I always seem to take on one ambitious homemade gift project at the holidays each year. This year it was to write a book for my niece. I complicate this sort of project by not only needing to write the story and illustrate it with photographs but also by printing and binding the book myself. Fortunately I always center the story around my animals so that I’m sure to enjoy the project!
I’m a little surprised to find that this is the third book that I’ve written for my niece and the fourth overall (one for my nephew.) The first book was Monte’s First Few Days, about Turkey Trot Mountain Man, my third Fell Pony foal. That story is included in A Humbling Experience. In addition to giving the book to my niece, I also made a copy for Monte’s owner when she bought him a year later.
The second book was My Furred and Feathered Friends, a sticker book that described each of my ponies plus two breeds of ducks, a breed of turkeys, and a breed of dairy goats. Each page described a different animal, then there were stickers in the back of the book to be removed to illustrate each page.
Several years went by, and then two years ago I wrote My Lucky Thirteen. Each page was dedicated to one of the ponies here at Willowtrail Farm at that time. Each description of a pony concluded with a question that could be answered by close reading of descriptions of other ponies. For instance, the question about Willowtrail Jonty asked who his grandmother was, with the hint: it’s the mother of his mother. My sister told me that she and my niece sat right down and read the book, and my niece really enjoyed the questions. Her one word feedback was “Awesome!” Nice!
This year’s book was entitled My Name is Madie, about Willowtrail Spring Maiden, born in 2011. I’m pretty sure my niece is tired of receiving books about ponies, since she’s not equine-obsessed like her aunt! What my niece really wanted from me, though, was instructions on making a book. Earlier in the year when she began asking for the instructions, it became clear that it would be very difficult to convey the instructions without either her standing beside me or me taking notes as I actually went through the process. Since she didn’t come to visit this year, the second option was the one I adopted. So she got one last book to illustrate the gift that she really wanted.
To give my niece what she really wanted, I complicated an already complex book project even more by taking photographs and writing instructions each step of the way. Then things got more complicated again when I got the flu, which slowed progress. Then Fed-Ex got behind on deliveries because of high holiday volume, so when I ran out of printer ink the project was delayed for two days waiting for delivery of new cartridges. You won’t be surprised to hear, then, that I ended up overnighting the book to arrive on Christmas Eve! A friend recently observed that my creative juices seem to be enhanced by looming deadlines. I’m afraid he’s right!
I have two more copies of My Name is Madie to make: one for her current owner and one for my mentor who bred Madie’s dam. As I finished this project, I began to wonder if other people would be interested in these hand-made books. If you’d like to give me feedback, I’d love to hear it!
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2012