By Brittni Henderson
Smithfield native Jill Austin turned a new phase in her life into a new project that evolved into a book loved by many throughout Rhode Island. As a way to commemorate her time as a stay at home mom, and as a special gift to her daughter Gwen, Austin decided to write and illustrate a book about the state where she had spent all of her life. RI Loves: The ABC’s of Rhode Island was a way for Austin to connect a place she knew and loved to others across the state and beyond.
Austin used the downtime she had while her daughter napped to work on the book. She wrote and illustrated the book herself, using her own memories and experiences to fill the pages. The book includes an A to Z look at what Rhode Island has to offer, but with heartfelt and sentimental associations sprinkled throughout. On the “Y is for You” page, for example, an illustration of Austin’s daughter Gwen can be seen.
Memories from her childhood, such as visits to Rocky Point and watching the PawSox play are a few more examples of what you will find in this “alphabetized rhyming tour” of Rhode Island.
Although this idea merely started as gift for her daughter, Austin’s husband Patrick thought that others around the state would enjoy it as well. This proved to be true when they enlisted the help of a crowd-funding website to see if there would be any interest beyond that of family and friends. The support was overwhelming.
“The community as a whole helped make this project come to life,” Austin says.
The book was first published in 2014 and is currently on its third cycle of print. During the initial stages of publication, Austin says that she received over 100 preorders of the book, allowing them the ability to print and ship the books in about a month’s time. From the first time she took pencil to paper, to the first time the book was in the hands of a reader was about six months, she says.
From this success, Austin has written and published many more books about the unique and interesting qualities of the Ocean State. Other titles include: Where Did All the R’s Go? The Curious Case of the Rhode Island Accent; The ABC’s of Storyland; Every Pumpkin Wants to be a Jack-O-Lantern; A Witch Can Switch; and Every Snowflake Wants to be a Snowball.
There are a few other children’s books in the works, as well, including one about Austin’s hometown called The ABC’s of Smithfield.
Austin feels a strong connection to all of these books because Rhode Island is where her family is rooted. The books were written for her two daughters, Gwen, who is now 6 years old, and Hannah, 2.
“Creating RI Loves, and my other books, is a dream come true for me,” Austin says. “An amazing perk is the ability to share these stories with others through readings across the state. I’m so appreciative of all the support.”
Austin lives with her husband and two children in Smithfield, to where she recently returned after living in other places around Rhode Island.
The ABC’s of Rhode Island, and many of Austin’s other works, can be purchased at locations across Rhode Island including Barrington Books, Bellani Maternity, and Books on the Square. For more details on where to find her books and what’s to come for Austin, visit her website at RILoves.com.