From School to Bookshelves

Mayo’s and Pfaff’s advertisement for their new book “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?”

PC Credit Leigh Mayo’s Social Media

Mayo’s and Pfaff’s advertisement for their new book “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?”

Braden Hamilton, Reporter

Local author and former Lylburn Downing Middle School 6th grade English teacher, Leigh Mayo, alongside 2021 RCHS graduate Isabelle (Izzy) Pfaff , have recently published a children’s book together that is taking Rockbridge County by storm. 

According to Mayo, “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?” is written in a “simple verse format and follows the adventures of two young girls through an alphabetical series of scenes depicting play with blankets”…with Izzy’s illustrations bringing Mayo’s words to life. 

When asked how she came up with the idea for writing “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?” Mayo shared that “the concept for the book came from years of blanket-play with my grandchildren, particularly the youngest two, who have invited me to join them in blanket play for the past few years. All we needed in order to become a cave of bears, birds in a nest, dolphins by the sea? A few blankets and our imaginations.” 

As a former middle school English teacher, descriptive and engaging writing was always important to Mayo. Having met Isabelle Pfaff in her 6th grade English class years ago and having her a part of LDMS Beta Club, she knew she was special. Then several years later she approached Pfaff about possibly working together before the idea for “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?” was a thought. 

Mayo said she reached out to Izzy’s mom after seeing and loving Izzy’s posted sketches on social media. 

Mayo “commented that if Izzy ever wanted to consider collaborating as an illustrator, I would love to work with her. And that is really where “our story” begins…and just weeks later we were sitting at her dining room table, brainstorming ideas for what is now our published book, “Who Knew What a Blanket Could Do?” 

Mayo shared that it was not a quick process, taking almost four years from start to finish. She and Pfaff created this book much the way we have all been taught how to write in school. They started by brainstorming the original idea together and outlining the “basics of the book” with Mayo talking and Pfaff sketching. Next Mayo would write verses, send them to Izzy and she would paint, working on “bits and pieces, verse at a time.”  

Mayo and Pfaff communicated often as they moved through the joint project having “made a pact that this was something we were doing for fun and if ever became a burden or no longer fun (on either end) we would stop.  It never did.”  

When asked what her favorite part of the process was, Mayo responded “working with Izzy and seeing how she could take my thoughts expressed through words and bring them to life, with characters looking just as I imagined them in scenes depicting them in reality or sometimes imagined reality.” 

While Pfaff sometimes struggled to find the time needed to paint her illustrations, she really enjoyed getting to know Mayo better.

 As expected, especially coming from a small town, Mayo’s least favorite part was “figuring out how to find a publisher. It took a lot of reaching out to other people, contacting experienced writers, sending out queries, samples of our work and sometimes even the entire manuscript.” 

Further saying “It was also a bit daunting figuring out the publishing landscape as there are many types of publishing, and we needed to find the best fit. The learning curve was steep!” But with hard work and determination, success was found and a book was published. 

Mayo is jotting ideas in a journal and keeping her future projects close, hoping to continue her work on children’s books, with possibilities for future books on numbers and favorite stuffies. Since she learned a lot from working on this project, Pfaff said while not completely sure, she would consider illustrating more books in the future. 

As for Mayo’s advice for young aspiring writers, she says to “Look for inspiration, use your imagination, and apply determination. Be bold. Be persistent. Be patient. Consider criticism and pause for applause…you need both. Work on your craft.  Be committed to enjoying the journey…and find your audience.” 

As the book is released, Mayo is finding “joy in the sense of accomplishment…but even more than that, is looking forward to sharing the book with others and hoping it brings joy to them.” Interested in getting your own copy and finding out what a blanket CAN do, the book is currently available on Amazon and at Downtown Books in Lexington, who will be hosting a Book Launch on April 6 from 4-6 p.m.where both author and illustrator will meet people, sign books and chat about the book. Pfaff is currently in her second semester at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she continues to create, and will be home on Spring Break.