By Dave Ongie
A writer never knows exactly when or where inspiration will strike.
For Johnson City native Jocelyn Lacey, the muse for her first children’s book came strutting right up to her back door.
Lacey, whose maiden name is Mooneyhan, married her husband Steven after they both graduated from ETSU. Since then, they have moved up and down the East Coast, and their latest stop is New Jersey. With Steven off at a training session in Pennsylvania, Jocelyn was settling into a new house in a new neighborhood when she noticed the unannounced visitor peering through her back door.
To this day, she doesn’t know where the peacock came from. As the Laceys got around to meeting their neighbors, Jocelyn made it a point to ask them all if they had a pet peacock, but nobody claimed the bird. It was Steven’s mother who filled Jocelyn in on the symbolism of the peacock and how the bird is admired for its beauty, integrity, and protective qualities.
Though Jocelyn had written a handful of other children’s stories, she chose the tale of Pierre the Peacock to become her first published book because of the personal nature of the story.
“God was watching me and protecting me, so that’s the one that kind of stood out for me to do,” Lacey said.
The story is about a colorful peacock named Pierre who gets by thanks to his good looks until he encounters a boy named Jerry. Jerry is colorblind, so Pierre must rely on his inner beauty in order to form a friendship with the boy.
For those who attended Science Hill High School with Lacey, the fact that she is writing entertaining stories probably doesn’t come as a shock. Lacey has always had an ability to turn ordinary events into adventures.
While moving swiftly through seven states after college, Lacey lamented the fact that she wasn’t able to stay anywhere long enough to serve on a jury. Her dream finally came true in New Jersey, where she recently helped resolve a civil case.
“Nobody could find me, but Jersey found me,” she said. “So I did get to serve, which was kind of fun, and I got paid. I got $10, but parking was $10.”
Then there is the license plate collection, which Lacey has been putting together since high school. She’s still on a quest to collect plates from all 50 states, and she’s willing to pull out all the stops to make that happen.
“There was one of these license plates I needed,” Lacey said. “It was from Delaware. I got a credit card application from this company with a return address in Delaware. I wrote them back and said, ‘I don’t need a credit card, but I do need a license plate. Could one of you send me one?’ Never heard back.”
Despite being so far from home, Lacey’s search for a book publisher led her back to her hometown. Jan-Carol Publishing produced the book, which is now on sale at Gourmet & Company as well as online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
For Lacey, the illustrator at Jan-Carol Publishing was a Godsend. Lacey recalls trying to draw her own picture to go along with a story she was writing about a mermaid while living in Maine.
“I kind of wanted to draw a picture just to see what a picture would look like with the story,” Lacey said with a laugh. “My mermaids were stick figures. It was like, there was a stick figure, and there was a fin.”
In the end, Lacey was thrilled with the finished product. Of all the adventures she’s had over the years, very few can match the one she embarked upon last Friday morning when she drove to her publisher’s office and picked up a box of books with her name on the cover.
“I get emotional just thinking about it,” she said. “Not having children yet, this is kind of like my baby. When I picked it up today, and had it in my hand and saw my name, I think that’s when it really sunk in.”