There has to be something strange about taking crayon to paper in a coloring book of your own design.
Megan Elmer says that there is — and I’m inclined to believe her because she’s looking at a coloring book of her own design as we speak.
The pages are open to a drawing of Old Main and its surroundings, thick lines giving shape to images that have only recently been gently shaded into a medley of soft tans, blues and greens.
It looks clean and professional — the book, not the coloring job, although I’m sure there’s a dedicated space waiting on a refrigerator somewhere.
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Since there wasn’t anything out there at all, I tried to put something in there for everyone.
This was a labor of both love and incredulity, or possibly just mild shock that in a sea of hats, dog collars and key chains, there wasn’t a Penn State coloring book floating around somewhere out there.
“Since there wasn’t anything out there at all, I tried to put something in there for everyone,” Elmer said.
A market existed, a pleasant little gap made up of folks who have never been able to pass the Berkey Creamery or Pattee Library without fighting the impulse to reach for a pack of Crayola crayons.
And with nature abhorring a vacuum and all, it was only a matter of time before somebody came along to fill the niche.
But why this woman? Why this day?
To answer that we have to go back to an entirely different day altogether.
In November, Elmer was still riding the post-euphoric wave of the Nittany Lions’ victory over Michigan State to clinch the Big Ten East title, a condition that presented itself through sudden urge to color the iconography of her hometown.
There isn’t a prescription for that — and thanks to a diligent internet search, Elmer quickly found out that there isn’t even a book.
“No one else could believe it either,” Elmer said.
By the time her husband and two kids arrived home from Beaver Stadium, she was ready with the news.
“Color Penn State” was about to become a reality.
In this instance, the word “about” actually encompasses several months’ worth of sketches — images plucked from memory and site visits that were eventually scanned into a computer for fine-tuning.
Suggestions were provided courtesy of a family brainstorming session held around the dining room table.
The first thing that I did was come up with a list of things I thought were traditions, places, symbols.
“The first thing that I did was come up with a list of things I thought were traditions, places, symbols,” Elmer said.
Prior to joining the preschool staff at the Montessori School of the Nittany Valley, she spent more than a decade teaching art in Maryland. This made getting the drawings done more an issue of time than talent.
Fortunately the stars aligned, followed swiftly by a husband, two kids, a cat and a dog. Exactly 800 copies of the published book were waiting on the doorstep when Elmer returned from a family vacation earlier this month.
Some have since made their way into locations like McLanahan’s Penn State Room, Lions Pride and Growing Tree Toys. The rest are available to purchase at colorpennstate.com.
When Elmer was a girl, she dreamed of growing up to write and illustrate children’s books. Adulthood has not disappointed.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I think I’ve gotten kind of close. I’ve published something for kids,’ ” Elmer said.