From birthday cards to a book, Vance Fossum is making children smile

Published 10:02 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

When the Rev. Vance Fossum was assigned the duty of buying birthday cards for his grandchildren, he thought it would be an impossible mission.

His late wife, Christine, was ill at the time and because she could no longer buy birthday cards, the task fell in Fossum’s lap. But distance kept them from visiting their grandchildren on their birthdays. With the good birthday cards being more expensive and few actually kept, Fossum took a different approach: make his own.

From then on, the former Austin native began sending cards illustrated with his own whimsical characters and poems. They were such a hit with his grandchildren (and older folks who read them) that it was suggested he publish them.

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And he did exactly that in his new children’s book “Grandpa’s Grins.”

The title was inspired by the creation of his cards, which turned his grimace into a grin.

“I grimaced at my wife saying to buy appropriate birthday cards, but when I did my own, they made me grin,” Fossum said. “The title seemed appropriate.”

A 1965 graduate of Austin High School, Fossum grew up in a Lutheran household. He served as a pastor for congregations in Eastern Colorado, St. Louis, and Okabena, Minnesota, before moving to Columbia, South Carolina, where he currently resides.

Although he has retired from full-time ministry, Fossum tells people he is “retreaded” as he continues to write.

“I’m working on a devotional book for children,” he said. “My wrote a children’s book before her death from cancer and I plan to get in illustrated and published.”

“She was one in a million,” he added.

“Grandpa’s Grins” has had an impact on those who have read it. Fossum related a story about visiting Sweet Reads in Austin with his book in tow. After speaking to owner Lisa Deyo, an 8-year-old girl read bits of the book.

“(Lisa) asked her if she should order some copies of the book and she said ‘yes,’” he said. “That brought joy to my heart.”

Fossum hopes his book will make others smile, from ages 8 to 80.

“If I can get some kids to laugh, including some of the older ‘kids,’ it’s worth it,” he said.