Illinois State is proud to be able to acknowledge the work of graduates who are successful authors.

If you’ve written a book that has been released by a publishing house within the past decade, submit it for review by Professor Emerita of English JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85. All books authored by alums will be added to a collection of work by other graduates on display in the Alumni Center. Autographed copies are especially appreciated. Please send your book to Illinois State editor Susan Blystone at Illinois State Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790. Inquiries can be sent to

Levy, Richard C. and Ronald O. Weingartner. The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, License, and Cash-In on Your Ideas. Indianapolis: Alpha-Penguin Group, 2003. 512pp.

Inventors HandbookSummary: Those who have invented a toy or game and need some advice on marketing will find The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook a goldmine of information. In their preface, coauthors Richard Levy and Ronald Weingartner describe the research which has informed this book. They interviewed independent inventors, agents, corporate executives, and industry observers; they assessed numerous questionnaires; and they included as many current, full-time, professional inventors as possible, given publication constraints. “Aspiring first-time inventors with interest in toys and games should find the thoughts of these experienced professionals as inspiring as they are informative.”

The book is divided into 12 chapters, four appendices, a bibliography, and a detailed index. This organization makes it easy to target the section most applicable to a particular situation. Thus, one can quickly learn about the history of toy invention or how to pitch one’s ideas. However, a neophyte inventor would need to seek more up-to-date sources about topics such as foreign licensing and opportunities in video games, each of which has its own chapter in The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook, since conditions may have changed in the past decade. However, most of the Handbook is relevant.

Toy inventors, declare Levy and Weingartner in their first chapter, “share a sense of adventure, contentiousness with the status quo, and courage to continually meet new challenges head on.” Inventing a toy or game demands creativity and initiative: “It takes a person experienced in toy and game development to create new playthings.” This is a 24/7 business and inventors cannot work in isolation because they need to keep up with the multi-billion-dollar marketplace. Often inventors have “a backlog of ideas” that may not have been relevant at the time but are now worth another look.

Interspersed with pragmatic advice, such as the Product Development Timeline of Key Steps (what to do month-by-month) or how to meet with company executives, are inspirational stories of people who have succeeded in the challenging world of toys and games.

About the coauthor: Ronald O. Weingartner, ’60, has spent 45 years heading development departments and managing processes to transform ideas into new products for various industries, including toys and games. He has worked at Milton Bradley and Hasbro Games, where he was vice president of inventor relations. He writes a toy industry blog, Santa Doesn’t Make Toys. He resides in Longmeadow, Massachusetts (back cover).

Schumacher, Paul. Little Red Wolf. Chicago: The Little Things (TLT) Publishing, 2011. 264pp.

Little Red WolfSummary: Playing video games and writing stories have always been a part of Paul Schumacher’s life. Little Red Wolf is his first novel, a notable accomplishment. What makes this achievement more remarkable is that Schumacher was labeled “a special ed” student and repeatedly told he would never accomplish anything in his life (back cover). But he not only served in the military, he also graduated with a degree in English from ISU. Perhaps having been pigeonholed as a child was a factor in creating his protagonist.

We’re immediately introduced to Selena’s dilemma: “Selena could feed and shelter herself without a man telling her how, but that was not how things were done in her village. For everyone else, the inevitable clamor to marry and settle down consumed their younger years. It was like marriage was the only thing that could tame the beast of youth and ensure the safety of the village. Marriage made girls into mothers and boys into providers who would then stop causing trouble, making them all good and wholesome. The whole business sickened Selena.”

Selena finds being a girl is inconvenient, complicated and frustrating. She’d rather be hunting in the forest than hunting for a husband to settle down with and rear children. She becomes interested in why the wildlife is disappearing and concludes life would be easier if she were a wolf. As a compromise, she encourages her father to treat her as a son, which he does and gives her a new name: Faolan, or Little Wolf. When Selena falls prey to the Lady of the Mist and refuses to bargain her firstborn child, she becomes involved in a quest, accompanied by her faithful, blue-eyed wolf and a bear who foresees the future. Several wise women provide sagacious advice.

Little Red Wolf is a young adult fantasy novel. In a May 2011 interview posted on Fangirl Friday, Schumacher explains the novel is a “fairy tale reimagining in which many of the female characters of these tales are empowered with modern ideals.” Moreover, “In this first book, I have almost no original characters. While my portrayal of these characters is my own, nearly every one of them is easily recognizable, and most American audiences will be able to figure out which fairy tale or legend inspired them.” In some ways, Schumacher’s use of established characters allows his readers to more easily make connections between cultural myth and their own reality. And the mostly dialogue format engages the reader.

About the author: Paul Schumacher ’10 works as a private security officer at a hospital and tries to use his down time to e-mail himself bits of story (author’s website). He lives in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Watterson, Kate. Frozen. New York: Tor Books-Tom Doherty Associates, 2012. 374pp.

Watterson, Kate. Charred. New York: Tor Books-Tom Doherty Associates, 2013. 312pp.

FrozenSummary: Frozen is Kate Watterson’s first detective mystery, though she is an accomplished writer (see About the Author below). Ellie MacIntosh, a detective in a small town in the north woods of Wisconsin, has a dilemma: Apparently a serial killer is at work, but no bodies have been found. Still, when the fourth young woman goes missing, Ellie knows she needs to find the killer quickly. Two things impede her investigation: an icy Wisconsin blizzard and the attractive man staying in his family’s cabin. Is Bryce Grantham just in the wrong place at the wrong time—or is he the malevolent killer?

Watterson’s narrative immediately pulls the reader into the maelstrom: “The summer was too easy. He’d done the summer first, but there really was no challenge in it. … The woods were quiet, sleeping, waiting, full of shadows. Perfect.” Because each chapter’s opening narrative places us in the killer’s mind, we’re always aware of his thoughts and his proximity. What we do not know until practically the end of this gripping story is—who. Ellie encounters several possibilities once she and her partner Rick Jones discern a pattern, and they begin to make progress in this intriguing and frustrating investigation. Unfortunately, the handsome Bryce shows up at every incident. Is he only an unwilling and accidental observer?


The intriguing plot and fully fleshed characters are set against the backdrop of a brutal Wisconsin winter storm. Watterson’s descriptions make the reader reach for a cup of hot coffee. For instance, Bryce “popped the trunk from inside but the back hatch was still frozen firmly in place and the keyhole coated over with ice. His gloved hands just skidded across the metal as he tried to heave it open.” Perceiving something on the ground, “Pelted with freezing rain, he bent over, and saw it was metal, encased in ice like a fly in amber.”

Anyone looking for a well-plotted, well-written mystery novel will be more than satisfied with Frozen. Just don’t forget the coffee.

Watterson’s next in the series finds Ellie living in Milwaukee during the hottest summer on record. She doesn’t get along with her new partner as well as she did with Rick Jones, but that’s okay as he reciprocates the feeling. Yet as fires rage and the body count rises, Ellie and Jason must work together to find a serial arsonist. Charred, slated to be published in June 2013, promises to be an excellent addition to the detective genre. Just don’t forget the iced tea.

About the author: Katherine Smith has published more than 30 books and, in the romance genre under the pseudonym of Emma Wildes, has won several awards. Her romance novels were reviewed in the May 2011 column of Reggie Reads. The detective series featuring Ellie MacIntosh is published as Kate Watterson. Smith currently lives in Indiana.