Covington native Emily Peyton Cook released her first book this month, encouraging positivity centered around God-given gifts.
“Eclectic Emily” made its debut this week and the main character takes readers along as she discovers being a creative child is who she is meant to be.
A book signing was held Saturday at Tipton Christian Academy, where she is an art teacher.
“It’s so exciting,” said Cook. “I hope it shows that even difficult times can be a blessing.”
She began writing the book during the COVID-19 stay at home order earlier this year.
“As a creative, it was a tough place to be and, at times, discouraging. Like a lot of people, I was very, very down because of everything going on.”
Though the country was shut down, and many people were anxious about the impending crisis, Cook had the gift of time.
“I’ve always said I wanted to write a book but I didn’t have time. Then I was given the time. We’re having a year that everyone knows has been hard and it’s really taught us to seize the day, I think, instead of wasting time.”
Growing up in Covington, a small Southern town with a focus on athletics, Cook didn’t always feel like she fit in. She eventually found her place alongside her best friend Laura, who was musically gifted.
She was inspired by her high school art teacher Robert Armstrong to pursue a career in a creative field. Her book is dedicated to him and to her former English teacher, Ernestine Jones.
“(Mr. Armstrong) told me to go to art school. When I didn’t believe in myself, he believed in me. Mrs. Jones taught me how to write. It’s amazing how educators plant seeds in the holes in our lives.”
Cook majored in art at Ole Miss and has spent her entire adult life working in creative fields as a graphic designer, photographer and now art teacher.
“I want kids to know the possibilities are endless, even if you’re from a small town.”
Through the process, her three children have been involved with the book since the early stages.
“They’ve seen me writing, illustrating, putting it all together, they’ve even critiqued my word choices,” she said. “Georgia did the voiceover for the trailer … they were able to use their talents, too, and that gives them confidence.”
If she could give her younger self advice, it would be, “Stay true to who you are, know life is a process and you just have to take the next step and it will take you to where you need to go. Don’t be overwhelmed, just take the step and you’ll get there.”
She’s enjoying teaching art and inspiring her own students. As she’s launched the book, and read it to them, some have even written books of their own and brought them to her.
“I love being able to see their gifts and give back just as others have given to me.”
Cook and her husband, Zach, live in Covington with children Jonah, Georgia and Charlotte.