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Long Wait for a Walk

book of children’s poems was 30 years in the making

Amanda Boehm, photos by Andrea Paulseth

ANOTHER BOOK BY THE WALL. Writer Richard Tepler’s new kids’ book is called Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear.
ANOTHER BOOK BY THE WALL. Writer Richard Tepler’s new kids’ book is called
Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear.

We’ve all heard that wine and cheese get better with age, but what about poetry? Richard Tepler, a retired kindergarten teacher, started a project about 30 years ago that has finally made it to print. Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear, Tepler’s newly published book of children’s poems, takes kids through experiences they might have during different seasons of the year. The poems are lighthearted and talk about little things seen in the world that adults may take for granted but children find fascinating. Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear became available to the public early this year.

The poems are lighthearted and talk about little things seen in the world that adults may take for granted but children find fascinating.

Tepler started writing in junior high school where his teachers strongly encouraged creative writing. He kept a diary, writing at least two sentences a day. In his senior year of high school, one of his teachers suggested that he publish the poems he wrote for an assignment. Such encouragement kept him writing. In the 1980s, his interest in writing evolved into writing poetry for children. The work was put aside because of the busyness of teaching kindergarten in Ladysmith, raising children, and life in general. After retirement, Tepler picked up where he left off on his children’s poems. “If not now, when?” he asked himself as a daily motivator. After spending between three and four years writing, organizing, and developing his ideas, Tepler sent his collection of poetry to a publisher without a title. A title for the book struck him one day when he was sitting at Acoustic Café thinking about what he should call his collection of poems. The whole title Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear came to him suddenly, and he never considered reworking it. With the creation of the title, the characters of the little boy and bear were born.

Since Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear is Tepler’s first publication, he wanted it done right. He was very involved with the making of the book, and his teaching experience helped him create a book that he knew kids would love. He wanted the book to be large with a hard cover so it would be easy to read to children. At the start of the book, the little boy and bear appear on the page on the far left, and as the pages continue, the little boy and bear move across the book as if they are walking along to wherever the next poem takes them, ending on the far right in the last pages of the book. The colors of the illustrations are bright and inviting, and the numbers and letters that can be seen in many places throughout the book, such as on the bear’s sweatshirt, have personal meaning to Tepler and his family.

Lately, watching his grandson gives Tepler inspiration to write. His grandson is learning to speak and put meaning to words, which makes Tepler wonder what the boy is thinking as he learns this new language. Tepler finds quiet time, alone and with no distractions, to help formulate ideas for his writing. He also believes that a lot of ideas come in the middle of the night, and he keeps a pad of paper at his bedside to jot down any ideas that come to him. Tepler plans to continue writing and hopes that his ideas will lead him to future publications.

Walk With Me, Sawyer Bear is available at The Local Store in Eau Claire, 4:30 AM Coffee House in Chippewa Falls, Flambeau River Gift Shoppe in Ladysmith, and through the publisher at dorrancebookstore.com.

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