Doesn’t everyone love Snoopy? This Valentine’s Day, The Blue Rose Foundation is featuring a favorite author, Ginger Wadsworth. Mrs. Wadsworth’s most recent book is Born to Draw Comics, The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts illustrated by Craig Orback.
Reading to children is such an important part of early childhood development. It is built-in bonding time and an easy way to get in all those words and visual stimulation for the day. Reading “stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.” [Source]
While a vast majority of young children’s books are fiction, it’s great to see other options beyond naming books or dinosaurs. Biographies, such as those Mrs. Wadsworth writes, give us history and dimension to people we might not learn about until one is much older.
Charles Schulz provided so many people quality time with their families, sharing comics on the weekend or watching one of their favorite Charlie Brown holiday specials together. But the story of Schulz, the boy, who had a dream and persevered to make that dream come true, is truly inspiring and a great tool to teach resilience and the growth mindset.
Remember, our future leaders are starting their education today, help them persevere!
Ginger Wadsworth was kind enough to take the time to answer our burning questions. Find out what inspired her to start writing, advice about the best time to start writing, how she found her way to biographies and other genres, and her own story of perseverance.
Q & A With Ginger Wadsworth
What inspired you to start writing?
I came from an unusual family . . . at least I thought so. My dad was a writer; my mother was an artist. Dad worked at home, and he was always there when I came home from school. He interrupted his writing to hear about MY day. After that, I was on my own. Instead of watching television, I could read or have friends over to play quietly in my bedroom. I spent a lot of time exploring the open spaces around my house, and that undoubtedly introduced me to the world of nature. On these explorations, I always took my dog . . . and since then dogs have been part of my life.
My mom taught art and created art. She could make furniture, pottery, jewelry, paint, do Chinese Calligraphy. It all came easily to her. Not me! All my books are illustrated by photographs or someone else’s art, but Mom taught me a lot about “making art.”
I turned to writing as a young parent, inspired by my parents who managed to balance raising three kids with pursuing their own careers. I wrote while school was in session; I turned into a mom after school and during weekends and holidays.
How long have you been writing?
This is an important question, one I’m asked all the time. Students think that they have to be adults to be writers. Not true! It’s all about putting pencil and paper together to write something original. You can be a writer if you’re five or fifty. I started in about the second grade. With my brothers, who are younger, we always wrote little stories in the early morning hours on the weekends, while our parents slept in. I tended to write about horses, since I’ve always dreamed of owning one, and still do! Thank goodness my mother saved these stories. In high school I worked for my school newspaper. College was next and I studied other writers, especially American authors. Along the way, I read everyday. I read everything from poetry to biographies to mysteries to great fictional stories. I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t love to also READ!
What piqued your interest in writing non-fiction books for kids?
When I first tried to write, I finished three middle grade novels. I thought they were really really good. No one else did, so to this day they are unpublished. It took me a long time to discover that I also like to write about STUFF . . . famous people, events, snakes, bears, and even poop! (Poop Detectives, Working Dogs in the Field.) It gives me a great excuse to check out books in the library, do Internet research, go on vacations (like to learn about pioneers), and meet interesting people along the way. I’m kind of a “research junkie.” My office files are filled with IDEAS for new books. I’ll have to live an extra 100 years to write them all:-)
Also, we camped a lot as a family. Growing up in San Diego, California, we weren’t far from the deserts to the east or south in Baja California. Without even knowing it, we were “in school,” learning about birds, scorpions, snakes, geology, plants, southwestern history, and more. No matter where I am, I am always checking out my surroundings. I’ve taught myself a lot about birds, how to listen and analyze sounds in the forests, how to sit quietly and study clouds, etc. In fact everyone in my family enjoys nature, so I suspect that started in my childhood.
What has been your favorite part of writing these books?
The End! Seriously, writing a book is a long, hard process, often with unexpected twists along the way. So getting my very first FINISHED copy of a book, like BORN TO DRAW COMICS, THE STORY OF CHARLES SCHULZ AND THE CREATION OF PEANUTS was quite a thrill! I loved seeing the finished project, seeing Craig Orback’s colorful comic-book style art highlighting my words. It was literally 3 or 4 years from idea to the final book, so that’s why I get so EXCITED!
Take us through your writing process.
It’s not glamorous!! I have to be pretty organized. I don’t have teachers, for example, so I’m in charge of making me work. I have an office in my house, with a computer, research materials, and everything I could need. But then, I have to make myself START! It’s HARD to say no to talking to friends on the phone, to taking naps, walking the dogs, or to reading a fun book, etc.
I don’t have to get dressed (sometimes I wear my pajamas in my office). Maybe I forget to brush my teeth or comb my hair. I have one silly rule: BIC. It stands for “butt in chair,” and that’s what I have to do! I work pretty steadily, day-by-day. And sometimes into the night.
For the Charles Schulz biography (and other books), I rely on file folders which I keep in a big box on the floor of my office. I might have a folder on Minnesota (where CS was born), one on interesting articles about CS, another on his childhood, one with drafts as I write them AND date them, a folder of places related to CS (like his museum in Santa Rosa, California). I also create a timeline, so I have the dates of when he went to school, into the army, got married, his accomplishments AND I write about the times. For example, television didn’t exist when CS was little. No computers either.
Do you have a favorite book or character that you have written about?
Not intentionally. To my surprise, one of my “characters” is the Sierra Nevada, the mountains that run some 400 miles north to south in California. Each of these books is related to these mountains: Camping with the President; John Muir Wilderness Explorer; Seasons of the Bear, A Yosemite Story; Yosemite’s Songster, One Coyote’s Story; Giant Sequoia Trees; and Survival in the Snow. For fun, check them out in your local library.
Was there ever something really surprising that you learned about a character you were writing about that changed how you thought about that character? If so, what was it?
In looking back over the many biographies I’ve written, I’ve come to realize how influential the childhoods were for each of my subjects. And they were often sad or difficult years. For example Charles Schulz grew up in a poor family; both his parents were immigrants. His mother was a homemaker; his father was a barber, earning 50 cents for each hair cut. They wanted him to succeed in school, especially since they’d had such limited educations themselves. They saved and did without so that they could send their son to art school to learn cartooning. Charles Schulz grew up with a quest for knowledge, often self-taught.
Charles Schulz’ parents wanted him to succeed in school. They knew how important education is to a person’s success. We know now, how important preschool is to setting a person on the path to success. That’s why The Blue Rose Foundation focuses on grants to preschools to provide scholarships for those children from families with economic need.
Silver Linings and Post-Covid Dreams:
In last month’s blog, we shared our silver linings and post-pandemic dreams. We also asked you, our supporters, to share your silver linings and post-pandemic dreams with us.
The response was fantastic and inspiring. I wish I were as articulate as our supporters! Starting this month, we are going to include a section with your silver linings and post-Covid dreams.
Enjoy our first Silver Linings and Post-Covid Dreams…we are truly inspired and humbled.
With the vaccine becoming increasingly available and we, hopefully, look to the end of the pandemic, what have we learned? Is there a silver lining?
I’ve learned that the human spirit is resilient, and we have a visceral need for community. Among all the tragedy, people hope and care for each other. I’ve learned that small things matter, a smile or a kind word, bringing a loaf of bread to your neighbor, or calling that friend you haven’t spoken to in several years just to say you are thinking of them.
I’ve learned the beauty of gratitude. I’m grateful for the simple things, my family, our health, a nice day, or a walk in the park. Or the not so simple things, our democracy.
I am grateful for The Blue Rose Foundation’s work and those educators who support and serve our most vulnerable students. Like the Blue Rose Foundation, during these isolating and trying times, I’ve seen the impact of an investment in education. My daughter-in-law teaches in an underserved community, and now, many times, she is the only person, outside the family, her kids see. She is their lifeline. As she has said many times, when education starts young and you can foster it, not only do you educate, you build self esteem. You only need one teacher to believe in a child. During this pandemic, she has had more students come to her during office hours for help, not only with class work, but for life guidance. If there is anytime to invest in education, it is now!
As for the future, once COVID subsides…..I’m looking forward to gathering in person, and rather a smile or kind word, a hug!
Thank you Blue Rose for your commitment to our most vulnerable children!
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