Last week I received an email from a graduate student in Texas.
"I'm a 25-year old grad student," she wrote, "my parents are selling the house I grew up in, and I've been asked to 'clean out' all my childhood books to give away...I came across my worn copy of your book Just Plain Penny and started reading it again immediately. Right away, memories of a long, hot summer spent reading that book over and over came to me. I remember how much I loved to pretend to be Penny and wished I had bright red hair and freckles. What's more - I realized I still love the book and plan to keep it...I just wanted to write and say how much I still enjoy our book - almost 20 years after I first received it!"
We had just moved to a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the summer I began Just Plain Penny. The view outside my writing room window was one I had dreamed of since I was a child living in suburban Detroit, longings I invested my fictional character with. "In the distance," Penny imagined, "fields of ripening corn and alfalfa would cover the hills with a patchwork of gold and green."
I loved writing Just Plain Penny but I never dreamed that somewhere in Texas a little girl would spend the summer reading and rereading the book. Even further from my thoughts was the possibility that 20 years later, the book would still hold meaning for her.
Several years ago, I received another letter from a film producer:
"Every year during the holidays I am reminded of Noelle of the Nutcracker," she wrote. "I make some hot tea, pull out my copy of the book and read it with a big smile on my face...as a young girl growing up poor in Indiana, I dreamed of being a ballerina, oh, and of having my dolls talk to me! Now that I think of it, the fact that I became a film producer and find great joy in bringing other people's creations to life probably is somewhat routed in the lessons I learned from you."
Who could imagine that the books we write from our own dreams, fantasies, and realities could transform the lives of children, who in turn grow up and touch the lives of others? As my friend and fellow author, Kay Winters says, "Way leads on to way."