DU Alumni

Carol Lee Moore enters the world of children’s literature with ‘Taming the Dragon’

“I get so many words in my head, and sometimes I have to get rid of them, and sometimes I shake my head and all the words fall into a story.” Photo: Wayne Armstrong

As a youngster born and raised in a town short on cloud-shrouded peaks, enchanting valleys and dragon lairs, Carol Lee Moore (attd. ’54) discovered the marvels that lay between book covers.

“When you grow up in Grand Island, Neb., there really isn’t much to do in the summer except read,” she explains. And read she did, wending her way through the Dewey Decimal system and embarking on enticing adventures through children’s classics, fantasy tales and mysteries.

Today, on the cusp of 80, Moore is still an avid lover of books and stories. She’s also a newly published author, the proud creator of Taming the Dragon (Crown Peak Publishing, 2012), a children’s story with a message for her grandchildren’s generation: No matter what life tosses your way, stay true to yourself.

The tale follows the adventures of 13-year-old Verity, who is transported to the magical kingdom of Terra Cotta via an unfinished story and a schoolhouse door. There, she befriends a fledgling knight, thwarts the evil twin of a friendly sorcerer and tames the dragon in question.

The book reflects many of Moore’s preoccupations—her love of children’s literature, her belief in guiding principles, her affection for the imagination and her love of words.

“I have always loved words,” she says. “I get so many words in my head, and sometimes I have to get rid of them, and sometimes I shake my head and all the words fall into a story.”

Her affinity for words shows up in her choice of character names—Sir Sapling, Master Mandrake, King Sagacious. Her reverence for them is reflected in adamant refusal to traffic in contractions. Why dilute the impact of two perfectly powerful words—“do” and “not” for example—by inserting a meddling apostrophe?

Moore began writing seriously after the death of her soulmate—husband Ron—in 2003. A former Pioneers golf star, a renowned Colorado businessman and a longtime member of the DU Board of Trustees, Ron Moore (BS ’54) succumbed to cancer not long after the couple moved into a dream house they designed together. Had he lived just a little longer, the Moores would have celebrated 50 years of marriage.

Heartbroken over the loss of her husband, Moore initially found herself too distracted and distressed to put words on paper. In time, however, she found solace in writing.

“I finally realized,” she recalls, “that instead of just moping around, feeling sorry for myself, I’d better do something.”

That something turned into Training for Widowhood, a compilation of musings and memories that serves as a guide to grief and as a tribute to her husband. “We were partners, two individuals who had blended their separate identities into a greater whole,” Moore writes in the volume. “We were challenged and stimulated by life.”

Once Training for Widowhood was assembled and stitched between covers, Moore continued to pursue the writer’s life, filling her desk drawer with essays, poems and children’s stories. She found that writing offered the same escape that reading did. It also provided a way to share some of her values and some of the things she learned from her husband. Verity, for example, takes a page from Ron Moore’s primer when she learns that she can do anything—scale a peak, leap a chasm, tame a dragon—if only she puts her mind to it.

That message resonated with Sammie Chergo, head coach of the DU women’s golf team. Chergo acquired her copy of Taming the Dragon at a winter book signing held on the DU campus. “The next morning, I got up and read her book, and I was so touched,” Chergo recalls.

The book had barely settled into her consciousness when she decided to share it with the golf team. “Verity is a strong female lead,” she says, noting that young girls seldom take center stage in fantasy books. In addition, Verity’s values are worth adopting, especially in the middle of a competitive season with plenty of hurdles.

“It’s our theme for this season. We’re taming other golf teams; we’re taming the tournament,” Chergo says. (The theme served the team well—in April it claimed its ninth straight Sun Belt Conference crown.)

For Moore, who was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by DU in 2005, writing the story came easily and naturally. “I had read so many books that my brain was full of a lot of things that I could call on,” she says.

If writing the story was a breeze, publishing it was anything but. After consulting with book designer and editor Ann Ramsey, Moore decided to bypass the publishing houses, if only to avoid the dumbing-down and marketing ploys they might impose.

“One of the first things I figured out was that once I sold it, I would have nothing more to do with it. It would no longer be mine,” she explains. She certainly didn’t want to pick up her labor of love and discover a plague of contractions or prose devoid of multisyllable words.

Nor did she want to encounter illustrations that didn’t reflect her mind’s eye. To bring her vision to life, she hired Judy Graese, a Denver-based illustrator, dancer and costume designer with several classics-inspired children’s titles to her credit. Graese’s illustrations are scrupulously true to the text: Verity sports a blue pinafore and a long brown braid; the sorcerer/schoolmaster is suitably mysterious; and the depictions of the dragon hint at its inner kitten.

To date, Moore has had mostly favorable reviews from readers. One suggested that Moore produce a sequel—an idea she’s entertaining. But for now, she’s hoping the book finds a following and inspires kids to confront peaks and chasms with confidence.

Taming the Dragon is available from Crown Peak Publishing, the Bookies, Inklings Bookstore, Happy Canyon Flowers, the Papery, the Gnome’s Nook and the Lark. Moore’s agent, Donna Jackson, expects the book will be available at the Tattered Cover this summer. Moore plans to donate all proceeds to charity.



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