For siblings Conn and Andi Thieman, being raised in a family of Penn State alumni meant weekend trips to Happy Valley during football season.
Now, “A Weekend in Happy Valley” means something a little different — it’s the name of the Penn State-themed children’s book that Conn wrote, and Andi is helping to promote.
The book follows the adventures of main character Andrea and her family as they spend a weekend enjoying everything from grilled stickies to football games.
The real Andi, from Pittsburgh, remembers college weekends similar to that in the book.
“For me, I just met some of my best friends there, so football weekends were always fun,” Andi said. “Sometimes our family would come up to tailgate — my little sister was there when I was there as well — so I think just getting to be in Happy Valley with my siblings too, was awesome.”
All four siblings in the Thieman family attended Penn State, as well as multiple extended family members. Conn graduated in 2009 with a degree in business management, and Andi in 2012 with a degree in community, environment and development.
Working at The Nittany Lion Inn during his time as an undergraduate, Conn was delivering room service to guests when he saw a glimpse of the Nittany Lion shrine through the window. He thought the idea of the Nittany Lion coming to life at night could make a fun story, and, soon after, thought of a pseudonym: Nate N.E. Lyon.
The idea of publishing a book didn’t return until later, when Conn read children’s stories to his nieces, and was “freshly inspired to follow through with the idea.”
He wrote the book during law school, working with the Penn State Office of Licensing Programs to ensure the book could use Penn State trademarks.
There was a “curveball” in the creative process, though: licensing standards don’t allow for the Nittany Lion to be portrayed in a position different than that of the actual Nittany Lion shrine, as Conn found out. His original idea about the shrine coming to life wasn’t realized, but he was able to draw on real past experiences.
Eventually, the book had a publisher, and included full-fledged drawings from illustrator Walter Policelli.
The book also includes an in-text scavenger hunt for five Penn State symbols in every illustration.
“Penn State was great throughout the process and really worked with us to make sure that we were able to produce a book we were happy with while maintaining their standards,” Conn said.
“One of my first jobs out of college was at Yelp, doing phone sales, so it’s been fun kind of picking up the phone again and calling some local businesses in State College to start talking about the book,” Andi said.
After its official release on Aug. 25, the book will be available for physical purchase in local stores around State College: Lion’s Pride, McLanahan’s Penn State Room, The Student Book Store, Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe and Lion & Cub Clothing store, according to Conn. The book will also be available online, via Amazon and Triver House LLC.
During the upcoming football season, Conn and Andi plan to again return to Happy Valley on weekends, this time to promote the book.
We’re looking forward to those trips up,” Conn said. “And really, we’re excited it gives us a reason and an excuse to get back up to State College more frequently.”