Sunday, November 23, 2014

MY NUDGE BROUGHT ON AN AVALANCHE. (1)

December 15, 2013 
Bite ti vusutirs   [That should be Note to visitors, but see how blind I am getting?  I am ready to give up any day now]   Update February 1, 2014: Never give up if help is available.  Laser treatment yesterday restored sight, leaving me delirious with joy, tears and laughter.  The treatment also left me with a crossed eye.  I'm wearing lavender-tinted glasses so I won't scare the great-grand-children.
      When I was a girl 200 years ago, I remember rushing into the sun room after school to see what pages Mom had added to a story she was writing.  It was called Hildarella, Hildarella being Cinderella’s daughter.  Mother is sitting at her desk, typing away on her Vintage Royal Portable, and I eagerly read the pages I haven’t seen yet, then stand behind her to see what new developments are flowing from her fingertips.
     In my opinion, the only flaws in the story were the poems she kept inserting about characters such as Bluffit, the butler.  I didn’t like having the plot interrupted, and being a pain-in-the-neck preteen, voiced my objections.  Many years later I found a copy of a letter Ernestine had written to a friend, Florence Atwater, expressing her disappointment in my lack of appreciation for poetry.   Atwater, who was a published poet and author herself, replied, “Barbara will come to poetry.”  I did come to poetry and only wish my mother had lived 15 years longer, so she could have seen Poetry with a Purpose welcomed everywhere by children, teachers, and parents. When editor Jerry Aten retired, he wrote and thanked me for contributing to the success of his publishing company, Good Apple..  
     Personally, I’m still thanking the poet who attracted all those delighted readers, my gifted mother. Ernestine said toward the end of her life that she knew her poetry would live on.  It is my mission, toward the end of mine, to facilitate that prediction with the help of my early rising assistant, Jeeves, Jr.
The Perilous Path to Publication [How pleased I was with the alliteration. "You and a dozen other writers," says killjoy Google.]
     "Sorry, but poetry doesn't sell."  That's what publishers repeatedly told me.  In the cover letter for my mother's verses, I had written: 
    "Ernestine Cobern Beyer was the author of several books for children and a popular contributor to children's magazines.  Now, eleven years after her death, I am hoping to introduce her to a new generation of young readers.  Enclosed are sample pages from one book possibility.   If you are interested, I can send you many more."
    I received a chorus of rejections, echoing similar refrains:
     "You are quite right that it is fine material, but our list is very full and the amount of poetry we can cope with is very limited."  "I am sorry to say that despite the fun and whimsy in the verses, we do not see these as something we could successfully publish."  "Although all of these verses are charming, we feel it would be too difficult to market them successfully in today's depressed economy."  "The collections of your mother's work are indeed clever and amusing, but I am afraid they are not right for our list."  
     One spring day in 1984 I was playing golf with my friend Fran Allen, an elementary school teacher and an admirer of my mother's poetry.  We were halfway around the course when I complained of the rejection slips I kept getting for what I knew was exceptional material.      
     "Let's put together a teacher's workbook," Fran said promptly.  "And let's schedule some meetings, or it will never get done."  
SHE CHARMED THE KING COMPLETELY
     We met once a week in North Scituate at Ed Malley's pool. (An ex-husband like Ed is hard to find. He even supplied lemonade to go with our sandwiches.)  I learned from my mentor what a "comprehension check" was.  I learned that multiple choice questions could be humorous.  In "Meranda," for example, Ernestine describes how a mermaid sang her song into a shell while King Neptune listened.   "She charmed the king completely with the tune she sang so sweetly, and the shell retained it neatly in its iridescent heart."
     Children are asked if Meranda saved her song by (a) taping it, (b) singing it into a shell, or (c) writing it in the sand.  If you find a shell and listen well, you will hear" (a) "The Star‑Spangled Banner," (b) a whistling sound, or (c) a murmuring whisper.    
      "A Remarkable Happening" recounts Santa's dilemma after overeating one Christmas Eve.  Question:  As he started down the chimney, Santa was annoyed to find (a) a fire in the fireplace, (b) he was stuck, or (c) he had forgotten the presents.
      "The Remedy" is about a king who saw everything upside-down.  Hoping to cure him, a doctor (a) prescribed two aspirin before meals, (b) poured red pepper in his shoes, or (c) told him he needed more sleep. A wizard cured the king by (a) giving him artificial respiration, (b) standing him on his head, or (c) giving him a strong pair of glasses.
     When Fran and I cracked up over our jokes, Ed would come out to the pool and ask what was so funny.  "You'll see when our book is published," we said.
        I learned some unusual facts that summer, such as the strange name for the upside down "e" in phonetic spelling:  a schwa.  A schwa symbolizes the indeterminate sound in unstressed syllables, if anyone wants to know.  I discovered that different dictionaries use different symbols for phonetic spelling.  I couldn't consult mine for one group of Key Words and Ed's for the next.  You can't switch your schwas in midstream.  I found that inventing sentences for the vocabulary pages was the most time consuming task (three or four hours for each of the 20 poems), but challenging.  The examples needed to be brief, express the word's meaning precisely, and avoid the use of other difficult words.
     We had completed 16 of the 20 comprehension checks when Fran had to return to teaching in September.  "You're on your own, "were her parting words.   "You'll need some poetry exercises and a section on haiku and -- oh, you'll write a preface, of course."
     "Who, me?"  
     "Call me if you have any questions," Fran said cheerily over her shoulder.  And there I was, high and dry at the poolside.  I had never written a preface in my life.  What on earth could I find to say about poetry?
     I read and reread several pages of notes Fran and I had gleaned from the poetry shelves of our respective libraries.   Then I plunged into the preface, not at all sure whether I'd sink or make it to the other side.
     With a few of Mother's shorter verses to buoy me up, I found it wasn't that difficult to illustrate elements of poetic style like similes, metaphors (see second sentence in above paragraph), sibilance, alliteration, personification, imagery, onomatopoeia, and hyperbole.  Ernestine knew her stuff.   She had a particular affection for hyperbole.  In "Birthington's  Washday," for example, we are told that Bertie disliked  bathing so much,  he was finally stopped in his track.  "Just one final cinder, just one speck of dust/ Had at last overburdened the weight of his crust." 
      When the preface was finished, I submitted it to my co‑editor, pacing the floor of her sun porch while she read it.  Was it acceptable, or had I floundered about to no avail?  Fran gave the pages her approval.      
      I ventured to show the preface to my high school English teacher, Floyd Rinker. He had liked my compositions of 45 years ago.  For my part, I had worshiped this blue‑eyed tyrant of a teacher and still did. 
      Fran applauded my mentor's input and was also pleased with the exercises I'd completed.  That left the haiku section.   Floyd had familiarized his students with this ancient Japanese form of verse.  A haiku expresses in 17 syllables a thought, usually connected with nature, which has moved the poet. 
      I dreamed up a few modern haiku that I hoped would interest youngsters enough to try their own.  My subconscious mind would give me a shove at 3:00 in the morning.  I would groan, groggily turn on the light, scribble the haiku, then flop back on my pillow.
      Mother’s Jeeves used to let her sleep until morning.  To this day I wish Jeeves Jr. would learn to synchronize his clock with mine.   
      During the next year, one publisher after another rejected the workbook with faint praise like, "Although creative, the project does not meet our needs," or "While your material looks most interesting, unfortunately it does not fit  into our publishing plans."  One prospect, however, kept our book for several months -- surely a good sign. 
     I called Good Apple, Inc. in September of 1984, spoke to editor Jerry Aten, and learned he had never heard of me or my activity book.   I offered to send him another copy of the lost manuscript.  On October third, the editor wrote:
     "I can understand now why you were so insistent that I not only receive your work but also read it.  In short, it's excellent!  I'm sure you're quite proud of your mother's poetry, as it is not only well written, but also clever and sprinkled with wit and humor.  I also like the format and design of the activity book.  . . ."
     Jerry went on to say there was no way possible to place the book on the coming season’s production list and explained why with a profusion of ifs, ands, and  howevers.  "I'll be most happy to try to work it into our 1986 schedule if I can.  However, if this isn't good enough (and I would understand if it isn't) kindly let me know and I'll return your manuscript.  Thank you for your persistence and for your continued interest in Good Apple."
     Persistence -- ah, there was a Key Word.  I was going to need as much persistence, it turned out, as Sisyphus laboring uphill with his backsliding stone.
     "Since you were pleased with our sample pages," I answered, "I am taking the liberty of sending you the complete activity book.  I won't expect a reply day after tomorrow, but Fran and I look forward to hearing your opinion when you have time to write."
     Three months went by with no word.  I had a bright idea.  I had read that publishers particularly liked books that could lead to a series.  I would send Jerry 20 more of my mother's verses, explaining that they could be the basis for a book for younger children. 
     "We would be grateful if you would send us a word of advice, encouragement, or both," I nudged in my cover letter.  "True, it's only three months since you sent us your possibly‑maybe‑ perhaps letter, but for two ladies holding their breath, it seems longer.  We know you are busy, but could you just let us know you haven't forgotten us?
     They were even busier at Good Apple than I had imagined.   Jerry had indeed forgotten us.  On February 14, 1985, he wrote:  "I like the poems but can't tell you when (if ever) we could make use of them.  I feel it only fair to send them back and encourage you to seek their publication elsewhere."  I'd received prettier valentines in my day. 
      Back came not only the 20 poems, but also the activity book that had been so highly praised in October.  Clearly this over‑worked and harassed editor had no recollection of his earlier letters to me and had told his secretary to return whatever was in the Malley file.  My "nudge" had brought on an avalanche, tumbling me back to where I had started.  Oh, how I empathized with Sisyphus.
     So much for Publisher #9.  If at first you don't succeed, try #10.  And 11 and 12.  Number 13 was Opportunities for Learning, Inc.  The editor wrote on September 10, 1985, "Please accept my apology for the length of time we have taken to answer you.  After reviewing your product, we have concluded that we are unable to work with you on the project.  I would like to suggest two companies who might be interested. . ."  One was Spoken Arts, the other Good Apple.  Bad Apple, if anyone had asked me.
     I submitted my manuscript to publisher #14, Spoken Arts.  They kept it for six long months, then rejected it with the explanation that they focused on audio materials, "preferably with poets or writers reading their works."  
     Oh well, six months was only half a year, after all.  Persistence was still my middle name.  Casting about for publisher #15, I wondered if I should give Good Apple another shot.  The referral given me by Opportunities for Learning had mentioned the name Christopher Goetz in connection with Good Apple.  Could it be that Jerry Aten was no longer the editor?  I dialed the Carthage, Illinois, number and talked to Mr. Goetz.   He was sorry, but he couldn't help me; he was in the buying, not the editing end of the business.        
      "Is Jerry Aten still the editor?" 
      "Yes, would you like to talk to him?" 
      "Oh no!  There wouldn't be any point in that." 
      Mr. Goetz sounded friendly and sympathetic, so I found myself bewailing the various misunderstandings Jerry and I had had over the past two years.  I described the joy Fran and I felt when he tentatively accepted the proposed book, although it was true he hadn't made any promises.  Unfortunately, I explained, when I sent him 20 new verses three months later, hoping to jog his memory, Jerry mistakenly thought I was simply submitting a collection of my mother's poetry.  He not only rejected this submission but also told his secretary to return whatever else of mine they had on hand.   When Jerry had originally enthused over the sample pages, I told Mr. Goetz, I had sent him a copy of the complete workbook. Apparently he never saw it.  He didn't know what I was talking about when I called to ask for its return.  No doubt it was buried somewhere under tons of other manuscripts. 
     All this I babbled to long suffering Mr. Goetz before I finally said, "Thank you, anyway," and hung up.
     A couple of hours later I was reading the paper when the phone rang.  "Barbara Malley?  This is Jerry Aten."
     "Oh!!!  Hi, Jerry!"  My heart was leaping; it couldn't believe its ears.
     "I've been talking to Chris Goetz.  I understand you're angry with me."
     I hastened to assure him I wasn't angry, I was just frustrated over our failure to understand each other.  Jerry said things got pretty confusing out there; he had manuscripts piled so high in his office, he could spend the rest of his life trying to read them.
     "But it makes me unhappy," he said, "when I hear that I've caused distress to a writer.  I don't like to do that."
     "Jerry, I love you," I said.  He invited me to send him the complete workbook, advising me to print my name in big letters and circle it in red. 
     I was delirious with happiness.  I even confided to Jerry that I had just had an operation [a lumpectomy] that could have been disastrous but fortunately wasn't, and now that he had called I felt luckier than ever.  "I was so surprised when I picked up the phone, I almost fell off the couch."
     "Don't do that," he said.  "You might tear your stitches."
     I sent off the manuscript with a big red circle around my name.  I was tempted to put red hearts all over the envelope but managed to restrain myself.
     That evening, I finished reading the Boston Globe and almost fell off the couch again when I read my horoscope for April 21, 1986.  Maybe there was something to this astrology notion after all: 
     "Finish rather than initiate project.  What had `missed' recently is now due to hit the mark.  Know it, exude confidence, and reach for wider audiences.  Lunar emphasis on valid chance to hit financial jackpot. . . ."

HOW TRUE IT IS THAT NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED. (2)

    On July 5th I found in my mailbox a 9 X 12 manila envelope from Good Apple.  It was too flat to be our manuscript.  I stood frozen in my condo lobby for a moment, then opened the flap with trembling fingers.
     To Jerry Aten, July 9, 1986:  "I received your contract on the 5th of July.  How appropriate that the occasion was celebrated with nationwide fireworks . . . ."       Indeed, all weekend it seemed as if the Liberty Centennial jubilation was expressly for Fran and me.  I relayed the good tidings to Floyd Rinker.  We agreed that he would buy the celebratory lunch, and I'd bring the Roman candles.
     I congratulated Fran for coming up with a format that would incorporate my mother's verses; she credited me with persistence in pushing our product for three years.  She couldn't believe it when I wouldn't give up.  No way.  Not when we were getting such great feedback from the results of her field tests -- kids thrived on our book.  Clearly, it was worth all our efforts.  Children would always be fascinated by rhyme and rhythm, and Mom was a genius in that art form.      
     Jerry told me that my co‑editor and I could provide our own illustrator, but he would have to approve sample sketches.  Or we could leave the question of artwork to them.  I asked if this meant we could be hit with a bill of two or three thousand dollars. 
     "Gracious, no!"  said Jerry.  "I wouldn't do that to you.   The most I can ever remember paying an artist for a book of this type is a thousand dollars."
     It sounded like a lot, but to the artist I had in mind, I feared it would sound like a pittance.  I had met Grace Lawrence a few months earlier at an exhibit of her paintings at Cohasset's South Shore Art Center..  She could get a thousand dollars for just one of her beautiful watercolors.  It was hardly likely that she would be interested in my project, but I invited her to have lunch at the golf club, just in case.
      Grace was interested.  She said the money didn't mean that much to her; she thought it would be fun to illustrate Mother's verses, and she had always wanted her name on a children's book.  She was startled when she learned it would be around 100 pages long and would require line drawings in the margins, as well as half‑ and full‑ page illustrations.  She thought it over and decided she was still game.
     Grace came up with three sample sketches.  I laughed at their humor and hoped Jerry would, too.  It would be exciting for Fran and me to see the artwork in progress, a pleasure we couldn't enjoy if Good Apple selected the artist. 
     Jerry gave the nod to Grace's work.  A few weeks later I began carrying armloads of galleys to her apartment.  It happened that she lived at 1000 Southern Artery in Quincy, the same senior citizen's complex where my mother spent the last two years of her life.  One day, struck by a strong sense of déjà vu, I went down to the office to ask where  Ernestine Beyer's apartment had been located.  According to the records, it was not only in the same building as Grace's but also on the same floor, almost directly across the hall.  No wonder I had been getting goosebumps when I stepped out of the elevator with my arms full of Mother's poetry. It seemed Fate had anticipated that poet and artist would one day step across a void and blend their talents.
     I used to tell Grace that she and Mom were soul sisters, and now they truly are.  Bless them for leaving us their unique legacy.
    As the book began taking form, occasional changes had to be made in the text.  Two months after we received our contract, Jerry called and asked me to change the last verse of "The Donkey and the Cricket."  He didn't need to tell me why.
      The donkey tried to do so.  Did he sing, then, like Caruso?
      Heavens no!  His bray did not improve, alas!
      He went back to eating clover, saying over, dear, and over:
      He who imitates another is an ass!"
     The summer of '83, when Fran and I were working by Ed's pool, I brought up the matter of that irksome three letter word.  "Won't children giggle and snicker and nudge each other, the way they do when they know so much more than the teacher?" I asked. 

I CHANCED TO SEE A STRANGER STANDING,
JAUNTY,  IN MY WAY.
      Fran considered pros and cons, then decided the word had too long and respectable a history to deter us.  In the case of a verse about a leprechaun, I was able to convince her that teachers would not be  comfortable with, "I chanced to see a stranger standing, cocky, in my way."  She allowed that "jaunty" would be a less hysteria inducing adjective.  (Mother was such an innocent.)
       Getting back to that ass of a donkey, I called the editor with this revision:
      The donkey tried to do so.  Did he sing, then, like Caruso?
      Heavens no!  His song became a bray at once!
      He went back to eating clover, saying over, dear, and over:
      "He who imitates another is a dunce!"
     My solution sacrificed the pun, but Jerry thought the poem had enough going for it to survive the loss.
     In another verse, "The Oyster," I was dismayed when I received the galleys and found a line changed in a way that ruined the meter.
          But one fine morning it befell
          A gritty granule nicked him.
ALL FIN-LAND KNEW (AND ENVIED, TOO)
THIS LITTLE ROCKY-FELLER.
          It hurt like H‑E‑double L, (Mom's line)
          It hurt so much he wanted to yell (Good Apple's line)
          O, how it plagued its victim!
     I implored the editors to accept the following change so my mother could rest in peace:
          And then it happened, one fine day,
          A gritty granule nicked him.
          It hurt him more than words can say ‑‑
          O, how it plagued its victim!
     To my relief, the revision met with Good Apple's approval.
     With the galleys nearing completion, I decided to express my gratitude to Fran by placing her name first on the title page.  This was a mistake.  In short  order I learned how true it is that no good deed goes unpunished.  Delivering some revisions to my co-editor’s front door, I was jolted when her son called, “Mom, Mrs. Malley is here about your book.” 
FRAN ALLEN WANGLES SOLO FRONT PAGE INTERVIEW
("I TRIED TO REACH YOU, BUT YOU WEREN'T HOME.")
      Uh-huh, those were his words.  Mata Hari was telling everyone about the book she'd written, explaining that “Barbara just did the legwork of getting it published.”  An article appeared on the front page of the Patriot Ledger (“I tried to reach you, but you weren’t home”), with a photograph showing the author reading a poem to the children surrounding her.  When a skeptic asked if she had written the 6-page preface, her answer was:  "Barbara's English teacher wrote it."
      It feels rather good to set the record straight after all these years.
     From Jerry Aten, June 12, 1987:  Hooray!  The errors have been corrected, the books have been printed, the ink has dried and they've finally arrived.  As per our contractual arrangement, your first royalty check will be coming your way near the end of December, 1987.  This check will reflect sales made during the months of July, August and September.  Dealers usually put a rush on us during those months for our new titles.  It's also a popular time of year for teachers who are looking for their back- to ‑school supplies. I've enjoyed working with you on this project.   Let's hope the effort pays off for you and for Good Apple!
     To Jerry Aten, June 24, 1987:
     A lot has happened since you called a year ago and nearly made me burst my stitches.  A dream has become a reality that's more fantastic than the dream.  Thank you for going to bat for us and convincing your board of directors or whoever had the final say on our book.  I hope they are half as pleased with the result as Fran and I are.  We are already getting so much positive feedback, we can barely keep our feet on the golf course.
    In sum, dear readers and would-be authors, here is my recipe for marketing a successful children's book:  Start with fresh, flavorful material; toss in a friend with a yummy idea; add an artist with a dash of whimsy; press and push your product with the persistence of Sisyphus; blend with an editor who doesn't like to distress a writer. 
     Phone call from Jerry Aten, July, 1987:  "If we sell 3,000 copies in a year, we'll be elated; 2,000 would be satisfactory; 1,000 would be a disappointment."
     Oct. 31, 1989 report from Inventory on Poetry with a Purpose:  Number of copies sold since July 1987, 6,205.
    Thanks, Jerry, thank you, Jeeves, Jr., and above all, thank you, my dear, extraordinary mother.
      Taped to the inside of Ernestine’s typewriter case was a quotation from Calvin Coolidge:    
     “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
Note to Tears and Laughter visitors:  Amazon has copies of Poetry with a Purpose ranging from $2 for used to $25 for collectibles. Whenever you order a book or anything else from Amazon.com,, please have the kindness to access Amazon via my daughter Kathie’s blog, http://engagingpeace.com/. She believes that in a world full of violence, her small effort in behalf of peace may make a difference that is preferable to indifference. (Supporting engagingpeace by accessing Amazon in this manner does not add a cent to the cost of ordering.)

"GOOD HEAVENS! A DOWNPOUR OF CATS!" (3)

December 18, 2005
        I've had fairies on the brain every since Humanics sent me the proofs of my new book based on Mom’s poems.  The editor said he had issues with the online artwork, and oh my goodness, so did I.  The fairy illustrating “The Bargain” looked like a man in drag with a sneer on his face.   So much for Ernestine’s pretty fantasy. 
      I asked for a publication extension for this book that has been in the works for a year, while I’ve been wondering if I’d live to see it in print. Editor Chris and publisher Gary generously said I could take as long as I needed to find an artist.  I put up posters in several libraries and soon heard from my first applicant.  Leo Harrington didn’t see the poster at his library because the bulletin board was located around the corner from the main room.  He did see copies of Mom’s "The Bargain" on the desk, took one home with him, and illustrated it.
     Ernestine herself had discovered the artist for her poems.
      
     
One day, when strolling slowly (I am rather roly-poly)
Something happened—the mostmagical of things!
I met a tiny creature with a most amazing feature—
An attractive pair of polka-dotted wings. 
With a gasp we couldn’t smother, we stood staring at each other
And I noticed that she seemed to like my hat.
“Deary me!” I heard her mutter, “I would surely cause a flutter
If the fairies ever saw me wearing that!”

Her look was wistful, very, so I murmured to the fairy
Who observed me with so envious a stare:
“I can see you like my bonnet. Since your heart is set upon it,
I will trade it for the pretty wings you wear!”
Response was never prompter! She tried my hat. It swamped her!
My, oh my, the cunning picture that she made!
My bonnet made her stagger, but she staggered with a swagger,
So I knew she was delighted with the trade.

With her wings upon my shoulder, “Well, goodbye,” I softly told her,
And I waited till she vanished in the sun.
Then not the least bit fearful, but quite confident and cheerful,
I flew homeward to astonish everyone!
                                   
1-29-06
Dear Leo,                   
      I woke up this morning with a dazzling insight. I don’t have to wait to send my publisher the entire book, illustrations and all. I can send him the text along with the first two or three illustrated poems.  The editors can then be reviewing the introduction and the exercises, with plenty of time to have it ready for fall publication.  This takes away a lot of pressure I’ve been feeling, and I can stop pressuring my poor artist.  I’ll send groups of illustrations along to the publisher when you have completed them.  I still won’t send the originals until the last one is finished, so take good care of them.  No floods or tsunamis allowed.  
       It will be hard to wait until Friday to see you have accomplished.  I’ll be readying my smiles and giggles.
2-15-06
     Kathie, the following is more or less what I said to Leo's machine:  “It has been 12 days since I last heard from you.  Do you remember telling me you would call me once a week?   I'm not comfortable with the way things are going..”
     A friend saw Leo at the art center, working on a bear.  I said he should be working on the illustrations for the poems.  With only eight weeks left until the middle of April and with around fifty more sketches to be completed, I should be seeing at least half a dozen a week.
     Late this afternoon Leo called and said,” What's the matter?”
     I told him.  He said he had several to show me.  I'm going to see them at eleven on Friday.
     Okay, I know you're feeling sorry for Leo, my dear kind-hearted daughter, but the situation was not good for my health, especially my blood pressure.  Maybe now he means it when he says he'll put aside everything else in order to produce sketches every week.
Kathie responded:
hi, mom. i'm glad you called leo and he called back. nothing is more important than your health. i hope the bee you put in his bonnet (i bet he could draw that!) will keep him buzzing along busily til he finishes well within the time limit.       
2-18-06
To Leo [Unsent]
       When I went to your house, I assumed you were going to show me a number of full-page sketches.  Instead you showed me your latest collection of elaborate Alphabet Animals.  My heart sank.  Time was going by and you had barely touched the surface of the poems requiring illustrations.  I said for about the third time that I needed drawings for the first few poems, so I could mail them to my publisher.
    Conferred with Ted.  He thinks I should not send a negative message like this but simply tell Leo I’ll give him more time so he can return to illustrating the poems.
2-20-06
To editor Humanics Learning
Dear Chris,
        A funny thing happened when your best customer suggested that the poems should have shorter versions for the Pre-Schoolers section.  My first reaction was:  no way could I or would I tamper with Mom's work.  Then her sub-conscious assistant, whom she called Jeeves, paid an overnight visit and helped me achieve this daunting task.   
      When I send you the next group, which will include Johnny Appleseed, you will see that the artist has chosen to portray him in his youth, whistling as he scatters seeds.  Leo considered putting a cross on the book under his arm, then decided not to because of church/state sensitivities.  I, in turn, changed a question  about what Johnny had tucked under his arm to a question about what kind of hat he was wearing.

JOHNNY APPLESEED
                                                 His shirt was an apple sack, ragged, at that,
And he wore in all weather a saucepan for hat!
A battered old Bible tucked under his arm
Was all his defense against danger and harm,

So friendly and merry, and simple in needs,
He walked through the countryside, scattering seeds
Which grew into orchards whose summery blooms
Still give us their treasure of fruits and perfumes.

Everyone hearing his whistle or song
Said, "That's Johnny Appleseed coming along!"
Dear Johnny Appleseed, gentle of fame,
His children, the orchards, still whisper his name.
March 17, 2006
Dear Leo,
            Before I settle down to inserting your delightful new sketches, I want to try to reach an understanding about our arrangement.  At our first meeting, we both took notes on how many poems would need your illustrations.  There were 27, and as I explained, that number would be doubled because the publisher’s best customer thought  pre-schoolers should have shorter versions. This brought the figure to fifty-four. 
           At about the time you were going to begin the assignment, I asked you to sketch some animals for each letter of the alphabet, 26 letters equaling 26 poems.  I pictured these as being small, line drawings that would fit in the lower corner of an exercise page.  I didn’t realize the importance you attached to the request until I began seeing your detailed portrayals.  They were charming and funny, but when, I wondered, was I going to start seeing all those illustrations for the poems?  I began to get antsy, since I couldn’t imagine how you’d get everything done by mid-April.
            The last time I came to your house, you looked at the Contents pages and said you didn’t remember all those poems and didn’t realize you were supposed to come up with so many sketches.  You said you could do it, but not with the customary detail.  
I called my son and told him you and I were having a problem. You had spent a lot of time on the alphabet animals, which I had thought could be drawn in a few hours or days.  Ted listened without interrupting my rather frantic account, then said, “This sort of thing happens all the time when two people are working together.  You and Leo misunderstood each other.  All right, a mistake was made, but Leo is entitled to be paid for the time he spent.” 
After being calmed down by my son’s good sense, I called you and said I was now convinced you should receive an extra $500. 
Ted referred to the Alphabet Animals as a mistake, which I thought they were at the time, but what a wonderful mistake they turned out to be.  You inspired me to design a special exercise page for first- and second-graders, based on those animals. 
I also want to thank you for adding a few more ethnic faces.  Schools have become multi-cultural so due attention should be given to that fact.                                                
3-18-06
Hi Leo,
I e-mailed Kathie that I wished the African-American boy to the left of the Happy Haberdasher had a more intelligent look on his face, then wondered if I was being too sensitive on the issue.  Her reply is below.  I’m enclosing your original sketch in hopes that you will be able to do what Kathie suggests.
From Kathie
Hi, Mom. I definitely don't think you are being overly sensitive in your concerns.  The little boy is definitely not as attractive as the two adults. I think work on his mouth could help but it would be even better if Leo could partially cover him with a very cute African-American girl with little pigtails and an excited/happy expression on her face. 

Leo skillfully made the revision.
                               
THE HAPPY HABADASHER

A man whose name was Simon Shore
Once owned a clothing shop,
But at his quaint, old‑fashioned door
No customer would stop.

The dust collected on his suits,
Which made old Simon sigh;
And mildew dimmed his rows of boots
As people passed him by.

At last, because he couldn't sell
The things on any shelf.
He shrugged and sighed and said, "Oh well,
I'll wear them all myself!"
Deciding this was best to do,
He donned two suits in haste,
And several ties of gaudy hue
That chanced to please his taste.

He added boots as big as boats
And mufflers, two or three,
And also several overcoats
As splendid as could be.

He next put on three fine cravats,
(One blue, one green, one red),
And last, a chimney made of hats
He set upon his head.

Then out he went to take a stroll
Along the Avenue.
His neighbors cried:  "Upon my soul!
He blots the town from view!"

From far and wide the curious came.
Their wagons choked the road,
As awed, they gazed upon the frame
That bore so grand a load.

'Twas thus he turned bad luck about
And gained a just renown,
Because he was, without a doubt,
The most‑dressed man in town!

3-29-06
Dear Leo,
     We have a new problem (groan, groan), but I think you can easily fix it.  I asked Kathie about the blimp-sized figure of the kitten, and she said you had probably pictured the yeast making Bella swell up like a huge balloon.  If a cook adds yeast to bread dough, it does expand but not to such an enormous degree.
     She agrees that Ernestine would have expected a portrait of the kitten to be small, the yeast making her somewhat puffy and light enough to start floating around the kitchen and out the window.  Your Bella has a delightful expression and is the cutest kitten you’ve ever done, but she really should have a somewhat alarmed expression.  I’ll bet you never thought words like that would come out of my mouth or, in this case, keyboard.  The poet says Bella has a terrified look as she falls earthward, but I’d be glad to settle for alarmed. 
     Since Bella lands on the umbrella of the man below, Kathie explains, she should be more in proportion with the two figures, the cook leaning out of the window and the man, who protests, “Good heavens!  A downpour of cats!” It should be clear that it’s raining heavily and Bella is heading straight for the umbrella.  The poet tells us the man is wearing spats.  Can you give him spats?  Kathie is betting you can revise the sketch with the same ease  and skill you have achieved in similar cases.
                                                                    
Bella, the Flying Kitten

Bella, the kitten, had thoughtful blue eyes,
But she wasn't, I guess, too remarkably wise,
And that is the reason that, wanting a feast,
She swallowed, one morning, a tidbit of yeast.

The cook who had dropped it looked on with a frown
As Bella delightedly gobbled it down;
But the kitten was scared when along about noon
She began to swell up like a circus balloon.


Growing lighter and lighter, she rose to the ceiling
Where, filled with a pleasantly jittery feeling,
She coasted the room without shiver or shudder—
Skillfully using her tail as a rudder.

Growing more brave, and more air-travel smitten,
Out of the window went flying that kitten,
And followed by cries of incredulous people,
She circled a treetop, avoiding a steeple,
And mounted the sky until, happy and proud,
She came to a stop on the edge of a cloud!

Should she try to get down?  Bella doubted she could!
Well then (she thought), she would stay here, she would!
She'd never grow hungry (she thought with a purr),
The Milky Way being so handy to her.

`Twas just at that moment a rumble of thunder
Caused her to leap in amazement and wonder.
Next, to her sorrow, the cloud where she sat
Dissolved into raindrops in two seconds flat.

With a terrified look in her pretty blue eye,
Head over tail, Bella skidded the sky.
She tumbled and fell 'til at last little Bella
Landed kerplunk! on a big black umbrella
Whose owner, surprised, almost leapt from his spats.
"Good heavens!" he muttered.  "A downpour of cats!"

When Bella grew up, as all kittens will do,
She told her own kittens the tale I've told you.
"Milk," she would say, "makes an elegant feast—
But stay away, dears, from a package of yeast!"

Autograph for Paige Cody's copy of Read Me a Rhyme, Please
May 7, 2006  
        In 1970, at the tender age of seven, you recognized a magical quality in a poem called “The Laughing Willow.”  It was around this time, two years before her death, that Mother said to me, “I know my poetry will live on after I’m gone.”  Thank you, dear Paige, for honoring Ernestine Cobern Beyer in your inspiring blog:
http://rhapsodyenbleuclair.blogspot.com.]
                                                                      
                                           The Laughing Willow
                               
                                 Beside a pool within a wood
                                 A family of willows stood.   
                                All they did was weep and weep.
                                 Indeed, they wept, this leafy clan,
                    As they have wept since time began.
 
                      Imagine, then, the pain and grief
                                 That shocked the willows, root and leaf,
                    When suddenly beside the pool
                                 The Youngest Willow broke the rule!

                               A woodsy laughter, small and thinned,
                               Fell lightly on the summer wind.
                               "Weep!" exclaimed the willow crowd.
                  "To laugh is simply not allowed!"
                                                     
                 But though they showed him what to do
                             And gave him Sobbing Lessons, too . . .
                             "It's hard," explained the little tree
                             In shy and shamed apology,
                             "It's hard to act forlorn and sad
                            When one is feeling young and glad!" 
                             The others wept; but small and daft,


                          The Youngest Willow laughed and laughed!