Dream comes true for Maui author
By Joli Jean Cotton
|From "The Blue Roses," illustration by Amy Cordova|
"I'd tell my dolls stories. And when I got older, I'd corral younger kids in the neighborhood and force them to listen," Boyden said. "I read all the time and when I'd finish a book, I'd think, 'That's what I want to do, I wish I could do that!' "
Boyden also wanted to teach. In 1970, she received a degree and taught first grade in downtown Baltimore. On and off for 17 years Boyden continued teaching.
"But during snow days and vacations or when I stayed at home with my own babies and they napped, I played with words," Boyden said.
When Boyden and her husband moved to Maui in 1997 she decided to switch careers and try to sell one of her stories for children. For years she received rejection letters. Then, in December 2000, Boyden finally hit the jackpot. She vividly remembers the day her publisher called.
Boyden had just returned home from her weekly volunteer stint as a storyteller at the Makawao Library where she and children's librarian Ninfa Tolentino had staged their annual holiday party with about 60 toddlers and their parents.
"With my reindeer antlers at a drooping tilt, I notice my answering machine blinking," Boyden said. "It was an editor from Lee & Low Books in New York saying she had good news for me. My manuscript had won their New Voices Award."
For winning the award, Boyden received a $1,000 cash grant and a publication contract.
Lee & Low Books specializes in children's books written and illustrated by people of color. Boyden is of Cherokee and French Canadian ancestry and she's a member of the United Lumbee Nation.
Lee & Low Books' executive editor, Louise E. May, said they received 186 entries for their first New Voices Award.
"What struck us about Linda's story, 'The Blue Roses,' was its voice," said May. "Of all the entries we received that year, 'The Blue Roses' stood out for its original and lyrical voice."
"The Blue Roses" is especially important to Boyden because it's based on a dream she had after her own grandfather died. When he passed away, Boyden was unable to travel from Montana to the funeral in Massachusetts.
"My family had lived in the upstairs apartment in my grandparents' house for my first 10 years, so I was very close to them and it broke my heart that I was so far away," Boyden said.
"But a few weeks later, Gramps came to me in a dream. He loved to garden and in this dream he stood behind a fence, in the most gorgeous garden. Above him was a trellis of roses, although not blue, and he glowed. With no wrinkles. He told me he was happy and to stop fearing death and to be happy for him. So the basic idea came from that dream."
Boyden continues to work on other manuscripts now and refers to herself as a "recovering schoolteacher."
"I can leave the classroom, but I cannot stop being a teacher," Boyden said. "Volunteering with children at Makawao Library gives me the chance to do something I very much enjoy, leading young people to literacy, without working full-time."
Boyden has volunteered as a weekly storyteller at Makawao Library since she first arrived on Maui. Boyden and Tolentino play host to "Toddler Time" every week. For the library, Boyden is also the voice of the "UpCountry Storyline." Every Thursday, she records a new story for kids to call in and listen to (808) 572-3449.
And in 2001, Boyden initiated a Young Readers' Club for children 8-12. "With the release of "The Blue Roses" I'm hoping to be called in to more schools and libraries as author/storyteller," Boyden said.
"The Blue Roses" arrived in bookstores this week.
"THE BLUE ROSES" by Linda Boyden, Amy Crdova illustrator, Lee & Low, $16.95, ages 6-10,
When Rosalie is born, her grandfather plants a rosebush under her bedroom window. As she grows older, Rosalie learns to love gardening with Papa. On her ninth birthday, Papa presents her with her own garden plot.
When some of the plants die, Papa comforts Rosalie by showing her how to tuck the dead plants under the earth to help the other plants grow. "That's what I like about gardens, Rosalie. Nothing ever really leaves," Papa tells her.
Then Papa dies. As Rosalie mourns, one night she has a dream about Papa in which he shows her how they will always be together.
Fine artist Amy Crdova uses acrylic paint and pencil illustrations to create authentic characters and setting in this moving contemporary Native American tale.
Jolie Jean Cotton