Patricia Vermillion: Photo by Jennifer Shertzer

Patricia Vermillion: Photo by Jennifer Shertzer

Children’s book author Patricia Vermillion spends most mornings on the sun porch of her Preston Center-area high-rise. Her eyes look toward the Downtown skyline, but her mind goes elsewhere.

“Dallas is busy for me,” she says. “I just sit in my writing space and pretend I’m in the country. It’s quiet, and the sun shines in. It’s a good place.”

Other happy places for the Mississippi native include the University Park Library across the street — she has checked out Eudora Welty’s “One Writer’s Beginnings” so many times, she figures she should just buy it — and The Lamplighter School, where she serves as the librarian.

“I enjoy putting the right book in the hands of the right student,” she says. “That’s the most rewarding thing.”

Vermillion published her first children’s book, “Texas Chili? Oh My!” in 2013, retelling “The Three Little Pigs” with a Texas twist. Three armadillos must dig their dens using native materials — such as pecan tree branches and a prickly pear cactus — while evading the coyote that wants to huff and puff and turn them into Texas chili.

The book recently received an award from the San Antonio Conservation Society, which annually recognizes the best books on Texas history. The back pages include a glossary of terms for children to learn about their home state.

The idea for the book came while her students were learning about Texas history.
“They didn’t know much at all, so I decided to retell the story,” she says.

She was inspired by the late Robert San Souci, an author whose work, including his macabre “Cinderella Skeleton,” is based on popular children’s stories. Her next book, due out this year, is “Hound Dawg,” a Southern version of “The Little Red Hen.”

Vermillion spent 13 years as a first-grade teacher in Mississippi and Louisiana before earning her master’s degree in library science and moving to Dallas for her husband’s work. Once here, she sought out a writing community but found there was no Dallas critique group for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, one of the largest such organizations in the country. So, she started her own. A small group meets monthly at her home to share and critique work.
While she has pursued other types of writing — fictional short stories based on people in her life — children’s books seem to resonate well. Almost everyone remembers the books they read as a kid. For Vermillion, it was a lot of Nancy Drew and Madeleine L’Engle, to name a few.

“There is something special about writing for children,” Vermillion says. “I’m a part of their lives right now.”

Learn more at patriciavermillion.com. To find details about the Dallas chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, visit scbwi.org.


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