Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stories are Calling to Me...



Sometimes, it's nice to just let the wind blow your creative spirit where it will. As I wait to hear details from the publisher, I continue to stir up new stories in my mind. This morning's email in-box contained a message from Liz, who just may become one of my new best friends. She was writing to let me know she has read my text and seen my illustrations and is moving the process on. "It's a lovely story with beautiful illustrations!" She tells me the team will be reviewing my book proposal and she will keep me posted. Can you hear me smiling????? I signed my return email to her, "Hopeful Author-in Waiting." Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

 This last weekend was a picture-book-perfect weekend in Vermont. We drove up Friday for the annual barn dance at Olivia's Crouton Kitchen. If you don't know about Olivia's Croutons, check them out on line. They are the yummiest, and Francie, Olivia's mom, has come up with new gluten-free versions of croutons, crackers and stuffing mix too. Francie is our niece and we LOVE going up to the farm she and David live and work on. The traditional croutons are made in the barn at the farm, and each year, on Columbus Day Weekend, they hold a barn dance for family, friends and neighbors. We figure there were over 200 folks there this year. Great food, great fellowship and a wonderful time to be in Vermont. The weather was magnificent and you could have fooled me that the foliage was past peak!


Francie and David's farm reminds me SO much of one of the books I most loved reading to my son: Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen. After my boy was grown up, I spent years looking for a hardcover copy of this (before Google made such searches simple). All day on Saturday, as we were working to get everything ready for the barn dance, I kept glimpsing perfect images for a picture book, and overlaying them with illustrations from this classic in my mind. The dogs, the chickens, the horses, the fall colors and pumpkins and sunflowers. I am SO ready to sit down and write the story that Francie gave me the title for. I won't tell you any more about it, except to say that this is the title character.
My camera was busy clicking all day and well into the evening. As we gadded about purchasing pumpkins and searching for sunflowers, collecting chrysanthemums, getting gourds and investing cash in Indian corn, I was collating colors, tracking text , creating context and conflict and beginning the book in my brain. SO much fun!!

Here are a few images which one day you may see in illustration form in my new classic. (Oh let me dream!!! I KNOW I'm so far ahead of myself, but if I can dream it, I can do it! Right?)


Welcome to the Barn Dance
We never did find mums, so I arranged corn stalks, sunflowers, a bit of sumac and the pumpkins. Great nieces and nephews spent the morning carving  jack-o-lanterns that lined the path to the barn doors. A pot of petunias from the patio lent a bit more color and, "Viola!" Martha Stewart couldn't have done better.

The Provensens wrote about each animal on their farm. We had chickens and roosters wandering at will. Amazingly none of the five dogs (three visiting pooches including our Mugo, and Rufus and Maggie who live on the farm) chased the little feather balls, but the great nieces and nephews found a stash of eggs in the hayloft. The two horses quietly watched the action, between nibbles of grass and handfuls of hay. Pigeons were displaced from their perches in the upper barn and we swept and cleaned and disinfected places where food and folks would be congregating. Fairy lights were lit in the barn and while the musicians got their equipment set up, and company began to arrive with pans of pork and casseroles of coleslaw, containers of cookies and plates of pies, we set out the spiral hams, the rolls and mustard.                                                     
Pastoral Pasture

As the long day of preparation drew to a close, the evening of entertainment opened. That barn was full of so many stories, so many characters and incredible food, family and friends, that "I could write a book!" doesn't even begin to cover it. Traditions in rural America are the stuff of so many classics, we'll just have to hope that the bookshelves have room for one more. It's on its way. SO don't expect me to be raising my hand to volunteer for much this year or next. I have a mission! The stories are out there calling to me: begging me to write them down and to share them with you. SO here goes...
On the Cusp of the Barn Dance.

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