Mildred and Wobegon: My New Picture Book:Turning Frustration into Art…

Wobegon and Mildred

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.




I thought writing children’s books would be refreshingly simple …

After writing, producing, composing and collaborating in the world of musical theater, I thought writing children’s books would be refreshingly simple.  Reality … it is anything but simple, and it is extraordinarily fulfilling.

At a musical theater workshop that I attended with the famous Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, West Side Story), Sondheim said: “God is in the details.”  That has been my mantra as I have pursued my dream to publish my own line of children’s books.

As I launched my new company Booksicals in 2008 and found myself  as author of my debut picture book Too Many Visitors for One Little House and also editor, design director, marketing manager and publisher, I kept Sondheim’s words prominently in my head.

First came the details of character development: the long conversations with illustrator Veronica Walsh, the multiple drafts of character illustrations with decisions about facial gestures, body positions, clothing worn, etc.  And with every draft the ever-present doubts — will anyone really notice this detail?  Will anyone really l care?  Yet with Sondheim’s words reverberating in my head, I forged ahead revision after revision.

And now as I near the end of this wonderfully collaborative and creative process, once again I face the challenge of deciding when is the project finally done. As draft after draft from the printer comes back with a shade of a page too dark, a font that does not italicize nicely, an illustration slightly off center, and other endless details, I ask myself again — will anyone really notice? And just as I’m about to let something slide, I remind myself of Sondheim’s words: ” God is in the details.”