In celebration of the recent release of A Year with Mama Earth, Rebecca Grabill joins us today to tell what was on her country road, children’s hands, and list of scariest things. She also talks about the mysterious and wondrous things that surround us.
Rebecca is a poet and writer of both lyrical and spooky books. Yes, you read that right. She is a writer with a bard’s soul and has a special love for things that go bump in the night. The result is four books, each gorgeous in its own way. A Year with Mama Earth puts a lovely, intimate spin on mother nature and her changing seasons. One of my favorite lines reads, “In September, Mama Earth sighs out the first autumn frost, which crunches under children’s feet.”
A YEAR WITH MAMA EARTH
Mama Earth looks after nature’s plants and animals throughout the year—singing lullabies to fat bears in the fall, dressing evergreens in icicles in winter, and waking up the crocuses in spring. And in the summer, Mama Earth sends warm sunbeams to her beloved children, so they can play outside and enjoy the amazing world around them.
With enchanting text and radiant artwork, A Year with Mama With enchanting text and radiant artwork, A Year with Mama Earth offers a joyous celebration of nature’s beauty and the changing seasons.
Sweetened Condensed is equally as lyrical. Intended for adults, it combines free verse about being a writer and mother of six. It’s illustrated with Rebecca’s own black and white photography. And then, comes the quick gear change with Halloween Good Night. It’s still poetic, but filled with all sorts of goblins and witches and other scary (but not too scary) things. Violet and the Woof riffs on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, playing on atmospheric details to make sure that every reader knows that a journey through an apartment building is just as frightening as the darkest of darkest woods.
Rebecca grew up with writing all around her, falling asleep to the sound of her mother creating short stories and the clack, clack of the typewriter that came along with it. Rebecca wrote her own first story at seven, and has been writing ever since. Rebecca joins us from rural Michigan, where she leads an incredibly busy life packed to the brim with writing, photography, children, and a couple of cats. Please welcome Rebecca Grabill as she tells us What Was on her . . .
Country Road: Oh, the usual. Deer and turkeys and huge snapping turtles (there’s a marsh down the hill), and this one time I opened my door to see a sweaty, dirt-streaked man groaning in pain. Our property abuts public hunting land which is also criss-crossed by a mountain biking trail—notorious for its hidden rocks and pitfalls. I walk the trail, and have jogged it on occasion. The one time I tried riding it, I noped my bike right on home. The man in pain had wrecked, walked his bike a mile out of the woods, and knocked at the first door available. Mine.
Kitchen Table: Connecticut! It’s a big table. J/k. My 2nd grader is learning the states in the order in which they joined the union, so clearly we have a ways to go. I also have several unreturned library books that should have gone in a certain preschooler’s backpack before schools were closed, a clipboard of worksheets from his speech session, printed nature journal pages which I created to go along with A Year With Mama Earth (find them here!), a tall oil lamp, and my oldest son’s desk set-up, recently transferred from his dorm room to my kitchen.
Children’s Hands: I would love to say you’d find only the remnants of fresh soap and water, but considering I just moments ago pulled my toddler away from the toilet where he was using a toothbrush to … never mind. It’s actually a question I ask often, as in, “What on earth — is that____?” (Options include: glitter, Sharpie, nose goblins, chocolate, please say it’s chocolate, etc.)
Living Room Wall: Conveniently my living room wall is shared with my office-corner wall (or corner office, when I want to sound fancy). So I have everything from two antique paintings created by a long-dead relative, to several pieces of artwork made by my daughter. My favorite items are one of the paintings, which always makes me wonder what sort of life that great-great-somebody lived, and a collage made by my daughter in a 3rd-ish grade art class. She doesn’t understand why I love her artwork so much, but I never grow tired of looking at it.
Desk: Do you mean things on my desk or the desk itself? 😉 On the desk I have a few favorite Garbage Pail Kid Funkos, my treasure box full of Relics like a kazoo and a chunk of meteorite, a rosary, a small Pantocrator at Sinai (people ask me all the time if I’m Catholic—probably the six kids with saint names. The answer is a surprising, Nope, I’m not!), and a cool set of coasters shaped like a typewriter. But the desk itself is decoupaged with images I find inspiring or funny or endearing, including a visual representation of four of my children (the ones who were born when I made the desk). One could probably psychoanalyze the desk and discover more about me than I know myself. Care to try? Also, see if you can spot my four oldest children.
Favorite Things about Picture Books: I love how they have no rules except to delight. Truly, every time someone writes a book about “how to write picture books,” one will appear on the shelves that is amazing and beautiful and breaks every rule in the book. The possibilities are absolutely endless, which makes them amazing and sometimes terrifying in their limitless undefinable mystery.
Halloween Walk: In the literal sense, we van it over to a local subdivision to Trick-or-Treat, because walking half mile for each house where we live is just not that much fun. The suburb we visit gets their Halloween on like it’s their job. People sit in driveways with contained bonfires and jello shots (for parents). They have “haunted driveways” and give out full sized candy bars and cans of soda. It’s the Holy Grail of Halloween.
Metaphorically, however, I believe we live in a haunted world. I’m not talking about ghosts and goblins (or am I??). Mysteries are everywhere. In nature, in the city. I was raised and spent most of my life in a small town’s inner city and one distinct Halloween memory involved trick-or-treating far, far from home. So far, in fact, my mother wasn’t sure how to get us back. The world changed in a few short blocks—from safe and known, to mysterious and full of creatures lurking in every shadowy garage. Nothing notable was different between that block and my own, merely my perspective. I believe we can cultivate a haunted perspective, or one of wonder, and experience the mystery in the everyday. That’s what my character in Violet and the Woof does, and what I strive to do as well.
Index of Scariest Things:
Hand Sanitizer Shortages
A World Without Mystery
A World Without Hope
A World Without God
Being a Parent (especially when adding in any of the above)
Camera Viewfinder: I find it hard to take pictures with little children in tow. I need to be able to focus (literally and otherwise), to easily move my body into position for the right shot—stand high, crouch low, find a different angle altogether—a challenge with a baby in a sling. The times I’ve tried taking my camera out in the past few years, I have mostly captured blurred moments cut short by chasing after one of the kids with a, “No, no, no, don’t …” (put that up your nose, eat that, touch the original Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, hit him with that, throw that, etc.).
Favorite Photographer’s Mind: I talked about Dewitt Jones in a radio interview with Atom Gac, and while Jones may or may not be fave photographer (I’m not sure I have a favorite), I’ve listened to many of his lectures online. One of the most important ideas he shared, one that resonated with me incredibly, I wrote about on my blog, Beyond the First Right Answer. Is it super lazy if I just direct you there?
Her Mind: My brain is constantly humming city with subterranean passageways, clogged streets, skyways filled with blimps. I’d say the best way to know what’s on it is to look at the open tabs on my phone and laptop. Here’s a summary. Ready? Two math worksheet generators, Urban Dictionary Thesaurus searching slang synonyms for “Jerk,” an explanation of the origins of a particular Kanji, the Sustainable Arts Foundation portal, two pages on COVID-19, a mentorship program to support underrepresented authors, Canva for creating graphics, the PBS series Colonial House, searches on rare genetic anomalies, a summary of Dante’s Inferno, apraxia and speech therapy resources, a recipe for the absolute best fried rice (it was really good!), “15 Signs You Have an Emotionally Abusive Mom,” a seizure tracking website, the trailer for the movie, Krampus, and many, many more. In total, I have 62 tabs open. I’ll let you guess which are for research and which are for home and life. 😉
I also think quite a bit about the vital importance of stories. They heal, inspire, transport, teach, and walk beside us—they can be challengers, avengers, friends. Every child wants, and I believe needs, to find themselves in some book, somewhere. No child, ever, should look through all the books and find no hint of themselves.
My calling is to serve the child who will find themselves through my stories—which is different from your calling, and from any other author’s. There’s value in all of our stories because there is value in every child. I firmly believe that if we remember this value, if we treasure it in our hearts and work to make sure every child has a story just for them, our world can be an amazing place.
Thank you, Rebecca! Here’s to children. And here’s to stories. And here’s to the wondrous things that happen when you put the two together.
If you would like to order A Year with Mama Earth, Sweetened Condensed, Halloween Good Night, or Violet and the Woof, simply click on the images below.
If you would like to know more about me and my upcoming books, visit me at sandranickel.com.