Rust eye gets last laugh

March 9, 2010

By David Hayes

Teased teacher turns nickname into idea for children’s book

Steve Gritton, of Issaquah, poses with his latest children’s book ‘The Trouble with Sisters and Robots.’ Gritton wrote and illustrated (above left) the book. By David Hayes

Writers just never know where inspiration will strike for their next great novel. For children’s illustrated book author Steve Gritton, it came from an unfortunate incident while cutting shelving for a closet.

“I got a tiny sliver of metal in my eye,” said the Issaquah resident who teaches at Lake Hills Elementary School in Bellevue. “I didn’t even realize it was there until the next day, when my eye got all red and puffy.”

His sister warned him to get it removed before it rusted. Gritton said, sure enough, by the time he got to the doctor, the sliver of metal had rusted.

“Being a school teacher, once word got around about the incident, everyone on the staff started calling me ‘rust eye,’” Gritton said. “I thought that would be a neat name for a robot.”

Now, three books later, the little germination of an idea has been published into the children’s tale, “The Trouble With Sisters and Robots.”

After self-publishing his first three books, Gritton’s latest work was picked up by Albert Whitman & Co. But why a company out of Morton Grove, Ill.?

“I actually submitted the story to six publishers and they were the first to respond,” Gritton admitted.

But he said he believes the end product was better this time, as he had both an editor to help develop the story and an art director who helped flesh out the images.

“The Trouble With Sisters and Robots” takes the age-old tale of contentious siblings, throws in an out-of-control, magical robot with a king of Midas touch, that turns everything it touches into metal, and a life lesson of the older brother that finally has to turn to his annoying, little sister for help in reigning in the robot gone amok.

A teacher since 2003, Gritton originally earned a degree in college in illustrating. Having never completely abandoned his love of drawing, Gritton self-published his first book, “The Kandy Witch” and followed up with “Plain Fish” and “…and then I…” All three were offered up on his Web site.

The experience was different with his latest book

“The first thing they did was chopping 400 words,” Gritton said.

However, an editor helped him think of saying things a different way.

“The editor-in-chief said the story was OK, but got me to think of what to do to get it to the next level,” he said.

In addition, Gritton had to negotiate to stay on as his own illustrator.

While he doesn’t have a running tally of how sales are going, Gritton finds it exciting to track purchases occurring in locales around the world including India, Singapore and Australia.

With two kids of his own, ages 12 and 14, Gritton said he is always listening to the way they talk and watching the silly things they do, hoping for inspiration for his next tale.

“The fun thing about it is I’m writing constantly, tinkering with ideas,” he said.

Would he ever consider graduating from children’s books to novels?

“I don’t know if I have the attention span long enough for novels,” he joked.

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237, dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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