Christine Hurley Deriso's literary aspirations began in 1998 over a plate of macaroni and cheese at T.G.I. Friday's.
Those dreams will pay off Sept. 1 when her first children's book, Dreams to Grow On, which was illustrated by artist Matthew Archambault and published by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, hits bookstore shelves.
"When my son, Greg, was in elementary school, we went to ... lunch and while we were there he said, 'Let's write a book and we'll call it I Can Read Upside Down,"' Ms. Deriso said.
The pair quickly used paper napkins to sketch out a story about a boy who has an upside-down-inside-out-backward kind of day. They liked the story so much that they decided to share it with Greg's fourth-grade class at North Augusta Elementary School.
"The children liked it so much they asked me to come back the next week to read them another story," Ms. Deriso said.
Ms. Deriso continued to entertain teacher Susan Tharpe's class weekly with her original stories.
"The kids were a wonderful audience," she said." They were so inspirational and gave me so many ideas for stories."
The children were so inspirational that Ms. Deriso told them that if she ever had a book published, she'd be sure to dedicate it to the class.
"They really kept me going," she said. "It seems silly, but when I was doing it, I kept patting myself on the back, saying how I was inspiring these young minds with my stories, but the truth is, they were inspiring me to keep going."
Dreams to Grow On is a day-in-the-life story about a little girl as she ponders her future. The little girl wonders if she'll be a mother, an architect, a baker or a scientist, just to name a few potential jobs.
Ms. Deriso's manuscript was accepted by the publisher in 1998, but it wasn't until this year that the finished product came together.
"It was a long process. ... We had two different artists work on it before Matthew started," she said. "It took a year for him to do the illustrations. So the whole thing was three, four years in the making."
Just as she promised, the dedication page of the book reads, "Dedicated to my beloved family and to Susan Tharpe's 1998-99 fourth grade class at North Augusta Elementary School."
Dreams to Grow On by Christine Hurley Deriso will be available Sept. 1 for $15.95 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers; Borders Books and Music; and Books-A-Million; and online at www.Amazon.com.