I am busy at work finishing the latest draft of my new picture book: Wobegon and Mildred- a friendship/quirky love story between two miserable parking ticket givers that everyone hates. Two things influenced and inspired this book: One was my frustration with getting parking tickets and the other: Mybeloved mother.
I grew up with a wonderful mom who loved and nurtured my sis and I and gave us everything. I love her dearly and she is my mentor in so many ways. But one thing that I didn’t want to learn from her…. that was her ability to find fault with everything. My desire to remake my mom into a positive thinker has been an impossible task. So I found a way to convert my frustration into art….hence Wobegon and Mildred, the picture book, was born.
And why parking ticket givers??? I also have a BIG problem with getting parking tickets. I got at least 10 BIG FAT PARKING TICKETs last year and most of them were RIGHT on my OWN block. And once day, I was doing my husband a favor by dropping off a file at his office and I met my character: MILDRED: I was stopped on the red in front of his office and ‘Mildred” came up to my window: “No PARKING LADY,” said ‘Mildred’. “Maam,” I said, “Don’t worry I’m not parking, I’m just going to hand this envelope to my husband’s secretary.” “No Parking,” she reiterated…. “I know,” I replied politely… “Here she is. “I’m just going to hand her this and be gone.” “No Parking!” she retorted. “I’m not parking. See my car is on. I’m just going to hand this young lady an envelope.” “Lady,” she snorted. “If YOU are NOT MOVING, then YOU are STANDING. And there is NO STANDING on this spot!” “Can I just please hand her this envelope?” I begged. But when I saw ‘Mildred’ taking out her pad of BIG FAT PARKING TICKETS — I took off. And so I had met my real life Mildred and had the beginning of my character!
Writing Mildred and Wobegon has been really fun. It has been a way of channeling something negative into something beautiful. And my way of doing this is writing a children’s book. So here I am, working in the characters, finding their pet peeves, and figuring out a way to make two miserable characters appealing. I am now on the 10 or 12th draft and still trying to get it right.
Will keep you posted….
Susan Chodakiewitz is author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House and the Founder of Booksicals-Encouraging Reading Through the Arts.