My Other Writing Career
Ten years ago, if you had asked how many books I’d written, I would have said two or three hundred. If you ask today, I would say fourteen.
What happened? Did I unwrite some books? Did I give them back? Am I a time traveler?
The answer can be given in three words: work for hire.
I have in fact written two or three hundred books, but just fourteen of them are mine, and these days they are the only ones I count. The rest belong to a dozen or more publishing companies that paid me to write them. The payment was in the form of a one-time fee, not a royalty—the type of employment known as work for hire.
Today I don’t often think about those books, but there were many years when the fees made a difference. Plus, I enjoyed writing them. To show you why, I’ll take you on a quick tour of my bookshelf.
Habitat, Kennedy Center, and Appalachian Folk Tales
Habitat for Humanity asked me to write a series of children’s picture books about the work of Habitat. The result was four books I’m very proud of: Grandpa’s Hammer, Raising the Roof, Doorway to the World, and Building Friends. Each was illustrated by an award-winning artist: Bill Farnsworth, Jada Rowland, Teresa Flavin, Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu.
I was hired by the Kennedy Center and the White House Historical Association to write chapter book versions of children’s plays they had commissioned about presidents and their families: Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major, Chasing George Washington, and Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets. Two of the books included introductions by First Ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.
At the request of Turner Publishing, I wrote a novelization of the movie Little Big League.
The Chattanooga Regional History Museum asked me to write a chapter book about the Battle of Chattanooga, Family Under Fire, and book sales were used for fundraising.
I adapted and edited Appalachian folk tales and songs for Ideals Publishing, and the result was a collection called On Top of Old Smoky. The best part of the job was meeting and hiring renowned Appalachian folk artist Linda Anderson to do the illustrations. Linda remains a close friend to this day.
I enjoyed writing several other picture book projects for Ideals, including The Nutcracker and two Littlest Angel books.
If you’re counting, you’ll see that so far I’ve listed only thirteen books. Where did the two or three hundred come from?
Simple: licensed characters.
I spent five years with Walt Disney Records and then freelanced with Disney for another fifteen years. In those twenty years I wrote storybooks featuring virtually every Disney character, from Mickey Mouse to Little Mermaid and everything in between, often in series of five to twenty books.
A specialty was Winnie the Pooh; these account for over a hundred books by themselves. A few of the titles: Look Before You Bounce, Owl’s World, Eeyore’s Happy Tail, Piglet to the Rescue, and Rabbit’s Perfect Party.
Besides Disney characters, I wrote storybooks about Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Veggie Tales, Blues Clues, Rainbow Brite, Doug, and dozens of other characters, some famous and others mercifully forgotten.
Smile and Nod
One reason I rarely mention these books is that they are hard to find and purchase. If you’re interested, you could try Amazon, Goodreads, or eBay, where dozens of my more obscure efforts can be dug out.
Better yet, smile and nod at my work-for-hire projects, then buy one of the books (shown above) that I own and on which I earn royalties. You can find these at my website, www.ronaldkidd.com.