Library’s summer program engages youngsters
By Stan Schwartz
VANDALIA—A small group of children and adults sat enraptured last Thursday when author Jennifer Adam read from her first published novel, “The Last Windwitch,” bringing to life the characters she had put on its pages.
Crystal McCurdy, with the Vandalia Library, introduced Adams to the audience, letting them know that the author, like them, read lots when she was their age.
She wanted to make sure that the children had signed up for the summer reading program, because those who did, were automatically entered to win the weekly prizes being offered by the library.
She noted that the big grand prize, to be given away in August, is a Kindle Fire tablet.
“And each week you come in and show us something you’ve read,” McCurdy added, “you get your named added to the box for the prize.”
Adam also had copies of her books that she was willing to sign for the children, as well as some creative prizes.
Adam said she had lived in the Vandalia area for quite some time and was more than happy to return to share her first novel with the people of this community.
“I will tell you a secret that most people don’t know,” Adam said. “The original title of the book was ‘Three Feathers.’” The three feathers play a significant part of the story’s plot, she noted. “You guys will be the only children who know that this is not the original title; that we changed it,” Adams added pointing to the book’s cover.
“The Last Windwitch” came about, she said, while she was waiting on feedback for another novel she had written. But as it turns out, her literary agent was able to get the children’s book sold before Adam’s other novel.
“I wanted to keep my mind occupied,” she explained. “So I thought it would be fun to write a story about all the things I love: I love horses and I love birds, and I love dogs and I love mischievous animals, and magic and grit and adventure.” She wanted to write about brave characters doing really difficult things.
She showed the children the notebook she used to write down her ideas. As it turns out, she does a lot of her writing by longhand.
Adams said she would scribble in the book when an idea occurred to her. But one look at the little notebook with precise handwriting and those in the audience knew she never scribbled.
“I have one of these by my bed, and one in my car and one in my bathroom,” she said, “because everyone knows the best ideas come when you’re taking a bubble bath.”
One day, she noted, she just sat down at the computer with just the images of the characters in her head and started writing.
“I didn’t know where the story was going to go, “ she said. The biggest inspiration for the book, she added were her wild horses.
“They’re not wild anymore,” she said. But at first they were so scared of people that she could not even look at them without them running away. She wanted to be able to help them, but all the books she read on the subject started with putting one’s hands on the horse. Adam could not even get close to them to start that process, so she had to figure out some other way to reach them.
Seeing how her Mustang reacted to the world around it, gave Adam the inspiration to write “The Last Windwitch.”
With that, Adam read an excerpt from her book. As she brought her main character to life, those in the audience seemed to lean in a little closer to catch all the words, every description, every action.
Adam answered question after question from the audience after she was done reading. She noted that she had seen the characters in her imagination first before committing them to paper.
She is a graduate of the University of Missouri, with a degree in agriculture.
She also enlisted the help of her son, Alec, who is now a senior in college and her daughter, Taryn, who is going to graduate this year. She said her son is great at naming characters for her and her daughter helped her with writing battle scenes.
“She is my reader, and I would send her chapters to look over,” Adam said.
The name for the main character, Brida, she added came fully with her imagining of the character.
Adam said this is a stand-alone book, but she has been contracted by her publisher, Harper-Collins, to write a second novel. Even though that one will have magic and horses in it, she added, it would be different than this one.
The other book she wrote before “The Last Windwitch,” she said didn’t go anywhere. She’s thinking about rewriting it as a historical novel. It was written for adults, she noted.
Most of the adults in the audience were interested in knowing more about the publishing process in getting one’s novel into print. Most of the time, Adam said, it takes an enormous amount of time, what with editing and going through various drafts before a final version is ready for store bookshelves. Some people take a different route and self-publish. But how the book looks and the marketing is done by the individual. With a publisher, all that is handled by the company, and the author receives royalties for the book after getting paid for the initial writing of the book.
Adam said she always knew she would be a writer. Recently, while cleaning her house, she found papers her grandmother had saved from when she was in first grade. She was taught how to fold and staple pages together to make a book. And that first story had unicorns and a young girl on an adventure.
The library’s next program is July 21 at 1 p.m. Charles Overton with a music program. After that, the Bubble Professor, Rick Eugene, will come in for a 10 a.m. program.