Lisa Bell, News 6 anchor and College Park resident, delivers news to thousands of Central Floridians every day. Bell recently deviated from her newsgathering persona and delved into her creative side. In late January, she released her first children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.” Bell’s book explores the joy of gardening and is available at Infusion Tea, Leu Gardens, and online.
So, what was the inspiration for your book?
I never really had a plan to write a children’s book. It just kind of happened. I have two little boys who are 2 and 4. Their names are Henry and Graham, and that’s who I dedicated this book to. We planted a garden in our front yard after visiting Leu Gardens because they fell in love with the vegetable garden there. A few days later, a little gnome appeared in our garden. It was from my co-anchor, Ginger Gadsden, and she said, “Go outside. I think there’s something new in your garden.” My kids were elated to see this gnome, and then they named him, “Norman.” At night, my sons want me to read them nighttime books. I started coming up with our own stories about Norman, who was in our garden and watching over our vegetables. Over time, I just started writing them down because they were having so much fun with them. I turned them into little books made out of notebook paper. I decided to find an illustrator and a printer, and it culminated with this book being the first one.
What are some of themes your book explores?
My whole goal in all of this is to help kids get a small garden together. The minute I say, “Let’s go outside and water the garden, pick weeds, or check on the garden,” my kids jump up and want to go out. That’s what I want other families and kids to do, too. More and more schools and community organizations are planting gardens because it’s such a wonderful thing on so many levels. It’s good for the planet, and it can help make up for food deserts where it’s hard to get food. It’s an easy and affordable way to spend good, quality time with your kids. I also think it’s important to teach kids where their food comes from. It allows kids to be adventurous and expand their palate. My two-year-old loves radishes. Who would’ve thought? They sample basil and rub dill on their fingers to smell it. I wanted this book to get kids excited about having a garden and trying new things.
How different is journalism from creative writing?
This is very different from what I do Monday through Friday, and that’s a good thing. I’m writing for two very different audiences. For me, more than anything, it provides a balance to my life. I write news for broadcast TV, which has a very distinct style. My role as a news anchor now, it can sometimes be a challenge to be creative. This allows me to be creative in a fun way, and it’s sort of like an extension of what I do.
How many books have you sold so far?
I ordered 3,000 copies and so far, we have distributed, sold, or donated more than 400 in more than 20 states and three counties in the month it’s been out. A lot of viewers have reached out to me who wanted to buy these books. I have one viewer who’s sending them to their niece and nephew in Australia and one who’s sending them to the grandkids in Germany. One of the cool things I was able to do is to send 80 copies to an elementary school in North Carolina. Ginger’s sister is the principal there, and they have a school garden. I made sure that every student in kindergarten and first-grade class would have a copy.
How are you enjoying living in College Park?
We’ve lived here for five years, and we love it. We moved in November of 2014, and within two weeks, we knew the names of every person on this street. We love having our own area here. You can have a wonderful life without having to get on I-4 and drive. College Park is much more centrally located to get around. You can walk anywhere, and if you do need to go somewhere else, you can. We say we can never leave College Park, and it’s because of the people here. We see us being here for a long time.
What’s next for you and Norman?
The next book with Norman is about colors, and it’s got a story of inclusiveness and diversity in it. Then there will be books about numbers and the ABCs. Once I wrote one, I would get an idea that wouldn’t necessarily fit in that story. and then they became other books. These books are short, and they’re for kids through age five. I’m going around and speaking to school groups. In March, I’m speaking to St. Vincent’s (Academy) and I already have spoken to kids at the Paragon School. At each school, I’m trying to help get the teachers and kids excited about gardening. To order a copy of Bell’s book or to explore Norman’s world, visit normangnomebooks. com.