Laura Alvarez has spent her life drawing, painting, singing, dancing and designing. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine writing a children’s book.
Yet, in 2015, the Mott Haven resident began working on “Eggie’s Adventures at Poe Cottage,” a picture book that seeks to encourage curiosity about the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, located on Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse in the Fordham section, and named for the famous writer and poet who lived in the borough around the mid-19th century.
“I think it is very important to cultivate a sense of pride about our neighborhoods,” Alvarez said. “The Edgar Allan Poe Museum is a staple for tourists, but for the local population it is just a little landmark cottage at the edge of Poe Park. The goal of this book is to engage the imaginations of locals and tourists alike about the history of Edgar Allan Poe and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.”
And it was Alvarez’s experiences working on the Poe grounds that shaped her inspiration for the book.
Now that she is about wrapped up with the book, Alvarez is seeking financial assistance to help with her efforts to self-publish. In July, she launched a kickstarter campaign that runs through Thursday. So far, it has raised more than $5,000, which will allow her to distribute the book by November.
Surrounded by art growing up, Alvarez, 40, was born in Valencia, Spain. Her mom, Mercedes is an artist, and her father, Marcelino, plays the piano.
She studied fine arts in Spain and England, and worked at a private school in Spain where she was a graphic designer and involved in communications.
Then in 2009, Alvarez moved to the U.S. Living into the Bronx was quite an adjustment, especially the distance between places, she said. But over time, she grew used to her surroundings while juggling many jobs, including as an illustrator, muralist, community activist and educator.
“I like the Bronx community,” she said. “I’ve always felt at home since I came, and they accepted me.”
Since moving here, her main employment has been with the city Parks Department for the last nine years. During that time, she spent part of it teaching art at the Poe Park Visitor Center from 2013-2015. It was there where “Eggie’s Adventures at Poe Cottage” was borne.
Primwatee Groover, a writing teacher at the facility, suggested to Alvarez that with her artistic mind she could write a book. She didn’t think much of it, but as time wore on acclimated to the idea. Groover explained how to structure the story, to give the characters obstacles and how there needs to be a positive ending, Alvarez said.
“A lot of my illustrations are stories in one image,” she said.
So, with her love for nature and Poe Park, Alvarez began to write her book.
The story is about a little squirrel named Eggie who is interested in the history of Poe Cottage. He learns that his great grandfather was Edgar Allan Poe’s best friend, which makes him want to be a helper to Neil, who is the caretaker of the house. Instead of helping, he keeps getting into trouble; until the day when Neil goes to the city and completely forgets he had a group of children coming to visit the cottage.
Eggie steps up and saves the day. Thus, the story is about not only the history of the cottage, but persistence.
However, the book did not happen overnight. Alvarez began writing it six years ago but it sat mostly idle on her desk until COVID-19 arrived in 2020. And with Alvarez stuck at home, the inspiration to work on the book returned.
“I always found something else to work on before my own work,” she said. “During the pandemic, I decided I wanted to finish it.”
She told the Bronx Times that the writing was surprisingly easy, but the illustrations were the toughest part because she wanted everything to be perfect.
Alvarez pointed out that publishing and distributing the book on her own is quite costly. She applied for and received a small grant from the Bronx Council of the Arts, which will help pay for some printing. But the kickstarter will fund most of the work.
With the fundraising ending this week, Alvarez is eager to have the finished product in her hands and the book read by the public. Looking ahead, she hopes to turn Eggie’s adventures into a series.
“I really never thought I could write that much,” she said. “It felt really good to finish the book.”
Reach Jason Cohen at email@example.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.