My grandmother, my mother’s mother, died in the late seventies about three years after my grandfather. When many of her nine children cleaned out their parents last home in Belle Plaine, they found the family bible. Under the names and dates of all her children, including the two infants that died, was the sentence in Grandma’s scrawling hand, " My children are more precious than gold".
My grandparents struggled to keep food on the table for their large family during the twenties and thirties. Through all the tough times, those children knew they were loved. They did their best to look after each other. My mother and an uncle have passed away, but to this day though the siblings are scattered between Missouri where they were born and Iowa, they are very close, because family is still important to them.
In the late eighties after the writers workshop in the library, I was thinking at trying my hand to write a book. Hadn’t clue what the story would be. Once day, my mother was looking for something in the antique sideboard in the kitchen. The Great Depression had trained my mother, the eldest of that large family, to never throw anything away. That day, she was rifling through the tablecloths and napkins when a legal size paper slipped out from the pile. She glanced at the paper and handed it to me, wondering if I might be interested in some family history her mother had given her a decade before.
One of Grandma’s sisters had been interviewed by a granddaughter as a 4 H project about their early life and submitted the story to a newspaper. My grandmother and her 11 siblings were born in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Riner, Virginia. At the turn of the twentieth century in that area conditions were rough, and families were poor. I found it interesting to read how the Bishop family lived and what they had to do to survive. That was the start of my book project, but I needed to know more so I went to the Keystone Library and checked out a book on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the customs of the people. I made extensive notes from that book.
By then I had bought a word processor which had some memory. I don’t remember how long it took me to write the book but at least a year. The title is "My Children Are More Precious Than Gold" ISBN 1438240953. Befitting I thought since I assumed my grandmother got her mothering instincts from her mother. Finally, I took a copy in a notebook to my retired teacher mentor. She read and edited the story. Her review was - This book is good reading for anyone and especially a good story for junior readers - sad, funny and dramatic.
I sent out queries and chapters to several publishers but the era the story was written in wasn’t what has been popular with children was my reasoning. That being my first book, down deep I was pretty sure I needed more experience to write a book worth publishing. After months of waiting, I got the rejections slips, gave up and hid the notebook away for over a decade.
My next attempt at writing a book didn’t happen for ten years - 1999.