501 Life Magazine | Southerland’s books ‘silly’ or ‘serious’
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Southerland’s books ‘silly’ or ‘serious’

by Susan Peterson

Caryn Southerland, this month’s author in the 501, classifies her books as either “silly” or “serious.”

Caryn’s first book, a serious one, was published in 2014. “Praying It Forward: Loving Your Grandchildren Through Prayer” was a book specifically designed for grandmothers. She enlisted the help of her friends to contribute in a fill-in-the blank, journal style book she describes as grandmother-friendly. This unique gift provides grandchildren with something individual and meaningful for them to cherish, ponder and live out. 

“Praying It Forward” was self-published and is available from Amazon for $9.99. 

Her next book was of the “silly” variety. “‘Twas the Night Before Ozark Christmas” is a picture book that came out in 2015. At the time, her grown children resided in Northwest Arkansas, so she substituted Razorbacks for reindeer and named them appropriately — Ham Bone, Pork Chop and Boar-us, for example. They are led by a Santa-hog named Rayz (short for Razorback). Hidden within the Ozark scenes is a little mouse named Peaty (who repeats what others say), which adds to the playfulness of the book. 

Illustrations play an important part in “Ozark Christmas,” and Caryn found a talented young man, Jacob Beagley, to do the job. Jacob was a local high school student at the time, and he was thrilled to undertake the work. Together they worked up a business model with Jacob setting his own fees. In recalling the experience, Caryn said she and Jacob both learned a lot. One of Caryn’s personal rewards was to see Jacob’s confidence grow throughout the process. Jacob is now attending college and serving in the U.S. Army.

Caryn’s second silly book is “‘Twas the Night Before Cowboy Christmas,” published in 2016. This is a take-off of “The Night Before Christmas” with a weathered Santa who eats biscuits and whose sled is pulled by steers. This cowboy Santa reminds the young wrangler that he is a messenger of generosity, and the “Reason for the Season” is the true Gift.

Emery Parker, a high school junior at the time, was recommended to Caryn by her art teacher as a possible illustrator for this book. Again, their collaboration was a positive experience because expectations were set in advance. Emery credits “Miss Caryn” and the work she did on the book with being hired for later projects. She attends Brigham Young University. 

“Cowboy Christmas” has been adopted as a fundraiser by the National High School Rodeo Association. It is a popular seller at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma; the ProRodeo Hall of Fame gift store in Colorado; and Dollywood, Silver Dollar City and several areas around Branson.

On her web page, Caryn states, “I do not really consider myself an author, but rather a networker and encourager for people to step out and do. The reason that I found students to do the illustrations for the Christmas books was to encourage these young people by recognizing their work and talent. The prayer book is a compilation of prayers from some of my grandmother friends who I have prayed with for 20 years, and we continue to meet to encourage each other.” Caryn’s books are all self-published and self-promoted in hopes that they can be an encouragement to anyone who may consider “authoring.” 

Caryn has more in store in the future. She is working on a sequence of “Praying It Forward” books that will target millennial moms. And she is working on a Dr. Seuss style rhyming book featuring farm animals who deal with current issues. 

Whether looking for something Christmas or Christian around this time of year, Caryn has a book for you! “Ozark Christmas” and “Cowboy Christmas” retail for $19.99. “Praying It Forward” is $9.99. They are all available from her web page at cowboychristmasbook.com or from The Kitchen Store, Pickles Gap and Conway Classic Touch in Conway.