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The Lollie Tree

An Interview with Local Author, Whitney McDuff

This month, we got the pleasure of speaking with Whitney McDuff, Public Speaker Strategist and author of two children’s books- The Lollie Tree and Where the Lollies Go. They are stories of bravery, overcoming fears, and jam-packed with stunning illustrations. If these beautiful stories are not in your collection, be sure to “add to cart” today. Your family will enjoy these whimsical stories for years to come.

Lake Murray Lifestyle: Hi Whitney! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. We are excited to learn more about you and your books!

Whitney: Thank you for the opportunity! I am always excited to share about the joy these books have brought me and share that with others. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle:  Tell us about the inspiration for your best-selling children's book, The Lollie Tree.

Whitney: I was inspired to write this book when my first child was born. I wanted to tell a story about overcoming your fears and not being afraid. In the story, the little boy gets a magic stone and goes down to The Lollie Tree only to find out that he can speak to the animals. The animals show him that all of the noises he hears in the night that scare him are actually them trying to protect him. For example, a little squirrel who is storing nuts in his room are the crackles he hears. He also hears the frog thumping around, the dragonflies wings, and so many others.

Lake Murray Lifestyle: The imagery and illustrations in your book are incredible. What was the process like to get from story to page?

Whitney: Thank you! It was such a beautiful process to see the story come to life in the illustrations. I worked with a local midlands artist named Lindsey Eads Fischer. I knew her work and trusted her. I called her up and asked her if she wanted to try this together. She had never done children’s book illustrations, but she was willing to go out on a limb with me. I shared my vision for the book and the first painting she shared with me was for the cover. As soon as I saw it, I was just wowed and knew it was the perfect fit. She also created the illustrations for Where the Lollies Go. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle: What is your connection with the midlands and Saluda Shoals Park?

Whitney: As I sat on the couch working on this story, talking with the publisher and illustrator, it just didn’t make sense to me that I was the only one going to benefit from the book. I thought about whose information I wanted to include in the book for other people to learn about. I immediately thought about Leo’s Pride. I called Adam and Meredith (Leo’s Parents) and asked if I could put their foundation information in the back of the book. They immediately said yes and were excited to spread awareness of their foundation. A percentage of the proceeds from every book sale goes right to the Leo’s Pride foundation. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle: How did you come up with the title of the book and is Where the Lollies Go a sequel?

Whitney: Lollie is the name we called my mom. Fast forward a couple years after the book was published, my mom unexpectedly passed away. Her big loves were children and reading. The second book I wrote, Where the Lollies Go, is actually the eulogy for her funeral. It’s a story about how love never goes away, and just transforms. One day, I got called to do a reading for a group of children, and Adam and Meredith were on the phone, too. They said, “We actually have a surprise for you.” They explained that they were gearing up for Phase 2 of Leo’s Landing at Saluda Shoals and wanted to build a giant Lollie Tree. My mom was always my biggest champion and advocate for creativity, so it was such a full circle moment for me to have mom honored in that way. Seeing the tree come into fruition in the park is so meaningful to me. It is such a special place to take my children and remember my mom. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle: What do you hope for people to take away from your books?

Whitney: My mom instilled in me and my children that magic is everywhere. Whether it be in this book, or on the inclusive playground, there is a place for everyone to feel included and to overcome their fears. We can create our own magic and create it for others. Every time I do a book reading, I give the kids a little magic stone. I’ve received so many messages over the years about how it has helped them overcome their fears of the dark. It's just been amazing to see how it has taken off over the years. It was so unexpected, I wrote the book for my children, but to see how it impacts thousands of people is just really special. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle:  Do you plan to write other books? 

Whitney: Yes! I actually have a book in the works right now. It’ll be a compilation of about 50 different stories. I’m super excited for that one to come together. 

Lake Murray Lifestyle: In addition to being an author and a mom, feel free to share about some of your other endeavors. 

Whitney: I am so passionate about helping other people get their message out there- whether it be helping to publish their books, podcasts, working with public speakers or public relations. Since the book, I have been able to help so many people start their journeys. I love sitting down and helping them create that roadmap of getting their story out there.