After three decades, a poem drafted on a train in California by former CNN anchor Jim Wilkerson has finally been transformed into an illustrated children’s book.
“I have had it all these years and never did anything with it until now,” said Wilkerson, who lives in Port Ludlow.
The 24-page book, “Joey and the Threeep,” chronicles the chance encounter of a red-headed boy and an irradiated creature with three eyes, three ears, three fingers, three legs and three toes.
The creature was formed after being exposed to a nuclear test sometime in the 1950s.
“It shows what testing those nukes can do,” Wilkerson said. “I am one of the only guys that saw a nuke test. It was in the 1950s in Nevada. I was a long way away — we were driving across the desert early in the morning when the whole sky just turned white.”
The moral of the story is that despite outward appearances, people can still get along, Wilkerson said.
“Threeep is friendly,” he said. “We are all different, but we can be pals and take care of each other. That is part of the morality of it.”
The book was illustrated by Dan Youra, of Port Hadlock, who owns Youra Media.
“(Wilkerson) came to me with a poem, and he wanted the poem expanded into the book, so we came up with a way to do it, with me doing the illustrations, and then we had it published on Amazon,” Youra said.
It was during an assignment in 1989 that Wilkerson said he came up with the idea for a book.
“I was a reporter in San Diego on television, and one of my assignments was to interview the guy who won the national award for children’s book of the year,” Wilkerson said. “He gave me a copy and the pictures were absolutely fantastic. It was beautiful artwork.”
But the story, he said, was mediocre at best.
That year, the Los Angeles Lakers were the defending NBA champions, having taken the title in 1987 and 1988. They were trying for a “three-peat,” a goal they would ultimately fall short of as they were swept from the NBA finals in 1989 by the Detroit Pistons.
“I was on the train going to LA and I was reading this guy’s book and I was thinking, ‘I can write a better book than that,’” Wilkerson said. “I was thinking about the three-peat and that is where it started.”
A golden age for writers and illustrators
Digital technology has made dreams such as Wilkerson’s come to fruition, says Dan Youra, of Port Hadlock, owner of Youra Media.
Using Amazon’s Direct Publishing platform, authors sell direct to readers, bypassing publishers and bookstores and don’t have to shoulder the cost of creating and storing inventory.
“It is print-on-demand, so he doesn’t have to buy 10,000 books and keep them in his garage and hope they sell. This way you can print them as somebody buys them.”
There is no cost to upload a completed manuscript,” Youra said. “All I have to do is compile the material into a PDF and upload it — one for the cover and one for the text. Maybe, five days go by when it is reviewed by a computer and by people. Then we approve it and it is ready for printing.
Youra said his design and manuscript preparation fee was the only expense Wilkerson had to cover.
That is a much different process than in 1986 when Youra first started in the publishing business, he said.
“Then, I had printers from all over the Northwest vying for my business because they wanted me to send business their way. And I had to have a staff of people who would be creating maps or editing, selling advertising and running over to Seattle to proof something.”
Now Youra can run his business all on his own.
“It is easier now, definitely,” he said. “I guess I could say I am half-retired. I love doing this. I love that different people come with their ideas and I am fascinated by whatever they are into and their topics, and I have kind of gone into that mentality of, ‘How can I help a person get something printed?’”
While changing, the publishing industry itself is not at risk of being entirely replaced by digital technology, Youra said.
“I think there is so much that will continue,” he said. “The big printers are going to keep on printing. But I think the future of this kind of printing is for local individuals who want to give a gift to their grandkids, or maybe to sell, maybe to give it away for free at the club they belong too.”
The major shift is the freedom and access to professional service now available to small time authors, Youra said.
“I think the big thing is they don’t have to come up with a large amount of money up front,” he said.
Long time journalist
The experienced newsman retired from television in San Diego, and moved to the Olympic Peninsula in 2008.
During his career, Wilkerson worked in radio and television across the country. In Atlanta he anchored at CNN for three years during its startup in 1980.
“I started the same time Reagan did,” Wilkerson said, referring to President Ronald Reagan. “My first day was Dec. 23, 1980.”
Wilkerson, who rubbed elbows with Ted Turner, said he worked at CNN “before they became fake news.”
Still, he laughs that he unintentionally may have set a precedent for fake news.
“I was on the air when (Reagan) was shot, and the first word out was that he was OK, which was wrong,” Wilkerson said. “But, I’ve got copies of me telling the world that Reagan is OK.”
For more information visit threeep.com or contact the Youra Media at 360-379-8800.