When I visit classrooms as an "author" on nearly every visit someone asks me what its like..... what is it like to be an author? Just last week on my final kindergarten visit of the school year, during our very formal game of questions-for-the-author, one of the students asked me, "how many states have you visited with your new book?" My answer in that forum is usually pretty succinct due to the time pressures at hand, but I attempt to convey the magic-carpet miracle of such a status -- as the 'mommy' of a book. Last Friday with a smart-board at hand we were able to pull up the map of the United States and I could point to lots of states I have been in this year alone: from Utah to NY and CA to FL!! Then we needed to find the world's map so I could show them Germany & Italy, too!! It's been an amazing year for my author travels.
What does NOT get told in that immediate circle-time rug interaction is how when you're an author-illustrator, people have the opportunity to respond to your ideas when you're not even in the room!!! That's one of the biggest impacts of having your work between hard covers.... the book becomes an ambassador for your ideas and you don't necessarily need to be on hand for your ideas to have an impact. With the muscle of the Internet I can even look over the shoulders of students responding to my illustration's prompts and then share those interactions and their hard work with you! That's what it's like to be an author. Children you've never met can read your book and get inspired!
One of my favorite quotes comes from the time I was fortunate to hear author/illustrator Vera B. Williams address the NAEYC conference during her keynote. She was 72 at the time and we were in Atlanta when I was privileged to hear her say to the ten thousand in the audience, "Teachers, you are the mid-wives of my ideas." At the time as I wrote her words into my notebook, I could feel goose-bumps on my arms. How brilliantly true! It is the teachers (and the librarians and the center directors and the professors and the parents and the grand-parents and the babysitters and the uncles and aunts and the big sisters and brothers and the cousins and the library patrons) who bring my work to life. Literally to life! All while selecting my particular book from the shelf of many choices and then turning the pages, reading to an eager audience.
The pictures in today's post were sent to me by Carie Rameriz, created from her unique perspective and wearing both of her significant hats as current kindergarten teacher and Army NCO. In this case, she is the mid-wife to my idea. She has directed this perfect response to my work, to my quilted illustrations in "Red, White and Blue." Carie has combined her expertise in young children with her first hand service to our country in Iraq and then coupled those insights with the prompts of my quilted illustrations to create a lasting master-pieced marvel that will live in the hearts of her young students for a lifetime. From Washington School Elementary in Dixon, Illinois -- a place that I have never stepped foot, my book and it's song are being read, sung, signed and immortalized because Carie acted the role of 'midwife' and brought my idea to life. She then went the brilliant extra-mile documented above and created a living masterpiece through the hands of her five & six year old artists.
And that, my friends, is what it's like to be an author & illustrator. As we approach Memorial Day this weekend I can watch the parade pass, knowing that my individual efforts have also made a contribution and had an impact. My work has gained a foothold. Indeed my little dittie has gone on to become a legacy that can travel well beyond where I have personally visited. Here is the evidence that my picture book has the power to excite children to participate in an ambitious and industrious project, unleashing untold amounts of effort & energy, that can showcase their pride in being American. All of that is possible because of the power of one. The power of one mid-wife with one book. Yup. That's what it's like to be an author boys and girls. Truly and simply amazing, that's what it's like. Sometimes I just pinch myself it's so awesome.
Thank you Carie for your service to our country. Your service in uniform, away from your brand new husband, having just said your vows, deployed around the world into the center of strife to teach, to teach your Army company. And then just as significant, for you to return to your loved one stateside and continue serving our country by continuing your teaching, this time with youngsters eager for your unique experience to direct their days. I am the one blessed to tell just a little bit of your story. How fortunate we are to have made an impact on one another. Um-hmmmmm. That's what it's like to be an author!!!
P.S. I have the feeling this is not the end of this particular story. This kindergarten quilt was last photographed at a size of 6' by 12' and I understand that it is still growing!! The school laminator is not large enough to laminate this marvel. I've suggested that Carie seek some sort of permanent manner to display the quilt. Plexiglas perhaps? We'll see what she invents, what grant she will need to secure for such a solution. In a perfect world I would one day be in Dixon IL having my picture taken with Carie and her kiddos in front of this artwork and we would be singing our hearts out, at a minimum they will be first graders by that point in time.P.P.S. I'll be posting Carie's class singing the song, in front of their quilt -- just as soon as that's filmed and posted to YouTube.