A metaphorical story has taken Matthew Leatherwood on quite a journey.
Eight years have passed since Leatherwood woke up with the story idea until its fruition as a children’s book.
That book is called “The Perfect Stone.”
This month, the author along with the book’s illustrator, Daryl Wills, will have a book signing and coordinating event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at Keene Memorial Library in Fremont. The public is invited.
“Daryl and I will both be there,” Leatherwood said. “We have a little exercise with the kids. They get to choose a stone and decide to keep or get rid of it.”
He also will read the book and will be available to talk about it.
“The Perfect Stone” is the story of a boy who spends a lifetime collecting stones, then tossing them aside to find the next prettier, shinier stone.
As he grows into a man, he finds himself imprisoned in a wall of stones he’s cast aside during his obsessive search for the perfect one.
So will he find his way out, one stone at a time?
Leatherwood describes the book as a metaphorical fable.
The perfect stone could represent a better job, relationship or house.
Leatherwood isn’t saying that people shouldn’t better themselves, but there’s a basic message behind the story about always looking for the next bigger, better, prettier thing and not finding satisfaction in what one has.
“You’ll imprison yourself if you’re constantly looking for the next prettier, shinier thing,” Leatherwood said.
The back cover of Leatherwood’s book also states: “While there’s beauty in every step we take, if we spend all our time seeking perfection, we may miss the beauty of the path itself.”
Leatherwood compares the picture book to that of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”
He said his book is a simple story that can be read to children ages 3 to 5, but most kids don’t grasp the message until they’re older.
Leatherwood said parents also enjoy the book adding:
“What we’re finding — especially in some of the readings at the libraries where we’ve been — is that at the end of the book the parents say, ‘Oh my gosh. Wow. That’s a really important message for kids and grownups both.’”
There is a Spanish version of the book. There’s also a coloring book of “The Perfect Stone.”
Like his book, Leatherwood’s own life journey has been quite a trek.
Originally from Greenwood, he graduated from Ashland-Greenwood High School and later from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1983.
Leatherwood said he was a project manager for a contractor and went to Texas for a job.
“One thing led to another and I ended up staying. I joined the Dallas Fire Department and was there for 23 years before I retired last October in 2016,” he said. “The first 11 years of my career, I rode an ambulance that was at that time one of the three busiest ambulances in the country. That first 11 years, I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000, plus or minus a thousand, EMS-related calls just on the ambulance. That doesn’t count the time I was on the engine.”
Leatherwood said he wasn’t someone who dreamed of becoming a firefighter.
“It was a great career,” he said. “I loved it. I wouldn’t change a minute of it, but that wasn’t what defined me.”
Instead, Leatherwood said he is a writer and a photographer. He noted that there’s no great story behind “The Perfect Stone.”
“I just woke up with the story in my head one morning,” said Leatherwood, who is a blogger. “I went right from bed to my computer and blogged the story.”
A graphic designer read the blog and contacted Leatherwood, suggesting he turn the piece into a children’s book and offered to illustrate it.
That was almost eight years ago.
The two met over coffee, but a year later the illustrations weren’t drawn.
“We parted amicably,” said Leatherwood, adding that he then posted the need for an illustrator on Facebook.
A man who had gone to high school with Leatherwood contacted him and sent samples.
“They were exactly what I had always envisioned,” Leatherwood said.
That illustrator was Daryl Wills, also an Ashland High School graduate.
Three years later, Wills was about half finished with the illustrations when another friend encouraged Leatherwood to submit the manuscript to a publisher.
So Leatherwood did.
The first publisher printed another of Leatherwood’s books called “Raising the Curtain” and was ready to print “The Perfect Stone,” when it went bankrupt, he said.
The men went with another non-traditional publisher, but that didn’t work well.
So they self-published “The Perfect Stone,” which is available on Amazon.
On Dec. 19, the men will visit the English classes at Ashland High School to talk about various topics including, the use of metaphors in writing, the publishing process and motivation.
Leatherwood said he’s really looking forward to coming to Fremont.
“That’s a great library,” he said.
He believes parents and kids will enjoy the presentation.
“It’s fun,” Leatherwood said. “We’re relaxed and not stuffy and we want people to come and have a good time and walk away with a great message.”