By Maine author/illustrator Bette A. Stevens
By the early 1990s Dan and I were restoring a circa late-1800s Victorian mansion in Central Maine where I was hired as assistant to the CEO of one of New England’s largest construction companies. I was assigned as editor and publisher of the company’s 12-page bi-monthly newsletter and wrote many stories for the publication. I took classes on desktop publishing and design and was tutored by one of Maine’s magazine designers. Dan was working on his B.S. in Business and was hired by the Department of Defense as a financial analyst. Meanwhile, I was in the midst of earning a new degree, a B.S. in Elementary Education.
Dan’s government job took us to California. Degree in hand, I taught fourth graders in the Mojave Desert and second language learners (grades 6-8) on the California Coast. I love kids and had already had my first children’s book, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too! published by a small regional press, ready to use in the classroom. Now it was time to start writing AMAZING MATILDA. I’ve been captivated by monarch butterflies since childhood and knew that their life cycle would provide the perfect model for a storyline to inspire the kids that I was teaching. I didn’t have my artwork yet, simply a story to read to my students and to use as a model to teach them how to write their own stories.
By 2002, Dan’s job took us to Northern Virginia where I taught fourth and fifth graders Social Studies and Language Arts. As retirement time approached, we moved back home to Maine, where several years earlier we had purchased a neglected farm on 37 acres. That’s where we are now—retired and enjoying the good life.
Dan is renovating the old farmstead, with a little help from me—his go-fer. And me? I have time to write and illustrate my books. I call myself a nature nut. I collect everything from seashells to birds’ nests. Dan and I enjoy occasional day trips to the coast and my camera is always ready for the next great nature shot. Life is good. God continues to guide me through the peaceful valleys and over the arduous mountain trails of life’s journey.
Since retirement, I’ve written, illustrated and self-published three books and am currently writing my first novel planned for release in the summer of 2014. Today, I would like to introduce you to my children’s picture book, AMAZING MATILDA.
AMAZING MATILDA, that is…. At just one year of age, she has won two awards for excellence in children’s literature. Here’s a peek into her storyline and how she came into being:
A TALE IS BORN
MATILDA’s story was written to inspire young readers to reach for their dreams—to meet challenges with patience and persistence. When I wrote the original draft for my students (no artwork yet), I decided to use nature to explain human nature. A butterfly would be the perfect analogy for the growth and development of a child.
A monarch butterfly would be the ideal species, since the monarch is a benchmark indicator of how our environment is faring—its habitat, the milkweed plant, is the only food that monarch caterpillars will eat and it is endangered.
And so, we have an animal adventure story that teaches lessons in environmental science, life science and character education. To get inspiration for my drawings, which did not materialize until 2012, I had my research files on the monarch’s life cycle: the research I had used to write the original story shared with my students. It included color copies from many sources. In 2012, I added to my stockpile by searching the internet for different poses for butterflies, sparrows, toads and rabbits— all characters in AMAZING MATILDA.
The research drawings and illustrations of the monarch butterfly life cycle served as the basis (original outline) for my story and eventually for my sketch and watercolor illustrations.
The inspirations for supporting characters in AMAZING MATILDA came from my imagination. I had to think and dream and rethink about what wise character (animal) would be the great encourager—Sparrow came to mind. What about friends who would tease and boast? I finally decided upon Rabbit and Toad. All of the animals had to be unique (different species), to help children see that even though they are all different, they have so much in common. That is how the tale of “Amazing Matilda” was born.
MATILDA’S MESSAGE from ME to YOU! Whether you really want to write or draw or paint, or perhaps it’s something else (something unique) that you want to do—just do it. And, save everything you’ve worked on. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth saving. Maybe, you’ll look back one day and see how far you’ve come or maybe you’ll glean an inspiration for a great new project. I have journals, folders, binders and even file boxes filled with most of my writing, including works’ drafts, trials and research. Over the years, I’ve saved everything from my children too. These are the things that dreams are made of…
As Matilda’s story reminds us—we can do anything we really want to do if we try long enough and hard enough. And, don’t forget to help your friends make their dreams—whatever they may be—come true!
Watch MATILDA’s Video Debut…
Watch MATILDA’s Video Debut…
FIND OUT MORE about author Bette A. Stevens and her books at http://www.Amazon.com/author/betteastevens
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