Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making Lemonade

CJ Connolly, like so many others diagnosed with scleroderma, has gained a heightened awareness of the important things in life.  “Finding out about my disease definitely put life in perspective.  It was time to write down all of the many lessons I had learned from family, friends and life in general to pass on to my grandchildren and others.” 

The result of this renewed focus is a new series of rhyming children’s books aimed at 3-8 year old “early readers.”  After reading the first story CJ had written for her grandson last Christmas, George noted “It was good, really good so I decided to find a way to publish the book so others could enjoy it.  CJ was adamant against sending it to a traditional publisher, though, as she had found the experience less than thrilling in the past.  “And sure enough, the first time we showed the book to an editor, she proceeded to take out key words that supported the rhyming structure of the book,” says CJ.

So, George and CJ have taken on a major challenge—starting a new business in a down economy.  The result is the boutique publishing company, Crosswinds Press. Using what is called a “virtual” structure, George and CJ have joined forces with three other small Connecticut businesses (Lisa Adams Art, LaPointe Design, and The Racine Company) to launch this joint venture.

“In a down economy, it really means a lot to all of us to support the launch of this book series,” notes George Racine of The Racine Company, who prints the books and all related printed matter in his Brooklyn, CT plant.  “It is actually fun, not work.  We are all proud of the high quality product we’ve produced.

The first book in the series, Wil, Fitz and a Flea Named T, was released and recently The Boomerang, The Bad Enchilada have released. The Lemonade Stand and A Line in the Sand are in production for release in early summer.  Each of these books contains a lesson, or moral.  In the first book, Wil meets a wise old flea named simply “T” who helps him see that gaining anything of value requires effort—it is never, ever free.  Mr. T continues to help Wil throughout the series, often accompanied by one or more of “T’s” extended flea family.  Brought to life by the talented illustrator, Lisa Adams, the books are both entertaining and beautiful. 

In talking about undertaking such a major project while fighting the creeping progression of her scleroderma, CJ notes: “The fact is that no one knows how many more days they have left.  I almost see the scleroderma as a ‘gift’ of sorts, perhaps the best one I’ve been given because it has motivated me to do things that otherwise might have been left undone.  With the press and the book projects, I’m simply too busy to worry about what happens next.”  Clearly, as suggested by the title of fourth book in the series, The Lemonade Stand, CJ has decided to make lemonade with the lemons she’s been given. 

The Reach Out and Read National Center in Boston has placed Wil, Fitz and a Flea Named T on several lists of recommended books distributed to parents and medical providers saying:  “it will be a valuable resource for parents and childcare providers, who wish to teach children about the value of trying even when mistakes are made.”

The books are available through the Crosswinds Press website and through

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