LYNN — Gary Leavitt is hoping to ride a horse named Charlie to the big screen.
The longtime writer, radio personality, and celebrity impersonator recently self-published “Charlie Horse,” a children’s book about a disabled horse who showcases his bravery in order to help out his animal friends. Leavitt, a Peabody native and former Item sports reporter, has high hopes for the book, including a PBS television show, character merchandise, and a feature film.
“I think the book will appeal to not only kids, but all age groups, genders and demographics,” Leavitt said. “Charlie is a character that is not only brave, but he’s not afraid to rely on other people.”
After nearly four decades in the entertainment industry, including a role as Bozo the Clown on Fox WNAC-TV in Providence from 1992 to 1994, the 58-year-old said he thought it was time to try something new. He began writing the material in 2013 but felt his writing for it at the time could have been better.
“I couldn’t get it to a point where it was endearing to children,” he said. “I put it on the backburner for a while.”
Four years later, he picked his pen and paper back up and had a new plan. He said he wrote the story with a rhyme scheme, hoping it would be more appealing to his future young readers. The story was done a few months later and he began working with an illustrator, Alexandra Sevigny.
Sevigny’s artwork was completed in a year and a half. Leavitt said he knew the artist had impeccable skills, so it was worth the wait. “Charlie Horse” was finished and ready for publishing in May. With help from Gatekeeper Press, it’s been up online and on certain bookshelves around the country since the first week of June, he said.
The Woburn resident said when he began writing the book, he had a vision of making it into a television show for children. He worked on a theme song with his 21-year-old daughter Renee Leavitt and they titled it “Friends For Life.”
Leavitt said he and his two kids, Renee and her 16-year-old brother Randy, spent a lot of time watching television shows in the 1990s and 2000s, especially the programs on WGBH’s PBS. Since the book’s completion, he reached out to representatives at PBS twice and pitched the idea to them, he said.
“From what I heard back, PBS loved it,” Leavitt said. “They told me it would be a long process though for them to fully review it and analyze how the market would be.”
The first-time children’s book author said he hopes to have “Charlie Horse” on the PBS screen by September. He also has a vision of selling five million copies, getting it to Oprah Winfrey’s book club, and telling Ellen Degeneres’ audience all about Charlie the horse.
For every book he sells, Leavitt said he will donate $1 to the Be My Strength Foundation, which helps needy and orphan students in Africa.
“That’s the finish line for me, as far as getting something I can hang my hat on,” he said. “The more money it makes and the more success it has, the more I can do to help people.”