Originally created 02/28/05

Teacher will sign copies of first book



A bullied whale, who became a bully, forms the basis of the first published children's novel for Riverside Elementary School teacher Sherry Riner.

The reading and math teacher wrote Wally the Whale Learns How to be a Winner without realizing how timely the anti-bullying message would become.

"I wrote it for my son 14 years ago when he was 4, and that wasn't a hot topic," she said. "I was on the cutting edge and didn't know it."

Ms. Riner and the book's illustrator , Lillie Morris, will hold a book signing today from 4 to 5 p.m. at Riverside Elementary.

The book is about a killer whale teased for being slow.

"He practices really hard and wins a race, but then he begins to tease the other whales," Ms. Riner said.

When Wally loses his friends, he learns that teasing is just as bad as being teased, she said.

"He finally decides that isn't the right path, and he learns how to be a graceful winner," she said.

Although she suffered a rejection from a publishing house many years ago, Ms. Riner tried again and submitted the book to Publish America in January 2004. It purchased the rights to the novel and released it on paperback in November.

Since it s release, 300 copies have been purchased, Ms. Riner said.

Currently, the book is available only online at www.publishamerica.com, but Ms. Riner plans to shop the book to local bookstores once she completes her graduate studies at Augusta State University in May.

She also intends to complete a second children's book titled Susie the Stinky Secret Teller.

"She's a skunk and when she tells a secret, a poof of smoke comes out," Ms. Riner explained.

Eventually, Susie's forest friends confront her and she has to win back their trust.

"That's a valuable life lesson, to be trustworthy," Ms. Riner said.

Most of the Wally books at today's signing will go to Riverside Elementary pupils, and each will include a personalized inscription, Ms. Riner said.

"There will be balloons, food and writing labs for students," she said. "It'll be fun."

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.