Park Elementary Assistant Principal Debra Thompson has fond memories of growing up in Fort Myers, one of three girls her father called "my little crumb snatchers."
That nickname and events from her life have become the inspiration for a series of children's books titled "The Crumb Snatchers," with the first one released last year through Peppertree Publishing Press.
With characters that young people can relate to in their own search for answers, Thompson remarked, "I think I'm on to something. Kids really do love the book."
Thompson said that the 24-page story is a heartwarming, humorous tale of 7-year-old Penny Lenske and her family, friends and a cat named Heidi. It was written by Thompson and illustrated by Tammy Dennis, the media specialist at Park Elementary.
"Tammy is so talented. She will do the artwork for the next couple books," Thompson said.
The second book in the Crumb Snatcher's series, "Championship Match Up," is about Penny and her friends playing in a baseball playoff with the Eastside Champions. This sequel, which includes several of the same characters, is scheduled to be released this spring.
Thompson, who moved to Sun 'n Lake 20 years ago, said her greatest accomplishments in life are being a mother of two daughters and a son, a wife to her junior high school sweetheart, a first-time grandmother and an educator.
"Being an educator means being able to impact the lives of children ... and teaching them the value of education," said Thompson, who holds degrees from Edison State College and the University of South Florida in elementary education, education leadership, banking and finance.
Yet, this self-assured, outgoing woman has dreamed about being a published author since her earliest memories of summer vacations in Saginaw, Mich., when she would raptly listening to the life experiences of her grandfather, Bob Kingston.
"Writing a book is the art of listening to oneself," said Thompson on her website, www.authormixx.com.
"I have a passion for writing and love to explore the places I'm writing about … I want to get that firsthand experience," said the well-traveled author.
"We lived in Okinawa, Japan, for two and a half years while my husband was in the Army," Thompson said. She reminisced about raising a 2-year-old son in a foreign country, learning about different cultures and taking Chinese cooking classes.
Thompson has honed her writing skills as a member of the Florida Writers Association, the South Florida Writers Association and Writers and Scribes and president of Heartland Authormixx.
When local Christian author Sunny Serafino met Thompson, she was impressed.
"(Thompson's) a delightful person," Serafino said. "I sat next to her at a book signing, and she got lots of interest in her children's book. She made quite a few sales."
With "The Crumb Snatchers" selling on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, at area book signings and online, Thompson now has several writing projects under way.
She has just submitted an inspirational journal titled "The Great I AM" to Double Edge Press with hopes it will be published later this year.
Thompson's life has been deeply influenced by her faith. She grew up singing in the church choir, and her husband, Earl, is a Baptist preacher who has a traveling ministry when he has time off from his job at Centurylink.
"The Great I AM" is written as her spiritual diary, a reflection on God's identity and relationship to mankind through an examination of scriptures containing the phrase "I am."
Debra Thompson is also co-authoring "A Circle of Paths," a story of five women whose lives become entangled when they seek help for emotional and physical problems at the Rosoto Hope Recovery Center in Sarasota. Their experiences and the lasting relationships they form bring their lives full circle. The novel is due to be released in 2014.
When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Thompson acknowledged a desire to be "sitting at the beach, writing my heart out." She said that she'd also like to do a radio talk show, a program devoted to women's ministry.
What is most important for her, as an educator and a writer, is to be able to teach the importance of responsibility, truthfulness, independence, problem solving and accomplishing goals.
"If you believe it, you can achieve it," said Thompson. "It's not always about making money — it's about doing what makes you happy."