At 92 years old, time hasn’t slowed down Donna Taylor much, as she scoots her large-wheeled walker across her dark green carpeted living room to a table filled with brightly-colored fantastical illustrations.
As her friend and roommate Linda Bond flips through the oversized images, Taylor earnestly lists off the character’s names and personalities, all featured in her recently published children’s book, “The Snowlygaster.” It’s her first work of fiction, and a capstone for her incredible life’s work.
Originally penned seven decades ago, the 87-page book has finally been finished.
“It’s been 70 years in the making,” Taylor said. “I wrote it when I was in my 20s.”
“The Snowlygaster” is a fantasy book comprised of three stories involving the same characters. The book’s namesake character is a house-sized animal with both a dragon and horse’s head. A slew of imaginative and original characters are featured, including a boy and girl duo, a queen and other fantastical creatures.
For publication, she took her maiden name, Tisdale, as her pen name.
While she wrote the book decades ago, it was rejected by publishers at the time. In one rejection letter from 1957 which Taylor still has, the publisher cites a lack of interest in fantasy books, and the extraordinary expense of publishing color photographs.
“There was no market for fantasy,” Taylor said. “Fantasy was just not printed.”
In 1957, J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece “The Fellowship of the Ring” had only been released two years prior, and most Disney movies were retellings of classic fairy tales.
But fantasy has been a lifelong passion of Taylor’s, and her book has been a lifelong project.
Born in 1924 in Chino, California, Taylor used to read her father’s fairy tale collection. She dedicated “The Snowlygaster” to her father, Raymond.
“I read all the time growing up,” she said.
Her father,, who was a lumberjack, was lured to Centralia when she was 2 by the thick woodland, and brought her and her two sisters and mother up. He died when she was 7 from an accident on the job.
Later, she and her sisters were talking about their father, and it got her thinking.
“We wondered if we could do it ourselves, so I sat down and wrote ‘The Snowlygaster,’” she said.
After it was rejected by publishers in the 1950s, the manuscript sat in her house for decades, only being read by friends and family.
She also contributed to the historical book “Centralia: The First Fifty Years,” where she interviewed original pioneers to the area.
Taylor took a job at The Chronicle when she was 36, and worked there for 28 years.
She worked her way up to the advertising sales manager position, and was the first woman to hold the position, which had previously been reserved for men who were college graduates. Taylor was neither.
“That was a breakthrough not only for me, but for women,” she said.
In the 1970s, a production director at the paper decided to print a black-and-white copy of the book for her, but it was not published beyond that.
And so, once again, it sat at her house, until a few years ago.
The way Taylor tells it, she was trying to find the flat gravestones of her parents at a local cemetery. She couldn’t find them, and it got her thinking about her legacy, and how often people can be forgotten.
“It also occurred to me, that’s what happens when you die,” she said.
So she decided to mount one last push to get her book published. Two years ago Dorrance Publishing Co., out of Pittsburgh, agreed to publish her book and distribute it on Amazon and in brick-and-mortar stores. It was released Sept. 5.
Her friend and roommate Linda Bond helped digitize the book, took her author picture and did all the digital correspondence with the publisher.
Taylor said she hopes to make it to at least 95 to see how her book fares, and in the meantime, hopes “The Snowlygaster” will reach as many people as possible.