As the 2012 vice-presidential debate at Centre College approaches, a variety of initiatives have begun. One particular project — a middle-grade novel inspired by the 2000 vice-presidential debate at Centre — has several connections to the college besides the setting.
“Thrill in the ’Ville” was written by Patsi B. Trollinger, former Centre coordinator of public information, and illustrated by Elizabeth Thompson, Class of 2011.
The book, narrated by sixth-grade soccer player Doug Alverton as a major political event comes to his small town, was inspired partly by Trollinger’s debate-related experience in 2000.
“The first time Centre hosted a debate, my job there involved hosting the media hall. It required very long hours, but despite inconveniences to my family, my twin daughters, who were in sixth grade, didn’t complain,” Trollinger says. “I was already thinking about children’s books, and knew I wanted a career change in that direction, and this character started talking to me. He told me that if he were my kid, he would be complaining about all the inconveniences in his life. He was very entertaining. After I left Centre, I began writing down his story, and it turned into ‘Thrill in the ’Ville.’”
Once her manuscript was complete, though, Trollinger found publishers hesitant about political fiction in a post-September 11 world.
“It’s a humorous, mostly lighthearted look at politics and elections — but by the time I showed it to an editor at Viking, she said that America had lost its sense of humor about politics because of 9/11,” Trollinger says.
“She was complimentary, but even when time had begun to heal our national wounds, I found another obstacle. Large publishers are wary of middle-grade fiction about elections and politics, because it takes them about two years to produce a book. They know that you can have a sea change in public attitudes from beginning to end of that process.”
With the announcement that Centre had been named the host of the sole 2012 vice-presidential debate, Trollinger began searching for a way to publish “Thrill in the ’Ville.” She got in touch with regional publisher Benjamin Press.
“I was intrigued by doing a quick turn-around process, and I knew of this small press in Kentucky with an international reputation. A local nonprofit became interested in the potential for using the book in a literacy campaign in area schools and libraries in the months leading up to the debate at Centre,” says Trollinger.
“The Friends of Boyle County Public Library pulled together donations from several charitable groups to buy half of the press run for use in the Star Spangled Literacy Project. The rest of the books will be sold traditionally at retail.”
Trollinger made a Centre connection by recommending that recent alumna Thompson be hired to create original artwork for the book.
“I was immediately excited about the opportunity, of course, but my enthusiasm only grew when I was able to sit down and talk with her about the story,” Thompson says.
“The premise for ‘Thrill in the ’Ville’ is just so intriguing and unique, my mind instantly began to formulate all sorts of ideas for the cover illustration. I accepted the commission on the spot.”
Thompson has enjoyed the chance to fulfill one of her dreams.
“Illustrating this book has been just like I always imagined illustrating would be and more. Getting to read early versions of the manuscript, presenting different concepts and mock-ups to the publishers, receiving feedback from the author of the work you’re bringing to life with your art — I have loved the artistic combination of fiction writing and illustration my whole life, so this has really been a dream come true,” Thompson says.
“When I first saw the finished layout of the cover, complete with the spine and bar code on the back, I burst into tears of joy. This has been a wonderful experience for me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with than Mrs. Trollinger and Benjamin Press.”
Trollinger already has had positive feedback about Thompson’s artwork.
“I was obligated to get reactions from several librarians and some sixth- and seventh-grade readers about her cover, and they loved it. That to me was the greatest possible compliment,” Trollinger says.
Thompson, a Danville native, found that she could relate to “Thrill in the ’Ville” as she, like Doug, was in sixth grade during the 2000 vice presidential debate at Centre.
“I sang with the Danville Children’s Choir at the festivities, but that was the limit of my involvement. Like Doug Alverton, I didn’t care a bit for all of the patriotism and politics, but looking back now, I wish I had tried harder to understand why these debates are so important to all of us as Americans,” Thompson says.