BUCKHANNON – Dr. Jess Scott ’04, graduate of WVWC and Associate Professor of Gender Studies, began 2022 by publishing a children’s book featuring the story of her pet pigs. The book, “Miss Penelope Thundertoes Changes her Mind,” tells the story of Miss Penelope Thundertoes, who does not know how to react when her person adopts a second pig.
Scott had never written a children’s book before. Researching the process, she learned that publishing a children’s book often involves hiring an agent to promote your work.
“I didn’t want to hire an agent, but I did want to publish the book quickly enough that my nieces and nephews could enjoy it, while they are still children,” recalls Scott.
This realization led Scott to ask Angel King Wilson ‘13 if her company had ever worked on children’s books. Wilson, who is committed to positioning Silent Books Publishing as a nationally recognized publishing company with “its own office in Baltimore with a staff of editors and graphic designers,” told Scott that the company was working on their first children’s book and that they had good relationships with illustrators and designers that could bring Scott’s story to life.
Scott said, ““I was thrilled to work with Angel on the publication of my children’s book. I remember her studying poetry and Gender Studies when she was a student. I have always admired her, and I am so proud of the work she is doing in the world.”
Wilson) founded Silent Books Publishing, after graduating with her MFA in creative writing and publishing arts. Wilson has published her own memoir (Am I Doing This Right) and several other books that deal beautifully in text and image with life in Baltimore. Wilson said that once she graduated with her own self-published book, “many people told me how they had a story, and they’d love to write a book one day.” She received those stories as a message to start her own publishing company to help others share their own stories.
Wilson is a regular visitor to campus, frequently invited to read excerpts from her book or give presentations about her research on lead poisoning and environmental racism in Baltimore. Of her time at Wesleyan, Wilson says that she “was supported at this school . . . this taught me that nothing can be done alone.”
Wilson’s documentary, “Hiding in the Walls,” will be released to public audiences this summer. The documentary is a compelling examination of environmental racism in Baltimore told through the stories of individuals who have experienced lead poisoning and well-researched historical documents, images, and clips.
Scott spoke at length about her connection to Wilson as someone who loves not only writing and literature, but also the place she comes from:
“We are both committed to the places we call home,” she said. “ I love Appalachia, and my preference would be to live in West Virginia for the rest of my life. It is so exciting for me to work with Angel because she is as committed to Baltimore as I am to West Virginia. Even though we live our lives in two different places and are shaped by different realities, I recognize the passion for home that we both have as a shared commitment to a place that nurtured us and made us who we are. Of course, I admire Angel for her fastidious professionalism, entrepreneurial savvy, and her persistence in following her dreams, but one of the things I love the most about her is her commitment to home. Through that commitment, Angel is contributing to a creative economy in Baltimore that confronts the harsh realities of historical racism at the same time that it opens hopeful opportunities for the future of Black creators in the city.”
Speaking of creating opportunities, Wilson has plans to partner with colleges to help students in the creative writing and graphic design programs.
“The goal is to “have a six-month long masterclass where we help writers complete their manuscripts,” she said.
Wilson also has advice for those who are working on projects that seem daunting: “I would tell everyone to try and do at least one thing they are passionate about. It is an amazing feeling to complete a project that started as an idea in my head.”
Wilson says the best part of running a self-publishing company is “helping dreams come true. Clients are so excited to share their books with their friends and family. They feel highly accomplished and proud of themselves. It feels good to make my clients happy.”
For Scott, Wilson’s story is one that epitomizes everything a Wesleyan education aspires to provide to graduates: “Whether students are pursuing dreams that involve scientific discovery, commitment to the health and well-being of their communities, or launching an entrepreneurial endeavor, we strive to equip our graduates with the tools to bring their vision into the world.”
Dr. Jess Scott ’04
Angel King Wilson ’13