Presidential Aspirations

Children’s Book Follows One Girl’s Big Dreams

Posted November 17, 2003 at 2:56pm

A successful Virginia businesswoman is encouraging little girls to dream big this winter — really big.

In her first book, “Call Me Madame President,” Sue Pyatt tells the story of Amanda, an imaginative 8-year-old who envisions herself as the president of the United States.

With colorful illustrations and stanzas such as “Yes, I give some fancy parties, for diplomats and others sweeties,” the book depicts a world of state dinners, press conferences, traveling and the State of the Union address.

Although elements such as a personal secretary named Mr. Zook, a puppy named Coolidge, roller skates, patriotic dresses and lollipop lawns may seem a little far-fetched, Pyatt’s book embodies an important message for girls.

“Little girls can and should have big dreams and should not be deterred in pursuing them,” Pyatt said. “It’s time for girls to be encouraged to have very big ideas about their own abilities to lead.”

Pyatt’s vision of a female president was good timing.

“The interest in female political figures is certainly real,” she said, referring to the presidential candidacy of former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.). “It’s a very interesting coincidence. It ties in well with the national political scene.”

Pyatt, it seems, has no troubles with her own abilities to lead. As a wife, a mother of three, the owner of a children’s book store and a children’s clothing store, and no previous authoring experience, Pyatt decided to self-publish her first book.

With inspiration from books such as “Madeline” and “The Shoes,” Pyatt traveled to New York City nearly five years ago to participate in a children’s book-writing and illustrating workshop taught by Robert Quakenbush, the author of the “Mrs. Mallard Mystery” book series. With his help, she was able to find a reasonably priced printer.

“I have an advantage because I have my own outlets, both my bricks and mortars and the online store,” she said of her decision to self-publish.

Her “bricks and mortars” are in part responsible for her writing in the first place.

After traveling Europe mostly on her own and stints as a travel counselor and an editorial assistant, the Northern Virginia native stumbled upon entrepreneurship.

“At that point I was in my needlepoint stage,” Pyatt said. A “for rent” sign in a needlepoint store she frequented caught her attention in the early 1980s, and she called the landlord.

“I was very vague,” Pyatt said. “I thought I’d like to have a little business.”

The landlord suggested a toy store, and before she knew it, Pyatt was the proud owner of Kinder Haus Toys, a store in Arlington that focuses on wooden toys. She has since expanded the store three times and opened a neighboring children’s bookstore called Imagination Station Children’s Bookstore.

Naturally, her exposure to children’s books and authors has enhanced her own interest in writing and eventually publishing.

“It came out of years of bookselling,” she said. “It’s a natural evolvement.”

With a printer and a venue to sell her book, the hard work began.

“I got the idea [for the book] while out walking my dog,” she said. “I believed that Washington should have its own special little girl in children’s literature, just as Paris has Madeline.”

While continuing to write, Pyatt also started to focus on the book’s illustrations. She traveled the city, took photographs of the sights and did “dummy” sketches she eventually wanted her illustrator to replicate.

“I sketched my own versions before I went to the artist,” she said. “I wanted to make it as easy on the artist as possible.”

Despite Pyatt’s ability to make the process seem so easy, she said it wasn’t as simple as it sounds.

“It’s not easy in business and there’s a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “You have to realize that if you want to be a businessperson you have to accept the fluctuations.”

Over the years, Pyatt has drawn a lot of support from her family. Her husband manages the bookstore and handles payroll, while one of her daughters is the assistant manager of the toy store.

Naturally, her family also played a role in her book launch.

She says her husband “liked the book and said it was good. I’m not sure I would have done it without him.”