We chatted with the ever-so-talented Ruth Garrett, author of this sweet book The Gingerbread Man in Memphis. Learn about what inspired her to create her own version of the beloved story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I love chocolate and cheeseburgers. My husband and I have two children and a golden retriever. I grew up in Memphis, went to the University of Alabama, and got my Master of Arts in Teaching at Belmont University. I taught for three years in Brentwood, TN, and then moved back to Memphis in 2014. I taught at Hutchison for three years before making the decision to stay home and do the mom thing.
How did the idea for the Gingerbread in Memphis come about? As a teacher, I always read gingerbread man books to my class during the holiday season. There are so many good ones! One night, I was reading a version of the gingerbread man that is based in New York City to my son and thought- Hey! I could write about the gingerbread man in Memphis!
How did you select the illustrator for your book? I hopped on the SCBWI website and started browsing the profiles of illustrators in the southeast. The first illustrations that really spoke to me were Melissa’s. When I found out that she is a Memphian, I knew it was meant to be! I was really nervous to reach out to her because she has so much talent, and I was beyond thrilled when she agreed to do my illustrations.
What challenges and successes did you have while writing it? My biggest challenge was figuring out how to publish the book. There are so many options for self-publishers, and that was overwhelming. On a similar note, one of my biggest successes was networking to find the answers to my publishing questions. Brooke Justice, the author of Go FedEx, was a huge resource for me. My other big success was hiring Melissa. Her illustrations make the book!
What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Get writing and follow your dreams! You will never know if your book/poem/short story will be successful if you don’t go for it. I have come across authors who crowdfund to raise capital and awareness in order to self publish. I have also come across authors who have been discovered at a conference and were traditionally published. It doesn’t matter what route you take, it only matters that you keep moving forward.
Have you had specific challenges that have focused your career? Losing my dad last November is the root of this endeavor. I was mourning and God knew that I needed a creative outlet. I never could have imagined that I would be sitting here a year later with a real live book being sold to Memphis (and non-Memphis) families.
Who is your most influential mentor? My most influential mentor is an unconventional one: it is a Facebook group for children's book authors and illustrators. There are thousands of authors asking questions and giving advice that I found extremely relevant to the process I was going through. I loved that I could (and still can) search for anything in the group and instantly find posts and comments from authors around the world doing the exact same thing I was doing. I found the Facebook group to be inspirational, helpful, and uplifting, something that can be hard to come by on social media these days.
Do you have a creative ritual? No, but I think I’m most creative in the shower because there are no distractions!
What do you love about being a creative in Memphis? I love that my book has connected me back to the Memphis community at a time when connection can be hard to come by. I love this city. Everyone I have met through this process is so kind and supportive too.
What's next? Any new books on the horizon? I need to get through Christmas first! I do have a couple of ideas for future books- now I need some time to see how they unfold.
About the Author:
Ruth Wood Garrett was born and raised in Memphis, and lives there now with her husband and two children. Ruth and her family love spending time visiting local parks and museums and cheering on the Grizzlies. They are proud to call Memphis home. Ruth is a former elementary school teacher and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching. She is excited to share her version of this classic tale with a Memphis twist.
About the Illustrator:
Melissa Fischer's family has called Memphis home for generations. Now she shares those roots with her two kids, Ella and Elias. Melissa and her husband Scott love to take their kids to the Memphis zoo, eat dinner in Overton Square, or watch the Peabody ducks march to the hotel fountain. They love calling Memphis home.
Pick up your signed copy of the Gingerbread Man in Memphis at Arrow Creative or online at arrowcreative.org