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From engineer to author

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Children’s book has coloring book companion

By John Barnhart

    Ron Sisson, an electrical engineer, worked for General Electric in Lynchburg for 20 years.

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    He started writing children’s books four years ago and based his book “Lost on Big Otter,” published last year, on a misadventure that he had with his children on the Big Otter River while he worked in this area.
        Sisson noted that his son and daughter never looked back fondly on that adventure and, if you read the book, you will understand why — especially considering the encounter his daughter had with some spiders.
        That book was written for children in the 9- to 10-year-old age group. He wrote his second book, published in 2016, with second graders in mind. It’s written at a primary school reading level with very large, colorful illustrations that each run across two pages.
    The book is about a fiddler crab named Stalk Eyes who is made fun of by the other crab children at school. The other crabs ridicule him because he looks different.
    Now, he’s done a coloring book to serve as a companion for the story book. It has most of the illustrations from the story and children can color these to look like the illustrations in the book or choose their own colors.
    Sisson works with an editor, Jane Johnson, who reduced the text for each illustration. She’s the editor for the original story. He also works with an illustrator, Lisa Bohar, who did the original Stalk Eyes illustrations. For the coloring book, she converted them  to  black  and white line drawings so children can add their own colors.
    Sissons, teamed up with his wife, Madeline, for several Stalk Eyes presentations at schools with children of the ages that the book was written for. Madeline read the book to two groups of children each consisting of 23 students. Before retiring, she had spent a career teaching kindergarten, first and second grade. She sat in a chair, with the children sitting on the floor in front of her. She was perfectly at ease.
    Ron was not at ease. He did a presentation on fiddler crabs with a big photo of one. He pointed out that these tiny crabs — they’re a perfect meal size for a sea gull, the villain in Stalk Eyes — have their eyes on stalks so they can look out of their holes and see if there is danger before they emerge.
    “I was so nervous,” he said.
    Sissons was used to making technical support proposals before groups of engineers. He was comfortable with that.
    “Before 23 first graders, that’s terrifying,” he said.
    However, he’s living his dream.
    “It’s a dream I had all my life, to write and publish children’s books,” he said. “It’s been fun, it’s been fun doing books.”
    Stalk Eyes also has a website, mystalkeyes.com. Sisson developed it with the assistance of MJ Clark Creative Services Inc., a web design firm.
    Stalk Eyes, the Stalk Eyes coloring book and his first book, Lost on Big Otter, are available on Amazon.com. He self-published the coloring book, as well as his other two books using Amazon.com’s CreateSpace. This allows copies of the books to be printed, on demand, as customers buy them, saving Sissons the cost of paying for a large press run and then transporting and storing a large number of books.