Wynnewood Valley Park is our neighborhood backyard, and yesterday it was the setting for the first annual Penn Wynne Earth Day Celebration. Chuck Scott, president of the Penn Wynne Civic Association, invited me to take part because the park was the inspiration for DEADWOOD.
DEADWOOD is fiction, of course. Penn Wynne itself is a thriving, tidy neighborhood and the real Wynnewood Valley park is a small, natural gem running along a tributary to Cobbs Creek. Home to foxes, birds, frogs, and turtles, its playgrounds and tennis courts are also heavily used recreationally.
Yesterday it hosted a wider range of activities — crafts, food, scavenger hunts, a freecycle event, and education on composting, tree care, and the ecology of the park.
I was fortunate to be seated next to Rob Witmer and Rich Widdman of the Lower Merion Shade Tree Commission. I was able to pester them with tree questions and exchange rants about the knotweed in the park (my nemesis) and the emerald ash borer.
The events, including live music, were distributed throughout the park to encourage visitors to use the whole open space.
The kids found some interesting creatures in the creek — at least one crayfish, some boatmen, and many worms. My daughter decided her cowgirl boots were waders and only fell in twice.
It was a great day in the park, and if it’s repeated next year, I’ll be there again. Thank you to Chuck and the Penn Wynne Civic Association for inviting me.
I had a fantastic time today working with the seventh-grade students and teachers in the Welsh Valley Middle School Challenge and Waterbound programs today — great questions and a lot of fun.
The Waterbound program is a year-long seventh grade interdisciplinary program that incorporates most subject areas through hands-on exploration of the history, culture, nature, and environment of Lower Merion and Colonial America. I was there to talk to them about DEADWOOD, which has elements of the outdoors, science, and history in a very similar setting, and I was lucky enough to be there when the teachers shared the recruitment video with the current students. I was ready to sign up — I love how hands-on and direct their experience with nature and the world was.
The kids spend the year observing nature in the local parks and immersing themselves in local history, and they were in the process of writing their second historical novel, this one set in Revolutionary Era America (the first was set among the Lenni Lenape). It was wonderful to see how the nature-based and experiential curriculum brought the subject to life — wonderful kids, wonderful teachers.
Yesterday I had the honor of helping teach a young writers’ workshop at Ludington Library (more thoughts about it on Operation Awesome). Gail McCown, the librarian who created the program, gave me a copy of By a Woman’s Hand: Illustrators of the Golden Age (Dover, 2010) — a wonderful gift based on my love of classic fairy tales by Andrew Lang and George MacDonald.
Shawna Tenney, the artist who created Deadwood’s beautiful cover, captured Hannah and Martin perfectly, but this book started me thinking how my story might have looked if Deadwood had been published in 1919 instead of now. Fortunately, I found Golden Era illustrations that pictured Hannah and Martin as I imagined them in Art Nouveau glory.
Martin is despondent after his confrontation with Nick over the Spirit Tree.
Helen Stratton, who illustrated my childhood edition of The Princess and Curdie; she also illustrated an edition of The Princess and the Goblin, but my version was Arthur Hughes.
“The desire to fight with him was gone.”
Heroic Legends, n.d.
Hannah flees from the Spirit Tree.
“It was an old soldier.”
“The Red Shoes,” The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, 1899
Hannah in the witch’s garden
Florence Harrison, of whom little is now known, not even her nationality (either Scottish or Australian)
“She stood on inner ground that budded flowers.”
“From House to Home,” Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rosetti, n.d.
Dr. Blitzer visits Deadwood Park.
Blanche Fisher Wright, illustrator of the iconic Real Mother Goose and sister of the one half of Fisher-Price Toys (clearly a talented family and friends to children)
“The Wind,” The Peter Patter Book, 1918
Hannah wonders if the Spirit Tree can hear her.
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, the most popular Australian illustrator of her time.
Moonrise, Elves and Fairies, 1916
Hannah communicates with the Spirit Tree
Elenore Plaisted Abbott, who studied at the Drexel Institute, now Drexel University, one of my freelance clients, and lived in Philadelphia
“Rustle and shake yourself, dear tree, / And silver and gold throw down to me”
“Cinderella,” Grimm’s Fairy Tales, 1920
Lately news from the publishing industry is making me dizzy. It’s hard to know what will happen next, so the only way to move forward is just keeping moving forward. That’s why I’m so glad DEADWOOD, my MG modern fantasy is finding readers now (and the paperback is on sale at Amazon for $8.81; ebook at $3.99!) while I keep writing and pursuing publication.
I’m looking forward to working with the students at the Writing Workshop at the Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr on March 2. It should be a fun day with lots of creative ideas flowing. Thanks to Ms. Gail of the Lower Merion Library System for inviting me to work with the young writers in what we hope becomes an annual event.