Akron writer waits 61 years to publish ‘spooktacular’ tale

by Marchaé Grair | originally published October 31, 2017 on Wish Cleveland

“From the beginning, Spooklin was not like the other little spooks and goblins…”

And so begins Spooklin, a ghost story and children’s book 61 years in the making.

In the story, a ghost named Spooklin runs away from the Kingdom of Boo because he doesn’t want to wear the same sheet as everyone else. (Yes, it’s as cute as it sounds.) He tries to wear coverings made from anything he finds — from tablecloths to sandpaper — only to find what fits him best is his own sheet. And the home that fit was with family all along.

Spooklin is the creation of Jean Henriott Trawick, an 83-year-old Akron writer who wrote the tale in 1956 but didn’t publish the book until this year. She created the story as an assignment for a children’s literature class while pursuing an education degree at Heidelberg College (now Heidelberg University) in Tiffin. Trawick knew she was onto something when she started using the story for student teaching, and others said she needed to publish it. The handmade cutouts she crafted to represent Spooklin wearing his various sheets were particularly well-received.

The author’s initial vision was to publish a book that had these textures in it, but in 1956, picture books with textures to touch didn’t exist. Between her vision being ahead of its time and cost-prohibitive publishing, Trawick didn’t know if her story would ever come to life.

But about 12 years ago, when Trawick was living in Florida, she met an editor who reignited her dream of publishing this story. The editor told her to use regular pictures if the cutouts wouldn’t work.

Luckily, Trawick just happens to also be an artist.

“I made watercolor pictures of all the things that were in the story and looked for a publisher and just never found any at that point, so I just kind of gave up on that,” Trawick says.

When the author and artist discovered Balboa Press’ self-printing packages, she took matters into her own hands.

“I decided okay — here’s my last chance,” Trawick says. “I better go for it. Because at this age, well, I’m 83 now. I don’t know how much more time I have. It was sort of now or never.”

Her daughter, who happens to be an editor, helped Trawick prepare the book for publishing. This May, she sent it to the press — 61 years after beginning the story. Spooklin is now at The Learned Owl in Hudson, where they hosted her for a reading earlier this month.

When she’s not promoting her book, Trawick creates artwork, which she recently started sharing publicly a few years ago. But she’s created art most of her life. Since 2014, she has entered the Akron Art Prize, and some of her artwork is available on postcards or as clothing decals at Rubber City Clothing in Akron.

Although Trawick has moved 36 times, Northeast Ohio, specifically Akron, is where she’ll stay. It’s where she gave her gifts room to breath and where she started sharing her story and artwork with the world.

“It can be scary,” Trawick says of putting yourself out there and chasing your dreams. “But I would tell anyone who has a dream to go for it.”

Inspired by this story?

1. Spread the spirit of Spooklin. You can buy Spooklin from The Learned Owl or on Amazon.

2. Spread Trawick’s love of community. Support community art festivals and writing events, which give artists a chance to share their work.

3. Spread the hope. Don’t give up your dreams, even if it’s been 61 years.