Valdosta Daily Times


March 12, 2014

Valdosta author writes a youth book for the ages

VALDOSTA — As an adult reading Dee C. Santiago’s “Grams and Old Grunt: Book 1,” the novel is reminiscent of the young readers’ books of the past. A story filled with interesting characters, page-turning adventures and humor, coupled with drawings that illustrate the tale.

For youngsters, the books should offer the same discovery that an adult found reading adventure books a generation ago.

The discovery that reading can be fun as well as offering a lesson.

A Valdosta author and illustrator, Santiago has enjoyed writing since her childhood. At the age of 17, she began putting serious effort into creating stories for children.

“I had a younger cousin for whom I made up stories, and these developed into fully illustrated books for younger children,” Santiago says. “Then, when I had my own child, I made up stories for her, and later for my nephews and nieces.”

For “Grams and Old Grunt: Book 1,” she not only created a story for children in her family, but Santiago based her characters on family members.

“Grams Sanchez is a combination of personalities. She’s based on my dearly departed husband’s personality, who like Grams Sanchez, was funny without meaning to be, and mine,” Santiago says. “Like Grams, I have a tendency to face problems head-on with a passion.”

The book’s story hinges on youngsters dealing with Old Grunt, the creature living in a pond near Grams’ farm. Santiago based the storyline on the alligator that lived near her parents’ house. “The gator would grunt at my mother each time she got the mail,” Santiago says.

Santiago has lived in Lowndes County for a while but grew up in Thomasville, graduating Central High there before earning a science degree from Darton College in Albany, then a degree from Valdosta State University.  

Writing has long been her passion. She has dreamed of being a published author since the age of 11. Though “Grams and Old Grunt” is her first published book, Santiago estimates she has written 20 books, on various subjects ranging from a time-travel epic to the second book in the Grams Sanchez series; she hopes to have this second book, “Chicken and Gunpowder,” ready for release by May 5, to complement the book’s Hispanic flavor with the date of Mexican Independence Day. She has three additional Grams Sanchez books outlined.

“My mother’s deceased, and my greatest regret is that she didn’t live to see me in print, as she was a great believer in my work, and a great encouragement to me over the years,” Santiago says. “I’ve been writing and dreaming of being a published writer since I was 11 years old. My advice to anyone who has a passion for writing or art is to never give up the dream. You may have to take other paths in order to pay the bills, but continue to educate yourself and work on your writing in your spare time.”

Though she writes the Grams Sanchez books based on the perspectives of her 8-year-old and an 11-year-old niece, Santiago has been surprised by the response of adults reading “Grams and Old Grunt.”

“I’m very surprised and delighted that adults are reading the book,” Santiago says. “I’ve had several parents and grandparents who’ve bought the book for a child, only to read the book first before turning it over to the child it was bought for originally.”

Dee C. Santiago’s “Grams and Old Grunt: Book 1” is available through Santiago hopes to tour with the book at a later date.


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