Four local retired teachers, friends who love Notre Dame, being Irish, and writing, have just had their first book published, a collaboration called The Next Notre Dame Mascot.
Excited about their new adventure as writers, they call themselves The Four Pops and they hope their latest book is the first of many. “This is just the beginning for the Pops. We hope to write more books,” said Danny O’Brien, one of the Four Pops, who lives in Walden Park in Mountain Top.
In Danny’s family room, decked with Notre Dame paraphernalia, he was joined by two of his writing partners, Glenn Davis and Mark Smith. The fourth pop, Tom Stapleton, recently moved from Mountain Top to a new home in Delaware.
The energy of the three writers was palpable as they shared their excitement of being published and the story of their journey. All were elementary teachers in the Wilkes-Barre area for 35 years and, although not teachers in the same school, they knew each other in that capacity.
Also, Glenn had married Danny’s first cousin. Joking about the family’s dedication to Notre Dame football, Glenn said he was indoctrinated to like the team and, if he didn’t, he’d be locked out on the back porch.
“I’m a fourth generation Notre Dame fan,” Danny related. “My family is crazy.”
The four friends would often gather for Monday night football games or to play shuffleboard. They have much in common. Danny was a special education teacher and later Dean of Students. Glenn was a reading specialist and taught children’s literature. Mark was a fifth-and sixth-grade teacher, football coach, and later a Title I math teacher. Tom was an adjunct professor at several colleges and an artist.
While teaching at Misercordia University, students told Glenn he should write his own book. He did just that, a “Harvey’s Lake mystery,” for middle-grade kids. The manuscript is written and he hopes to have it published next year.
While working on his own book, Glenn attended meetings of the Wyoming Valley Wordsmiths, a social group for writers. Knowing he was a Notre Dame fan, a colleague gave him the idea to write a book about the school’s mascot. They contacted Mascot Books, a company that publishes books about mascots, and were encouraged to write it.
The Next Notre Dame Mascot
Danny began to research to see if any books had been written on Notre Dame’s mascot. He found only one, written years ago. Further research showed him that the Irish terrier was the school’s mascot for years, changing to the leprechaun in the 1960’s.
And so the four began writing The Next Notre Dame Mascot, hoping to include the history of past mascots. Geared toward second-grade level readers, the story tells of the football team’s Irish terrier mascot retiring and the search for a new mascot. When the new mascot is found, he is fearful of cheering before such a large crowd, but is encouraged and helped by the old mascot.
No strangers to creative writing in the classroom, their teaching careers helped the four come up with the story. They had many brainstorming sessions and were all helped by their grandchildren in writing the book. The dedication page lists each grandchild by name.
Writing the book for the four, who were all new to writing, Glenn said, was like “eating a pizza but never making a pizza before.” They made lots of changes and sought out opinions from other writers, teachers, librarians, and children.
“Along the way, we’d tweak it more and more,” said Mark. “We wanted it to be lighthearted humor.”
They also wanted the book to teach a lesson, about overcoming a fear, while being subtle with the lesson, Danny said.
Their teaching background, where they “read zillions of books” to children, helped immensely, Glenn said, adding that the honest feedback given from their grandchildren on their likes and dislikes helped shaped the book too.
Asked if they ever quarreled while writing the book, Mark said, “We have a lot of agreeable personalities here. Everybody has their strengths in this group….If three out of four could agree, we were ok.”
The four received samples from 42 different illustrators. Their grandchildren helped in choosing the right art for their book. Glenn related how his 10-year-old granddaughter took one look at an artist’s depiction of the dog in the story and remarked it looked like a bear. The four writers had all been thinking this and she confirmed that was not the right illustrator for them.
When they saw artist Adam Schartup’s work, however, they unanimously agreed that he visually depicted their story the best. “He was excellent,” said Mark.
“Adam hit the leprechaun on the head so much,” said Glenn. Danny added that the artist’s depiction of the leprechaun in the story was important, as many drew leprechauns that looked old or intimidating, while Adam’s was young and sprightly.
The book then had to be sent to Notre Dame for conceptual approval. They expected to hear back from the school in a month. Instead, they heard back and were approved in three days.
“That felt good,” Mark said, adding that while new authors are usually asked to make many revisions and changes, theirs had very little. The group worked hard to bring Notre Dame authenticity to the illustrations in the book, from details in the football locker room to the cheerleaders’ uniforms.
The Four Pops hope to go on writing more, continuing a story with the same characters in The Next Notre Dame Mascot. The book can be purchased now at Crestwood Pharmacy, as well as Sheehan’s Pharmacy in Plains, Battalion’s Sporting Goods in Scranton, and Dundee Gardens and Bee Hive Gift Shop, both in Wilkes-Barre.
In addition, the book goes on sale on Amazon on Aug. 4 and at Barnes and Noble bookstore on Aug. 28.
The Four Pops are planning to go to a Notre Dame football game this year, where they may do a book signing, as well as a signing at Cavanaugh’s Grille in Mountain Top, in September. For more information, visit their website at www.fourpops.com.