Retired Greenville teacher’s book being made into a movie

May 8, 2023

Stories of a “lake monster” told to hundreds and hundreds of Greenville County students over the decades by a beloved teacher of theirs is now a book and is being made into a movie.

Upstate residents will get the opportunity to meet the authors of Lucy and the Lake Monster at a special book signing on Saturday, May 27 starting at 11 a.m. at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at The Shops at Greenridge, 1125 Woodruff Road, Greenville.

Lucy and the Lake Monster tells the tale of a nine-year-old orphan and her grandfather as they search for a sea serpent in Lake Champlain – one of the largest national lakes in the country and located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and Vermont. They battle bullies, naysayers, and mercenary forces seeking to exploit them. Their journey is an allegory for humanity’s search for spirituality and carries a strong anti-bullying message. Published in 2022, it is the first in a proposed series.

It is the work of Kelly Tabor Cromer, a retired Greenville County Schools teacher, and Richard Rossi, a filmmaker whose works include the award-winning Canaan Land and Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories that starred Olympian Jamie Nieto and Project Runway winner Marllinda Rivera.

The two have been friends since they were undergrads at Liberty University, and the project came together in the past few years. Rossi was playing the role of Rev. Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll in a stage musical in Los Angeles about Alice in Wonderland. He got the inspiration to write a classic children’s story of his own since he had just become a grandfather.

After a series of surgeries where he almost died, he moved the children’s book from the inspiration list to the bucket list. That is where he remembered Tabor Cromer’s stories of Champ, the legendary creature that lived in the murky waters of Lake Champlain near where she grew up and whose sightings were recorded by the Iroquois hundreds of years ago. Her stories about her childhood searches for the famed creature inspired hundreds of students over the decades.

“I looked for Champ when I was a child, I heard stories about it, I have had family that have seen it before,” said Tabor Cromer. “Telling these stories and sharing them with my students was always a wonderful experience.”

They wrote the book together over the course of a year often using Zoom to communicate since Rossi lives in California and Tabor Cromer lives in Greenville, obviously. During this time, Rossi started working on a film version as well because it was such an inspirational story.

They filmed for a month in her town of Crown Point, New York, last summer, and the movie is in the editing process and will be released later this year. Actress Emma Pearson plays the lead character of Lucy. Tabor Cromer plays the part of her school teacher, Miss Marino. Rossi plays Lucy’s grandfather, “Papa.”

“The main character, Lucy, is an orphan girl who’s nine years old and she’s mocked by people for her belief in Champ,” said Rossi. “I saw it as similar to Alice in Wonderland, or something that could be an allegory for other things.”