already has some ideas.

Kiki Comes Home is available at local retailers across Georgia and on Hamby’s website. You can also connect with Hamby on Facebook or Instagram.

Do you know someone in Forsyth County who has started a new, exciting project lately? Comment below or email kbondwriter@gmail.com to let us know.

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I'm a writer, editor, and journalist with a background in law and science. I love writing about interesting local places and events in Forsyth County, especially new businesses or family-friendly experiences.

Cumming, GA
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