Realizing Sweet Dreams

The story behind one Pittsburgh businesswoman's decision to self-publish her childhood bedtime story and how the result benefits the American Cancer Society.

Mice and cats rarely get along in the lore of children’s fiction, and the main characters in "Squeeky and Louie" are no exception. What is exceptional, though, is the story behind how Pittsburgh businesswoman Linda Handley decided to publish the story—written years ago by her father, F.R. Handley—and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

“I remember curling up with [my father] and being mesmerized by the larger-than-life mice who wanted to play,” says Handley, a Pittsburgh transplant originally from Hershey, Pa., of "Squeeky and Louie," an engaging tale full of original characters, sketches and drawings and now presented in its authentic entirety.

What undeniably links this story to its cause is that Linda’s father is currently battling Lymphoma.

“My father was diagnosed four years ago, and a lot changed for me,” says Handley. “I re-evaluated everything after he got sick and asked myself ‘What really matters?’”

The final ounce of inspiration behind Handley’s decision to pursue the benefit struck when she helped with an event hosted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network on September 3, 2009. The event honored Rep. Michael Doyle, who gave an emotional speech about a family member’s fight with cancer. Handley decided to help the ACS after being “moved to tears” by Doyle’s story—but was unsure how to do so until remembering the careful mice she read about as a girl.

Until that point, Handley considered publishing the story for quite some time but didn’t feel the timing “seemed right.” “Going through with the book is a tribute to the influence of my parents in my life,” says Handley, who regularly e-mails comments about the book to her father to show him that after so many years, children still find joy in his story.

Handley had no experience in the publishing world before taking on this work of charity, which she self-published through Author House. All the while, Handley maintained her role as the assistant executive director of the Women’s Small Business Association, an organization of more than 600 businesses, and ran the Pittsburgh chapter of Medals4Mettle, a nonprofit specializing in gathering medals earned and then donated by marathon runners in order to give to cancer patients. When asked how she manages a professional career, charitable work and now publishing, Handley responded, “You never get tired when you are working on something you love.”

True to form, Handley is hardly slowing down: She has recently spent her time contributing to "Inspired Entrepreneurs: A Collection of Female Triumphs in Business & Life," due out soon on Amazon.com.

To order "Squeeky and Louie," visit squeekyandlouie.com.