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Buddy the Solider Bear for the Holidays

11/29/17

The military has always held a special place in the heart of local author Marie Joy. Her father served in WWII and her oldest son, Ryan, served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marie founded and ran a nonprofit organization called Operation Hugs from Home when her son was first deployed. The organization sent thousands of care packages to deployed military service men and women. Presently, Marie sends care packages as a member of her local chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, to parents in the Air Force, her stint there was quite brief. Only two weeks into life, Marie’s family would move on to Massachusetts, finally landing in Morganville, New Jersey, where she would spend the remainder of her childhood years. During those years, Marie remembers loving to draw. Her entire family encouraged creativity, especially her brother, Christopher Evan Taylor, who is an artist today. When she first entered college, she enrolled as an art major with the dream of becoming an art teacher. It wasn’t long before Marie changed her major to business in an effort at practicality for the long term. She went on to land a job with a publishing company, while in her 20s, which she credits with her foundational knowledge of the publishing industry.

Moving forward a number of years, while running Operation Hugs from Home, Marie was still sketching, but this time dreaming of a way to give back more to our brave service men and women. That’s when Buddy the Soldier Bear popped on her imagination screen. Marie proceeded to gather her ideas, writing drafts and sketches for her first children’s book, which would be entitled Buddy the Soldier Bear. She then went about locating an illustrator for the book; her thoughts turned to Brandon Pollard. Brandon was a young man who had been deployed with her son and had been the recipient of her care packages and letters during that time. Since leaving the Army, Brandon had attended the Portland Art Institute and was posting his sketches and paintings on his Facebook page. So Marie did what any creative person would do: she contacted Brandon to find out if he would be interested in illustrating her book.

The “yes, I will!” came back, from Brandon, with a story. In one of the care packages Brandon had received from Operation Hugs from Home, there was a small stuffed bear.  From that point on, Brandon’s bear deployed with him on every mission the CH47D Helicopter Flight Engineer flew. For Brandon, this book project was an extension of the little bear’s reach to provide comfort to children everywhere. Now the team was together, and Marie’s first children’s book, Buddy the Soldier Bear, went to print, selling hundreds to date. The book has won 1st place in the AZ Literary Contest in the Children’s Literature Category, a Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and the Reader’s Favorite Illustration Award. Marie is also a finalist for the 50 Great Writers You Should be Reading Contest with The Author Show.

Recently, Marie gave a book talk and signing at Changing Hands in Tempe. She participates in author visits to elementary schools in the valley, one of her very favorite activities! In January, Marie will be at the “local author book sale” held at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Even more good news is Marie and Brandon are working on a sequel to Buddy the Soldier Bear, introducing a new character. In the meantime, visit Marie Joy’s two web sites, www.mariejoywrites.com and www.buddythesoldierbear.com to purchase a book for someone you know, discover a list of her scheduled speaking engagements, or to contact Marie for a book talk. Buddy the Soldier Bear is also sold on Amazon. 

Marie Joy holds a Bachelors degree in Applied Management and a Master’s degree in Leadership from Grand Canyon University. She is also a member of the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers. Through her writing, she hopes to inspire children to dream big. Buddy the Soldier Bear also donates to nonprofit organizations that support active duty military and veterans’ causes.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.