Untamed Creativity

E.G. Ryan reads one of her children’s books to students at Gulf Street Elementary School in Wilmington (photo by Diana L. Chapman)

With an unusual past as a senior defense analyst for the U.S. government, E.G. Ryan (her pen name) never thought she’d give up her post – a job where she was able to “fly all over the world.”

Even when she learned she was pregnant with twins, Elisabeth Ryan kept working. “I was traveling to Guam, Singapore, Japan, Germany,” explains the nearly six-foot blonde. “I was pregnant and miserable. I never thought I’d be that mom who would stay at home completely. But the day I saw them [the twins], they came six-weeks premature and that changed everything.

The arrival of Nick and Maximillian (Max), now 8, and the later arrival of four-year-old Alexa Rose, all with the last name Ryan-Shirley, sparked her imagination and brought back her old flame she carried for years – writing and drawing.

At the age of six, Ryan wrote and illustrated her first book. Now eight books later with a boatload of ideas percolating, the incessant doodler says she had no idea her children would change her path. They gave her endless, adventurous antics, she says. A bounty of material for her books which she will share during a book signing Sunday, Dec. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Corner Store (1118 West 37th Street).

“They are my books,” Ryan explains. “Without them, I would not have had any children’s stories. Without them, I’d still be working for the government. They are so close to my heart.”

Her wild, bright tales include Spunky the Dog and Foxy the Cat – characters that appear in all her books. The books often feature animals at their home such as frogs and ants and each has a charming tale even parents will greatly appreciate. Most have a gentle message without boxing kids on the head – and gives parents another way to teach children to get out and play, clean up their rooms and enjoy life.

In Spunky the Dog, Spunky gets mad and mean and the more mean he gets, the more green spots show up on his body. He deserts his family and continues on his own mean journey until he realizes he doesn’t like being mean anymore. He returns home to see if his family still wants him.

Ideas often materialize in Ryan’s daily life. Her first book, Moon Balloons, spun from a day when the two-year-old blonde, curly-top boys at the time, clutched balloons their mom had given them. Nick accidentally let go of a balloon and as he watched it float to the sky he began screaming and crying with Max immediately following suit, Ryan says.

To quiet them, she had to think quick. “I said, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s going up to help hold up the moon.'” The twins immediately calmed down.

The author’s ambling into the publishing industry hit some rock hard objections. Some told her she shouldn’t write and illustrate her own books. She needed to pick one or the other, and of course, there were no promises of publication. Refusing to give up, the harried and busy mother of three decided to publish the first set on her own and at one of her first events at The Corner Store in San Pedro, Ryan sold 200 books in one day. Foxy the Cat, Spunky the Dog, The Dreamies, Moon Balloons and The Collect-Its jumped out the door. The Good Foodies is available now too along with Spot’s Smile and The Green Thumbs.

“I see [they like the books] from the response I get from the children, from the parents, from the educators,” Ryan explains, who adds she does the work because “I want more niceness in the world. I want kindness.”

What she knew, Ryan says, was what publishers did not: children loved her stories. She began to read in classrooms across the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Los Angeles Unified schools and could tell by the looks on their faces that the children were riveted.

Her untamed illustrations that suck up cloaks of staggering color, likely are one of the biggest attractions to her books. The combustions of blends welded with intense detail immediately snag children’s attention. All her books are drenched in shades such as mustard yellows, streaks of lime greens, and splatters of ruby-reds and teal blues.

Wanting to see for myself if kids really enjoyed her work, Ryan kindly came to Gulf Street Elementary School in Wilmington and read to first graders who stared at the storyteller with big eyes and sat frozen. They didn’t make a peep. The author then moved to a group of 4th graders who – even though were older – passionately loved her stories. I picked this class since I’d been conducting writer’s workshops there and wanted to see what the students thought. They were asked to write about Ryan’s work.

“I like how she writes about her family in her book and her animals,” wrote 4th grader, Johnathan Benavidez. “I couldn’t believe when she said she had frogs. That is very cool. I like how she wrote about her daughter and how her room was dirty.”

Wrote Hannah Marie Martinez, 10: “I liked her books because she uses a lot of color and designs. I liked all her books and I want to read the others. I think she will write a lot more books. I love Spunky.”

The author also has written three novels: SOS 999, Letter 16 and Irish Eyes, two of which will be published by the end of the year.

“I just love it,” Ryan says of writing. “I have a zillion ideas. I have whole stories in my head. My life is like a purse. It doesn’t matter how big it is. It’s always full.” spt

E.G. Ryan’s books can be purchased at Amazon.com, The Corner Store and Rok N Ell Baby Boutique, both in San Pedro, and through www.EGRyan.com.

E.G. Ryan’s book signing is Sunday, Dec. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Corner Store (1118 West 37th Street).