As a little girl, Kerry Hamilton enjoyed hearingthe tale of Orville Justin Fur, a brave English sea captain. Her mother, Sue Luginbill, had created the story from her vivid imagination to entertain her two children. Thirty years later, Hamilton, along with the help of local artist Ashley Ashcroft, brought the story to life in the form of the book, “The Legend of Orville Justin Fur.”
An English major who has always loved reading, Luginbill is known by friends and family as a wonderful storyteller. When Hamilton and her brother Tommy were children, Luginbill would have them provide her with a subject, and from there, Luginbill created countless stories for her children to enjoy. Luginbill, as her daughter explains, is not simply a magnificent storyteller. Her creativity allows her to be a talented interior designer, artist, seamstress, culinary expert and more. Luginbill and her endless skills inspired her children to be creative spirits as well.
“I was lucky to be a stay-at-home mom, so I could encourage whatever my kids loved at each stage. In Tommy’s case, it was costumes and dress-up until it was sports and football. Kerry loved her dolls and make-believe and I sewed, so I could often create what she imagined for them,” Luginbill recalls.
For Hamilton, her mother most memorably nurtured her creative spirit by writing poems on her children’s lunchbox napkins. These daily reminders about the possibilities and wonder of creative writing allowed Hamilton to truly appreciate the field. In fact, today Hamilton writes her own poetry for loved ones and special occasions.
Hamilton was able to pen her mother’s story, but she needed to find an artist to illustrate Orville Justin Fur’s journey. Wanting to help a young artist build experience (and a portfolio), Hamilton found Ashley Ashcroft. Ashcroft, a talented Chandler-Gilbert Community College art student, has always had a passion for art. When she heard about the chance to take on this project, she knew it would be a fantastic way to gain experience.
“I never dreamed I would have this opportunity,” Ashcroft explains. “When my college professor suggested I get in contact with Kerry, I thought it might be a great chance to gain experience and it ended up being so much more than that. I’m very grateful Kerry chose me to represent this story with my work.”
Inspired by animated movies and wildlife documentaries that she watched as a child, Ashcroft has helped Hamilton bring her mother’s words to life.
Luginbill had considered publishing a book for many years. Wanting to help her mother’s dreams become a reality, Hamilton sought to share her story with others. When Hamilton had children of her own, she realized how much they loved for her to read stories that included both animals and rhyme. As such, Captain Orville Justin Fur and his friends were reborn as animals.
“The original Orville Justin Fur was an Englishman, so with the last name ‘Fur,’ a big, fluffy and kid-friendly English sheep dog seemed a natural choice when changing Orville from human to animal,” Hamilton explains.
Other than making the characters animals, Hamilton explains that the story had few changes. To add whimsy and inspire the illustrations, Orville was given new details – including a favorite pair of boots and snack.
Having worked in public relations and marketing for more than two decades, Hamilton has been able to grow both her love and talent for writing. However, even with great skill, creating this book was no simple task.
“This book was a labor of love that took several years to complete and plenty of patience for everyone involved,” Hamilton remarks. “No matter your age or stage in life, finding balance can be a challenge. But when you have the chance to participate in a true passion project like this, you simply find the time to make it happen.”
And make it happen she did, with every detail given consideration. Hamilton explains that she even tested the font style and size with her daughter so that other children of elementary-school age would be able to easily read the text.
Ashcroft dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to the book as well. Finding time between school and work, Ashcroft sketched and digitalized the illustrations for the largest project she has ever worked on.
“I’ve never worked on a project of this scale or type before,” Ashcroft explains. “Kerry has been so wonderful to collaborate with and I’ve gained a lot of insight into how the illustration process works.”
The partnership between Hamilton, Luginbill and Ashcroft has allowed others to enjoy the adventures of Captain Orville Justin Fur.
After three years of hard work, “The Legend of Orville Justin Fur” has finally been published – but this does not mean an end to the creativity of the team. Hamilton explains that they do not have another book planned, but has not ruled it out. As for Ashcroft, she plans to focus on her classes and continue to develop her artistic skills. She has enjoyed the process of illustrating for a children’s book, but she is not certain that it is her calling.
She explains, “It would be a wonderful experience to continue doing illustrations for children’s books and help other authors see their stories come to life. I haven’t yet decided if that’s the direction I want my future to go, but it’s definitely a possibility.”
Luginbill continues to be an inspiration of creativity. Like Hamilton, she recalls writing poems on her children’s napkins before packing them in their lunchboxes. Her grandchildren are also lucky enough to hear Luginbill’s imaginative stories and poems. Now everyone can enjoy her stories, which Luginbill calls “a dream come true, thanks to my very special daughter.”