SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Author Mya Gillis experienced the joy most newly published authors feel when seeing their book hit the market for the first time.
Titled “Flippy the Scientist Dreams Big!” Mya’s new book is the first in a series that was created to accompany the character-themed blanket she and her family decided to sell online through Amazon. Each blanket that features Flippy in reverse sequins is accompanied by a free e-book.
The story chronicles the adventures of Flippy, a unicorn scientist princess working to create a robot bug to cure all the animals in her kingdom so they will never be hurt or sick again.
Only 8 years old, the third-grader at St. Lucy Parish School, 3035 Drexel Ave., part of the Siena Catholic Schools of Racine, has already sold more than 200 blanket-book combos.
The family, consisting of Mya; her father, Parker; mother, Heather; and her sisters Savannah, 6; and Gianna, 4; worked together to create the character of Flippy to adorn the blanket they created to sell online.
Once the blanket was designed, Mya began working on a book about Flippy to accompany the blanket. With the help of her mother, she wrote the book in just two weekends.
“Mya came up with the idea in 15 minutes about the robot bug,” said Heather Gillis. “We had to slow her down to get more detail because she was just going so fast. All the ideas were hers, including the jokes; but we helped her come up with the name of the coffee and helped her with some sentence structure. All in all, we spent about four to five hours over each of the two weekends.”
Mya, a natural storyteller, had previously borrowed her mother’s computer to write short stories, months before she wrote the story of Flippy.
“She would write these stories, print them out and read them to her sisters. So when I asked her if she wanted to write a story about a unicorn, she said, ‘OK,’” said Heather Gillis.
While Mya is outspoken at home, she is a bit shy in public and hasn’t told her friends that she is a published author.
“I think she just thinks that this is something all kids do,” said her mother. “However, she is very happy to see this book published.”
Mya also interjected several humorous anecdotes into the storyline, something that did not come as a surprise to Heather as the family likes to joke around a lot at home. Mya and her sisters often devise clever jokes to make the family laugh.
A freelance artist Heather and Parker Gillis are acquainted with did the artwork. He not only designed the unicorn for the blanket but also illustrated the pictures in the book.
“Mya loves to draw, so we hope that as she progresses, she can do her own artwork,” said Heather Gillis, who attributes her daughter’s Catholic education for bolstering her creativity. “I think Catholic education is like no other. There is a big difference between going to those schools and being brought up in an environment focused on kindness and giving back and not going to Catholic schools. They would not get this anywhere else. I know the school has helped her with her shyness, learning cursive writing and her creativity.”
The entrepreneurial idea came about as an extension of Heather and Parker Gillis’ eBay business and the desire to leave something behind for their daughters to build on later.
“I really wanted to develop a brand surrounding female empowerment and build this for them. I have a bold personality, am very independent and was raised to be independent,” she said. “I wanted my girls to embrace this and wanted Flippy to be an empowered female.”
The blanket and book venture began after Heather Gillis started looking for things to make and sell on Amazon. She did substantial analytical research as to what are growing trends, big sellers and items popular with children.
“I looked at bags, other kids’ stuff and, of course, unicorns are hot right now. We came up with the blanket over everything else,” she said. “I am pretty green behind the ears and while we are very confident sellers with eBay, Poshmark and Mercari, Amazon is totally different and not nearly as user friendly.”
A physician assistant, Heather Gillis would like to continue working in the field, but hopes to shift to part-time to be more available for her girls and to help her husband grow their online business.
“Parker gave up his regular job to concentrate on our online sales and be home with the girls and I am looking forward to spending more time helping him with this,” said Heather Gillis. “We never wanted daycare for them, nor did we want to rely on family to take care of them. I would rather spend more time with them and work from home if at all possible.”
Mya plans to do a series of books to follow Flippy, which will be available in softcover soon. The next character in the book series was introduced at the end of Flippy. The blanket/book combo can be purchased through Amazon at www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZPBJRTL.