1969 was the year of Woodstock. Richard Nixon took office as president. John Lennon married Yoko Ono. Neil Armstrong took a giant step for mankind on the moon. And I took a giant step for me. On October 1 of that year my first book for children, THE BOY WITH A DRUM, was published by Western Publishing and went marching off into my future as a children’s author. I’ve been holding my own private celebration all year and though I meant to wait until October 1 to mark the precise date of my 50th anniversary in this wonderful business, I can’t wait any longer to share.
Half a century in the business. Can this be? I remember so clearly the thrill of holding my first book. We lived in Kansas City. I was either the product manager for children’s cards or had just been promoted to editorial manager for all Hallmark and Ambassador cards by then. I was married to this wondrous woman. We had two beautiful, loving children, Robin and Jeff. We could finally afford two cars. We had great neighbors. And I — after ten years of trying various genres in search of who I was or might become as a writer — was finally holding in my hand the solid evidence of sweet success. I had no idea how lucky I was to have Eloise Wilkin for my illustrator. I had been trained as a scientist. I knew nothing about the world of publishing. All I knew was this book in my hand changed everything.
Our friends Larry and Maryann Wakefield drove up from Springfield. From the $350 I had received (for outright purchase of my story) I treated us to lobster dinners at the Savoy. Sandy presented me with a Steuben Glass brontosaurus in honor of the occasion. She told me that if I needed to quit my job to pursue my dream, we could tighten our belts and live on her salary for a year while I gave it a try. I couldn’t accept, but I’ll never forget what she offered to do for my sake.
The years have passed swiftly. These days I’m often saddened by the losses of old friends and acquaintances even as we welcome strong new voices to the choir. In May of this year I held my 96th book, AND THE BULLFROGS SING. It was a great thrill. But I will never again feel the giddy kind of joy reserved for the first, first book an author sells. With all its oops and downs, writing for young people is the best ride in town. I’m happy to report that I have a fistful of tickets left.
These nights we usually eat by the lake and enjoy the entertainment. Last evening before birds packed it in for the night, we were treated to the sight of four young martins that paused to rest on the top of a retaining wall.
We’re accustomed to watching martins swoop and dive across the lake but in thirty years we’ve never had them visit our yard. I’m guessing these were youngsters fresh from fledging. They flew off now and then to chase a bug but quickly returned to the wall to catch their breath. Marvelous.
Yesterday Sandy called me to join her on the patio. I got there in time to watch our fledgling wrens leaving their nest hidden in our flower pot. They came out one at a time, like feathery little explosions from a Roman candle. Each flew in the same direction, toward the kitchen door and upper deck where their parents waited to greet them. We’re not sure how many there were. Wrens can have from 3-10 eggs. I accounted for four. Even named them. World, meet our newest additions to Goose Lake!
In order of their appearance, I give you Clueless, Edith Ann, Peeping Tom, and Scaredy Bird.
When they start eating on their own, we’ll have fewer bugs around here.
While the excitement was going on below, above their heads the night crew rested. A few hours later their competitors for insects came on duty. By then the fledglings had settled down to spend their first night alone, without the comforting warmth and protection of mom on top of them.
Yesterday Cory Corrado, our good friend in Canada, posted a poem inspired by this month’s Word of the Month Poetry Challenge word — celebrate. She added that she began writing W.O.M. poems in October 2009 and this new one is her 109th poem “that would not be if not for this challenge.”
It began with a word
One four letter word.
No! Not a “dirty” word―
An earthy, ‘clean” word.
A wholesome down to earth word
An inelegant word
A curt matter of fact word
A no-nonsense-straight-shooting, tell-it-like-it-is word
A “soiled” word.
You guessed it!
The ‘face’ that launched thousands.
YESSS! Thousands . . . more priceless than ships.
Almost ten years!
Something to CELEBRATE
Seems like yesterday . . .
And it all began
with some very fertile
Cory Corrado (2019) ©
(Thank you, David)
And I thank you, Cory. We met at my first Highlights Foundation poetry workshop in 2011. I love the picture of you on a swing in the yard of the farmhouse where we held the workshop. That was a great group. We’re still in touch with Jeanne Poland, Ken Slesarik, and Joy Acey.
I did five poetry workshops in Honesdale, most recently in 2016, and appeared as a Skype guest for Larry Brimner in 2015. I occasionally wonder if I should offer another one, but my friends, Georgia Heard and Rebecca Dotlich, do a stellar job each year and I doubt that two poetry workshops are needed. I’m glad for the ones I did, though, and have many great friends and memories to treasure.