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January 19, 2014

A writer of life for children of all ages

VALDOSTA — Dorothy McKeller Ard believes children still need to learn the basic lessons: the importance of saying “please” and “thank you,” of having a friend and being a friend, of having dreams and sharing our lives with others, of understanding that each person is special.

And Ard believes children can still have a better understanding of these life lessons through the joys of a bright, colorful, illustrated book written for them.

Ard is the author of four children’s books, all part of the “Grandfather and Rocking Pony” series, each focusing on one of the mentioned lessons: “A Pony for the Children,” “A Friend for Rocking Pony,” “A Dream Trip to the Zoo,” “A Dream Trip to the Beach.”  

“The books have a triple-purpose,” says Ard, a Lowndes County author. “They are fun to read; each one has a positive message for children, and even though the books are not text books, they can be used as a teaching tool.”

Ard’s books also delve into the world of make-believe, a mindset she believes makes lives richer for dreamers of all ages.

“The ponies are wooden rocking ponies, but they can rock, smile, talk and dream because they are make-believe,” she says. “In their dreams, the ponies kick off their rockers and become real ponies. In my imagination, I can see them. Make-believe can be fun!”

Born in Donalsonville, young Dorothy attended Seminole County High School.

She married A.W. Ard, and they had three children then eight grandchildren then eight great-grandchildren.

In their early years, the Ards moved often. They moved to Hahira.

They both worked at Moody Air Force Base for nearly 30 years.

They owned and managed rental properties.

They were busy, but Dorothy Ard nursed an ambition: writing children’s books.

“I have been asked why I like to write. I like to tell myself, and others, that writing is in my genes,” Ard says. “My Mother wrote poetry. She is gone now, but I have one of her most beautiful poems framed and hanging where I can see it often. I also like to believe that my love of reading led me to the writing. I have always loved to read. My Mother told me that if I didn’t quit reading so much, I was going to go blind. My doctor says ‘not so,’ therefore, I just keep reading and I know that the desire to write seems to be a natural thing.”

In 1985, she began writing notes on Grandfather and Rocking Pony. She saved these notes. Ten years later, her husband passed away. Her life changed. She remarried in 1999 and became a widow again in 2002.

As time passed, the desire to write grew. In 2009, she sat at a computer with her 1985 notes. She learned that writing and publishing books requires hard work. She did not give up.

“My motto for many years has been: Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence,” Ard says. “This statement is based on an inspirational quotation attributed to former President Calvin Coolidge in 1932 – three years before I was born. Persistence has helped me to fulfill my dream of writing books for children and the skills that I learned in the Learning in Retirement computer classes were especially useful to me.”

She was joined in her books by area illustrator Patrick Carlson. In 2011, she self-published her children’s books.

Certain aspects from her original notes changed when it came to writing the finished books.

“In my original notes, my books were about Grandfather, Grandmother, their grandchildren and the rocking ponies. However, when I began to write again, I found that their grandchildren live far away,” Ard says. “Many people can relate to that. As the books are written now, the Grandkids in the books are not related to Grandfather and Grandmother. They are of different races, they are all special friends and they love each other.”

To emphasize the books’ multiculturalism, each one is written in both English and Spanish. Each book contains a glossary of English and Spanish words to define the words used in the story.

“Having the books translated into Spanish was a result of a conversation with Ann, my daughter-in-law. She teaches English as a second language,” Ard says. “When I showed her my initial manuscripts, she suggested that I make the books bilingual – English and Spanish. It took me about one minute to realize that I liked that idea. To make the books bilingual required many more arrangements to be made and much more work, but I am so glad that I accepted her advice. Credit is given in the books to Francis Valdez, a local teacher, for the Spanish translations.”

She sees the books as being appropriate for children of all ages.

More information: Visit the website www.grandfatherandrockingponybooks.com

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