Monday, May 25, 2009

BIRTH ORDER: # 1 Book Child

Books are like children in a family. Each has it's own personality and hangups. And some are perceived as favorites while others feel neglected.

Take BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, my first book which is unknown and largely unavailable. I published it with the first editor who made an offer and did not consider the consequences of working with a publisher that does only mail order sales.

In many ways, BFF has become an orphan. I take her with me for sale when I speak to groups but I don't usually center programs around her. I could though.

The book is a story of friendship between a Pennsylvania Mennonite and a Ukrainian Orthodox girl. It's a small tale about how they spent one school year together and during that time discovered a bond. Like many friendships this one is built on things the girls have in common. But it finds its depth in the ways they are different.

BFF is somewhat autobiographical. I am a Mennonite. I have a Ukrainian friend. We met as adults but I wrote the book as though we were children when we met. It's fictional of course but it has a lot of me in it. And a lot of Maria too.

If I had a picture of Maria as a child I would post it alongside one of me. You would see two girls in pigtails. As adults we both love gardening - especially carving a landscape out of a boring or neglected plot of land. We have other things in common (I think). Mostly we are different.

Take this pic of us below. We are standing in Maria's home in front of her self-portrait. (She painted this BEFORE Pirates of the Caribbean hit theaters, so call her original, puhlease!) Maria has always loved pirates.
I have never loved pirates and believe that to emulate them in movies or children's literature is some sort of travesty. Call me boring if you please. I don't care. I just hate stealing and kidnapping, and guns in general.

I painted a self-portrait once. As you can imagine, it was tame by comparison. And also hideous because I'm not half the artist Maria is. And no, I am not posting it on my blog so get over that idea. Immediately!

Maria almost got the illustrating job for Best Friends Forever. She should have had it but, at the time, there was so little that the two of us knew about publishing, that I'm afraid we blew our opportunity!

I sometimes read from Best Friends Forever at the beginning of a presentation. It works as a way to introduce myself. And it's a reminder to me, too. That I have this neglected child who for has been overshadowed by her domineering siblings.

from Chapter 1

Because You Wear Pigtails

I saw Nadia Kuropas before I saw anyone in the classroom. She stood out from all the other fifth graders like a colored image in a black and white photograph. Which is sort of strange when you think about it--her being in color. She was so plain, just like me. That's why I noticed her.

Why hadn't Grammy told me there was another Mennonite in my class, I wondered. I looked at Grammy who was handing my birth certificate to the teacher. Grammy looked at the boys and girls and then turned to the teacher as if she hadn't even noticed the girl with the brown pigtails.

A redheaded boy on the front row noticed. He looked at me and then at the other girl and said, "Now Nadia has a twin."

The other children snickered. The girl with the pigtails put her nose in the air and refused to smile. She must be Nadia, I thought. I smiled at her but she looked away.

I knew right then she was going to be my best friend...

Maybe I'll post the whole first chapter someday. But I'd have to type it in. The digital version of this is in my computer cave. And you know what that means -hierglyphics. I wrote BFF in WordStar. I can transfer it into Word but I have to delete a lot of coding. And right now, is not the time.

Just another example of me neglecting my first book child. Nowadays, Cokesbury is handling Best Friends Forever. You can order it here.


  1. Oh man, that would have been so cool if Maria got the illustrating job. Oh well -- I guess the other "children" aka "books" got all the glamour. You already know what I thought about "BFF --" a unique, beautiful story that felt alive to me.
    At least I am glad you're at work wrtiting new ones. (You are, aren't you?)


  2. Yes, Katia, I am working on new stories. So glad you like BFF!

  3. What a compelling beginning, Joyce. It's the sort of book I would have grabbed immediately as a ten year old, one that I would still love.