Gregory Ahlijian says he doesn’t consider himself an author despite the two books he wrote and published himself, including his latest, An Elephant Would Be Wonderful.
Ahlijian says he stumbled into the author role during his ongoing volunteer work in sixth and seventh grade classrooms at Jasper Mountain Center, a nonprofit in Springfield and Jasper that treats children with emotional and behavioral issues.
One day, he asked the children to write a story about an ancient tree and the things it would have seen in its life. “I saw a 10-year-old girl’s eyes light up and I realized, I could do that!” Ahlijian remembers.
That story idea became The Large Rock and the Little Yew, Ahlijian’s first book. He published the book himself and decided to donate all proceeds to Jasper Mountain Center. The book and its cause received so much support that Ahlijian published another book.
The second book, An Elephant Would Be Wonderful, is a poem that celebrates the strengths and weaknesses of an individual as it rhymes about how “An elephant would be awesome at blocking your door. But not very awesome at waxing your floor.” The illustrations by Beverly Soasey are colorful and humorously accompany the elephant’s quirky tasks in the poem.
Sales from Ahlijian’s first book generated more than $107,000, which enabled Jasper Mountain Center to construct a new all-purpose recreation area. He says he hopes to use the proceeds from the An Elephant Would Be Wonderful to create a scholarship at Jasper Mountain so families can receive the help they need even when money is an issue. He says he also hopes to expand the reach of the donations to other organizations.
While the publishing of both books began as the passion project of one man, Ahlijian speaks gratefully of all of the community support he receives in both marketing and selling the books.
Paul Bright, a movie producer, heard about Ahlijian’s efforts and offered to film a book preview for The Large Rock and the Little Yew, which can be found on YouTube at wkly.ws/220. Hirons and The Dancing Weasel Toy Store sell the books for no share of the proceeds, and Ahlijian takes no reimbursement for the production — all monies go straight into the donation fund.
Thanks to large donations, the books are given to local organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), The Children’s Miracle Network and Ophelia’s Place. If you have an organization that may be interested in receiving book donations or to make a donation, contact Greg Ahlijian at (541) 345-8891. To order your own book, go to littleyewtree.com.