Girls Like Me: Former Tylerite Katina Chimney pens children's book about African-American girl

Published on Saturday, 16 August 2014 22:01 - Written by Tina Bausinger, Special Correspondent

Growing up in Tyler as the only girl in a house full of boys, Katina Chimney entertained herself by reading and writing stories. She loved Disney’s “Cinderella” the best and was captivated by the pumpkin carriage and all of Cinderella’s animal friends.

But even as a young African-American girl, she took notice that the girls in the stories she loved were different than her.

“There weren’t a lot of books with girls who looked like me,” she said.

Ms. Chimney attended Tyler Junior College where she first saw her byline on the pages of the Apache Pow Wow, the student newspaper. As a journalism student, she remembers immersing herself in the art of the interview. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from The University of Texas at Austin and a graduate marketing certificate from the University of Phoenix.

Now living in Houston, Ms. Chimney never gave up a love for writing. The stories she imagined in her head never quite faded away, especially the adventures of a little girl she called Keilah West.

The idea for Keilah — described as a lovable but klutzy 5-year-old African-American girl who never gives up — came to Ms. Chimney in a dream. Even the name Keilah came to her in the dream. When she awoke, she learned the name means fortress and has references in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Ms. Chimney said, in some ways, Keilah is just like her. As a child, Ms. Chimney also was a complete klutz with a big heart and sense of humor.

She said her father’s passing was the catalyst that propelled her to write the adventures of Keilah.

“My dad dying made me realize you only live once,” she said. “It was then I decided to make this book happen.”

A month after her father’s death, she finished the manuscript.

Ms. Chimney also was influenced to create Keilah by her volunteer work in Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which helps at-risk children who often lack role models. She hoped that a positive role model in the form of a young black girl could do much good.

She submitted her manuscript to By Grace Enterprises, a Texas publisher. Editors loved the story and paired Ms. Chimney with illustrator Robin Haley of Austin. The result is “Keilah West: The World’s Greatest Klutz.”

Ms. Chimney doesn’t want Keilah to be marginalized as only for black children. Her goal is simple: “I think it’s important for kids to learn about other races.”

She cites the 1980s television show “The Cosby Show” as an example for what she’s striving for with the book.

“Nobody really thought about the show as black; they thought of it as a family show for everyone,” Ms. Chimney said.