Author Karen Petit returned waves and watched as Hammond Hill Elementary pupils entered the school cafeteria dressed in different book themes and characters for the annual character parade Friday.
As Petit sat in a thronelike chair, her poodle Louise stood next to her, often getting petted by pupils as they walked by.
Petit was the school’s guest during its annual author visit, which is held on the same day as the character parade. The Columbia resident’s books include A Paw on My Heart and Shandon’s Ivy League mystery series, which was inspired by her dog Ivy.
During her visit, Petit answered questions submitted by pupils during the school’s morning news show, talked with children about being an author, demonstrated a canine freestyle dance with Louise and ate lunch with six pupils, one from each grade level.
Petit always enjoyed reading and writing growing up and would often write poetry and short stories.
“I always thought I wanted to be an author but I could never find the story that I was meant to write,” she said.
In 2003, she was going through a “bad time” in her life. She went through a divorce, and her mother had a rare disease and was dying.
Some of her friends were moving and were unable to take their dog Ivy with them. After meeting the dog, she decided to adopt Ivy.
“Within a month, I was writing the first book of the mystery series,” she said.
The first book was published in 2006, three years after she finished writing it. She said the delay was from dealing with her mother’s illness and having to find a publisher.
After she wrote the first book, she decided to keep writing.
“I never intended to write a series. I thought I would write one book about a dog that solved a mystery,” she said. “But while I was writing the first book, I was having so much fun with it and I like my characters, their personalities and I didn’t want to give it up. I felt if Ivy and her friends could solve one mystery, they could solve two, so I kept writing and I’m still writing.”
She is also working on another series based on her 5-year-old dog, Louise, who she adopted after Ivy died of cancer in 2008.
The annual author visit allows pupils an opportunity to learn how authors use the writing process, said Rhonda Criss, the school’s library media specialist.
“The students get to learn from their firsthand experiences about the writing and publishing process,” she said. “We want to encourage both reading and writing, and this is a way to show them that these are skills that are used to write books. It’s also a chance for them to see that there are local authors as well.”
Through her visit, Petit hopes the pupils learned the importance of reading.
“I hope they realize that reading is at the heart of everything they will do in life,” she said. “Whether you become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or even a football player, reading is critical to everything that we do. Whether they read my books or somebody else’s books, it’s just important that they read.”