Olive's Self Publishing Journey

by David Evans, for Olive Evans

Thrift Store Bears book cover

Thrift Store Bears book cover

Olive Evans is no longer with us to tell her beautiful self publishing story. This piece was written by her husband, David.

When Olive Evans walked into the consulting room at the local hospital and saw three doctors and two nurses waiting for her, she knew that the news was not going to be good. What she was told initially caused her some panic: she had two types of cancer in both breasts, and in order to extend her life she would have to undergo extensive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Olive was always stoic and a quiet, determined fighter who saw light in the worse possible situations. Thinking about the upcoming years, she realized that it could be, in her words, "a real downer." So, what could she do to keep her mind active and give her a goal and make the best of the situation?

During her life Olive had a very eclectic career. She was a primary school and special education teacher, an actress, the personal assistant to a president of a University, director of a children's theater at a City's Parks and Recreation department, a published writer and lastly a professional children's storyteller.

As a storyteller, Olive had scenery sets made that were easy to carry in her little station wagon, and using her old sewing machine she made literally hundreds of fantasy costumes that children could slip over their clothes. Then she outlined many stories that could be adapted to an occasion such as "Earth Day," a birthday, seasonal topics, etc.

Olive's great love was working with young children, and she said there was nothing more important than early childhood education and stimulating in children a love of learning and sense of self worth. Olive called herself the "Fairy Godmother" and went all over Los Angeles to hundreds of events.

Wherever she went, she visited local thrift stores, looking for a forlorn teddy bear "with character," to take home with her. When bear was brought home, she would give it a thorough clean and put it in the sun porch with companion bears.

So, Olive decided to write about the 42 teddy bears that she had collected over the years, to a write poem about each one. They were, after all, survivors, and she intended to survive and be productive herself.

While undergoing the various treatments, Olive would sit in a rocking chair in her bedroom, prop up a teddy bear, study its features very carefully, then write a poem. The poems were always positive, focusing on overcoming problems or dealing with self esteem issues the bears might have.

There is a local Wellness Community Center near where she lived that gives support to seriously ill people and their families. Olive joined and went weekly to her support group meetings, where she met so many wonderful and brave people.

When she had finished a poem (after many rewrites), she would take the bear and her poem to the group, who loved the pieces and always asked for more.

Then the group, and people who worked at the center, insisted that she get the poems published.

In a short space of time things began to fall into place. A friend, Pat Woolley, who is a very talented and professionally trained artist, loves teddy bears, and upon reading the poems insisted that she do an illustration for each poem. Jim Furmston, a friend and well known musician/composer, insisted that Olive come to his studio and record the poems.

On listening to them, Jim decided to write music and produce a CD to accompany the book. The best twenty-seven poems were selected to be published.

It seemed a miracle but there was more to come. David, Olive's husband, was trained as a lithographic printer when he was young soldier in the British army. On leaving the army he had gone on to college and became an engineer, though he has retained a great interest in printing.

With Photoshop computer software, David was able to set out and produce a very good prototype book, using an inexpensive scanner and color printer.

However, from previous experience, Olive knew how long and difficult it was to get anything published taking the traditional rout, so she, Pat and Jim and David decided to form a partnership and self-publish "The Thrift Store Bears."

Books on self-publishing were read in detail. The group obtained printing quotes in the USA and found it would cost tens of thousands of dollars. That's when another miracle happened: Pat's son, Paul, had spent his entire working career as a business manager in the far east and he was able to find a very excellent printer at a much lower cost than had been quoted in the USA.

When we received the 2000 books ordered we were delighted with the quality . The CD's were made in Los Angeles, and after putting them into the books we were ready to market. The difficulty and problems of marketing "self published books" is a whole story in itself and too long to go into here.

Olive had a boost when she was awarded "The BMW (Car Company) Local Hero award" for her courage and the support she gave to people going through cancer treatments. As a result of the award, Olive, Pat, Jim and the book were given lots of coverage in the local press, which helped sales.

After the original publication of "The Thrift Store Bears," Olive continued treatments and surgery as she and the doctors fought to keep the cancer in check. During this time she wrote a parent/teacher activity book to go with "The Thrift Store Bears," which is produced in the USA in limited quantities on an "as needed" basis. Her big effort was to write a sequel - "Adventures with The Thrift Store Bears."

Again, Pat did beautiful illustrations, and Jim and Olive produced a lovely CD to go with the book and. In mid-2007, 2000 copies were printed, along with a new run of "The Thrift Store Bears."

At the beginning of 2007 Olive's health began declining, and in November 2007 she died. But she got to see her two newest twin girl granddaughters, who were born at the end of September 2007.

The cards and letters and large number of people at her memorial service were testimony to the positive impact she had on both adult and children's lives. There is no doubt that the writing and the excitement of self publishing her books had extended her life...and legacy.

In an article she was struggling to write at the end of her life, she wrote, "I consider this time to have been one of the most productive, creative and joyful times of my life. The books have brought so much happiness, so many new friends and have made me realize that having cancer was part of the journey I had to take. I also realize that I have a spiritual strength I never knew I had, and the love and support of friends as well as strangers, who continue to encourage me and bring laughter to my life."

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Jan 31, 2009
Just received this update from David Evans...
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Olive's books, "The Thrift Store Bears," "The Thrift Store Bears Activity Book," and "Adventures with The Thrift Store Bears," just won the Silver Book Award for a children's series from Mom's Choice Awards!

Mar 30, 2008
by: Anonymous

What an amazing lady!

Mar 22, 2008
An appreciation of Olive Evans
by: Carolyn M


Thank you for sharing the odyssey that you and Olive undertook at this last stage of her life - and creativity.

Although Olive and I have been friends since our children were young, many years ago, and although we have had long lapses in "keeping in touch," she will always be one of the dearest people I have known. Sheer goodness radiated from her - and I think that, in addition to her sensitivity and creativity, shown through during the years when she brought historical figures alive (I think of Emily Dickinson particularly), her story-telling, and certainly that is true of the "Thrift Store Bears."

Her spirit brought others to her, including the wonderful artist who gave the bears form and the musician who gave them voice, so that these shared talents created a very special book for children of all ages.

Your unfailing support and assistance in bringing the book into print, David, becomes a lasting tribute to you - and to her.


Mar 15, 2008
Olive Evans, An Amazing Woman
by: Nancy Jackson

Thank you, David, for sharing the beautiful story of your beloved Olive and her delightful Thrift Store Bears.

Olive was an amazing woman, and I am so blessed to have known her. Having also fought cancer, Olive's strength and courage never ceased to amaze me. I will forever be inspired by her spirit, her attitude, her talent and her friendship.

I love reading and listening to Olive's bears with my grandchildren. Her works are a precious gift to all generations and to me, personally, a wonderful reminder of my gifted, delightful, amazing friend.

Mar 13, 2008
With much love
by: Gwenno Dafydd

I had the great priveledge of meeting Olive in October 2004 when I came over to make a film about the life of one of her closest friends, Eluned Phillips. Dafydd and Olive took me into the heart of their family and gave me a wonderful "croeso" (welcome). I was so sad to hear that Olive had finally lost her fight with cancer, and that's what she did - she fought to try and overcome the beast eating her up literally. I have a copy of the Thrift Store Bears and it is so obvious that a great deal of love and talent went into writing it.

With much love,
Gwenno Dafydd

Mar 11, 2008
Olive Evans, An Inspiring Artistic Soul
by: Myla Lichtman-Fields

David Evans' moving tribute to Olive is to be commended. They were quite a team. The testimonies that were their labor of love, the two marvelous Bear Books, as well as their lovely children and grandchildren, will continue to enrich our world. Olive Evans' artistic soul permeated her life and all of her creations.
Her books are a wonderful addition to home and public libraries.

Mar 10, 2008
Tribute to Olive
by: Linda Reinstein


Your article is a beautiful tribute to your amazing wife and your love for her. Olive enriched our lives greatly and also will be remembered for her delicate sensitivity. She gave too much of her self to others, especially with my late husband Alan.



Mar 08, 2008
by: Ivor & Pat Thomas

What I have read catches the world and dreams of children and adults alike. That Olive used her talent for children at a time in her life that would make many people climb into bed and pull the covers over their head is an insipration. We knew Olive and always thought of her as a magnet to children and adults alike. We are forwarding this on to Kiwanis and KidZKount in Northern California as great reading. Hope that other people volunteering in their community will do the same. She will be remembered and she certainly will be missed.

Mar 08, 2008
The Virtue of Tenacity
by: Meredith Parry

In my travels through life I have come across many who would like to become authors of children's books. David's beautiful description of Olive's experience as an author searching for a publisher and her tenacity to see the task through beyond traditional methods shows us all what can be done when one's heart and spirit are in the right place. My students love The Thrift Store Bears, their parents love them, and my friends and their children love them. The Thrift Store Bears have touched our lives in ways that only Olive could produce. May god bless you, Olive, in your Heavenly home.


Mar 08, 2008
Olive's journey
by: Valerie Perrin

Olive’s journey

When Olive first started writing her poems on the Thrift Store Bears, she had no idea the happiness and fulfilment her work would bring during the ensuing years. These emotions would help her during the darker days that lay ahead as her health deteriorated. Her gift at being able to reach out to young children shone through, and, through the words of her adorable characters, she was able to instill the social attributes of tolerance, compassion and empathy so necessary in today’s society. David has very successfully summed up Olive's journey, and we know that along the way she had a lot of fun.

Olive’s great fortune in being able to bring together the talents of Pat and Jim, together with the business acumen and printing knowledge of Paul and David, all combined to make the books outstanding. Their journey into self-publishing had proved very successful. Here in Australia, self-publishing is still fairly rare, and I use my sister’s books as an example of how good it can be. I miss Olive every day but listening to her on the CD’s will continue to be a joy.

Mar 07, 2008
My Dear Friend
by: Pat Woolley

I knew David and Olive years ago, but it was only a few years back that we became the fast friends we are now.

Olive and I could read each others minds when it came to teddy bears. She would write the poems, bring me a basket with the bears she had written about, and after I had "gotten to know them," I would see the images I wanted to illustrate. She always seemed so pleased with my drawings. It was a wonderful, uplifting experience for me, and I think it brought her great pleasure to see her dreams of publishing a book come true.

We had a great team working together: Olive, Jim, David, my son Paul and myself.

Thanks, David, for writing our story. Olive and the teddy bears will always be part of my life.

Mar 06, 2008
A Beautiful Story
by: David Thomas

A wonderful story of strength, fortitude and obvious love, Daffydd ... Olive will live on in the memories of the thousands of children that have read and enjoyed her beautiful books.

Mar 06, 2008
Finding Our Bearings
by: Dave H

I was touched by the story of how my Grand-daughter's new favorite book came to light. The energy, talent, creativity--and most of all the love--come through clearly in David's wonderful account.

Mar 06, 2008
A Wonderful Tribute
by: Patricia Fry

David did an absolutely terrific job with this article. What a wonderful tribute to his talented and generous wife.

I met David and Pat at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival last year when they graced us with their visit to the SPAWN booths (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). They left us with a copy of Olive's book, and I've enjoyed it immensely.

Thank you for your contributions of love through Olive's words and Pat's art.

Patricia Fry, President
SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network)

Mar 05, 2008
Praising Olive
by: Lp

Hi David,

Thanks for your heartfelt submission.

I think what your words best reflect is the need for all people to have the opportunity for creative expression. Self publishing is opening up doors for many who otherwise would remain voiceless, and rewarding young readers with unique creativity and spirit like Olive's.

For this, we should always remember her as a pioneer.

Mar 05, 2008
What a beautiful story
by: Steve B.

David, thank you so much for contributing. Olive's story reminds me how much my old opinions about self publishing were wrong. (I thought it was for suckers.)

In truth, self publishing is a way dreams can be made to come true (provided your dreams are realistic!). It's a way to keep one's vision pure and to make sure it comes to market. It's a place where you take responsibility for your book's - and your own - place in the world. It's a place for grown-ups. And Olive clearly was a very special one of those.

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