Eating Christmas -- Umberto Tosi
"You can never have too many Christmas stories," he reassured me. Good ones that is, but you can't have the best without putting up with some of the worst. Christmas and the holidays take a beating every year as we endeavour to survive being inundated with canned mercantile sentimentality.
Cousin Gerard, like my four grown daughters, however, keeps his eyes on the brightest ornaments on the tree-- albeit with tongue planted in cheek. Gerard and I grew in an extended family that celebrated the holidays as joyfully as circumstances would allow. Our festivities included transcontinental reunions and week-long Italian feasts-- that included Christmas Eve crab cioppino in San Francisco and Maine lobster in Boston in days gone by.
The feasting is more fictional these days. I was telling Gerard about my latest holiday writing project-- The Dog That Ate Christmas, a "first-reader" picture book that I self-published. It isn't my first Christmas book. That was "Milagro on 34th Street," (2012)
| Eleanor Spiess-Ferris|
The project started in June with a Father's Day call from one of my grandchildren, Jorden Sheppard and one of his sisters. Jorden-- a tall, personable young man, was born with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum-- a brain disorder that limits communication between the brain's left and right hemispheres.
The rare condition impairs many of his sensory motor skills-- both fine and gross-- though not his cognitive abilities-- and seizure disorders. Major challenges have included severe difficulty in reading and writing. It doesn't prevent Jorden from being a keen observer of life, along with a lover of films which he is able to cite and discuss in prodigious detail.
Jorden started by proudly announcing that he had started reading books. By this he meant all on his own, not with one of his sisters reading aloud to him as she often does. Knowing that I am a writer he wanted to tell me himself.
|The elf finds a pup named trouble |
I thought of buying him a few of these books for Christmas. Better yet, I had the brainstorm of creating an original one dedicated to him. I had probably leaned out over Santa's sleigh on that one, but no matter. I started the next day by talking to his mother (my daughter Cristina)-- without promising anything by December 25-- on what kind of stories Jorden might like best. Something about a dog and something about Christmas, she said.
| North Pole Pandemonium|
It's been challenging, but fun-- also a break from my other projects, including a third Phantom Eye detective novel I hope to have out by spring. I haven't decided how far I will pursue this picture book publishing experiment (also depending on Ms. Spiess-Ferris' commitments). One way or another, the project has reinforced my respect for authors of this popular genre-- including the seasoned and fine children's book creators in this group. It takes practice along with skill, patience and a lively imagination. Children's fiction makes the same demands on its writers and illustrators as adult storytelling negotiating the rapids of Aristotle's Poetics and its tributaries.
It's not easy being a children's book creator (or being a Bunny.) But my collaborator and I concluded that it's a lot of fun!