Chillicothe man writes Seuss-inspired book
The fabled Griznich, who hail from a “land far away” and play “instrunuts,” might sound like a load of nonsense without context.
Yet these are the whimsical characters that populate a Chillicothe man’s children’s book, which is now available to pre-order on Barnes & Noble’s website and Amazon.com before its Feb. 9 release. “The Griznich: The Joy of Jill” is a poem of Seussical proportions by Richard Starkweather Sr. about one Griznich who doesn’t fit in with the others. Jill stands taller than the rest of the Griznich and cannot play an instrunut like the others. She’s an outsider to the rest of her clan.
Though Starkweather said much of the poem’s subject matter relates to many people’s experiences as a child, the story also could relate to him in the present. After all, Starkweather isn’t like other writers, either — he’s a 61-year-old contracted technical author for Caterpillar Inc. and Progress Rail who has never published anything besides his technical writing.
“This is a book of encouragement,” Starkweather said.
Encouragement tilted Starkweather to finish the poem. The story’s origins date back more than a decade, when Starkweather was dabbling with the idea. It wasn’t until a poetry contest at Illinois Central College in 2008 when the work was completed. His son attended ICC at the time and asked his father to be a part of the group competing in the contest. The Starkweather group won, and the elder Starkweather took home first prize for best individual poem.
Starkweather recalled the standing ovation he received after reciting the Griznich during the competition, but he was truly inspired interacting with people at the reception afterward. Most of them were deeply affected, he said. The poem is inspired by and resembles the tongue-tied wordplay of Dr. Seuss books, and Starkweather found that there was a great nostalgia for that style and its underlying themes. He even dedicates the book “in loving memory of Dr. Seuss.”
“The Griznich” was accepted by Tate Publishing, which splits the amount of funds it takes to publish a book with the author. At first, that price was too high, but Tate graciously reduced Starkweather’s burden in half. With illustrations that also invoke the colorful worlds of Dr. Seuss’ works, the book was finally ready. Pre-orders can be made on the websites of Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Tate Publishing, and Starkweather has some copies he hopes to distribute locally. A physical presence in bookstores has not been set.
At the price tag of $9.95, it’s not enough to quit his day job. But like the protagonist Jill in “The Griznich,” who discovers that her talent lies in singing, Starkweather found his passion. He has other stories in mind, perhaps a Griznich sequel story. But he wants the poem and his own story to resonate with all people who maybe have a dormant passion or talent they’re afraid to pursue.
“I hope it’s an inspiration for people to step out and do something,” Starkweather said. “Even a little book like this that has touched some people, it leaves you with a door open.”