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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Where the Creek Goes Wide

As promised, here's a total change of subject to help mark the shift from politics back to more pleasant diversions of life. The next chapter of "Unsettled" will be coming soon. In the meantime, here's something very different. [This post was actually written last Thursday.]
Those of you who read here may recall that my middle daughter, Kim, is now in college in Chicago. My oldest daughter is a teacher (interim medical leave sub in 3rd grade) who called me last night to borrow "Kim's book," a hand-made hard cover book Kim made for a "Written and Illustrated" contest when she was in fifth grade herself (10 years ago). Em wanted to read it to "her class." [It's not hers but she's been teaching them for a month as the teacher makes miraculous progress from a head injury after a serious bike accident.]

I'll never forget the year Kim took on the task of writing her own book. She did not want to include "people" in the story because she could not draw people. She was much better at doodling flowers and trees and such. Then she needed a "plot" and I helped her with an anthropomorphic "what if" based on some simple pond science: Toads and frogs start out looking alike in the pond but they grow into slightly different critters who live in very different ways. "What if" two became friends in the pond and then "changed."

Kim went with it. She wrote and re-wrote. I kept stressing that stories--especially stories for children--were meant to be read aloud, so we kept "tweaking" the flow of her narrative. I think you'll notice it as you read. I tend to write from an aural approach, too, and you may think you hear me in some of the phrasing, but I can assure you I merely "coached" her. The final wording reflects her writing and reading each line aloud as if to a child.

Then she began her drawings. This took weeks of entire evenings after school, focusing on one "spread" [two open pages] at a time. She set up a "studio" in the breezeway of the "little blue house" and drew and redrew each page. Sometimes she felt like quitting. Sometimes she'd get in a hurry and settle for a drawing that did not look as good as the pages before, and I'd say, "Kim, you really need to do that over again. Think of the book as a whole. Each page needs to look like you cared. The tree toward the end has to look as good as the tree on the first page. It's the same tree." She'd take a deep breath and sigh, "All right. I'll do it again."

We laugh about it now, but she used to think I was making too big a deal out of this project, and I'll admit I was. I really thought she had a good thing going and wanted her to see it through. That's hard for a fifth grader to do--let's face it--it's hard for adults to do.

When the book was done, she sent it in (by mail to a company far away). About a month later it was returned with a letter informing her she got "honorable mention." She was disappointed, but I think she would be very honored indeed to know that a classroom full of third graders heard her story read aloud today by her "big sister" who watched her write it more than a dozen years ago. [I scanned the book last night before giving it to her sister. The pages were meant to be seen in pairs, but that won't work on a blog. If you can't read the text, go to page menu and "zoom in" to 200% . . . or click on each page to enlarge.]




Blogger Nancy said...

How precious is that? Your daughter inherited her dad's way with words and the illustrations are just perfect! I loved the faces on Polly and Tad... TOO cute! You should try to get it published. I think my kindergarten kids would have loved it... especially in the spring when I would bring in hundreds of tadpoles in various stages of development.

9/11/08 8:34 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Wow! You say she did this in third grade? I am a teacher -- 5th grade -- and this in NOT average work. Definitely top of the class stuff. Whoever got 1st place must have really been something!

9/11/08 10:20 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Oh, I am bowled over...my oldest is in 4th grade and actually likes to write now and then, but that is truly amazing...and the illustrations! It looks like a grown up wrote and drew it for children.

She was one talented little girl! Does she still have an interest in those areas? Because I'm sure she could easily get books published now that she is grown...in fact, she probably could get that very one published!
Thanks so much for sharing!

9/11/08 11:59 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

So you know the wonder of tadpoles and pollywogs. My brother Dave was a science teacher and he taught her the difference between the way frog eggs and toad eggs look in the water. I've not seen it for myself, and she wrote this before Google. I should really check it out to make sure it's right.

She has always been creative, and of the three girls, probably most shares my creative quirks, but I think what made this happen was me sitting with her several nights a week to "stick to it" with this project. One weekend we were at a volleyball tournament in Des Moines, and she and I stayed at the motel to finish the last few pages. I was watching TV and she was drawing over on the motel table. She was really getting anxious to be done. There was a lot of coaxing and coaching. We laugh about it now.

The secret was not including people in the story. She still has trouble drawing people. The tadpole stages were easy, but she had to study drawings of frogs (and even cartoons of frogs like the one that used to be on Sugar Smacks) and she had to redraw many pages that just didn't "cut it." That's the sad part to me. I probably pushed a little too hard for that age. Some nights she was not exactly having fun, but she really wanted to do it. It was just a lot more work than she thought it was when she signed up for it.

We bound the book by taking an old worn out thin book, cutting out the pages but leaving about a half inch of paper still "bound" then we glued her pages to the bound stubs of paper. It looked very much like a published book. A friend owned a print shop and made four copies of the original and we bound them as gifts for grandparents and her Aunt Kathy who read it to 1st graders every year for 12 years. She retired last year but still has the book.

She is still interested in art and writing. I told her about this post. She really should try to get it published.

10/11/08 6:25 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...


Kim did this in 5th grade not 3rd.

I goofed. I didn't realize my error until I told Quilly about that volleyball tourament in Des Moines. The girls are two years apart and Em was playing in that tournament. Em was in 7th grade that means Kim was in 5th grade. I then confirmed this on a page not scanned in the book itself which is dated 1998.

I am now officially "old."

10/11/08 6:48 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

That is an awesome story for a 5th grader. Your daughter is incredibly talented.

10/11/08 12:12 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm hoping the others saw my note. The original post said she was in 3rd grade (I was going by what Em told me when she asked for the book). It's kind of hard to read in this format.

10/11/08 5:35 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm hoping the others saw my note. The original post said she was in 3rd grade (I was going by what Em told me when she asked for the book).

All three of my daughters have their own special gifts. Natalie (still here at home) is very gifted musically.

Glad you liked Kim's book. It's kind of hard to read in this format.

10/11/08 5:37 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I think it was an awesome book for a fifth grader to write. I think she should have won the contest.

10/11/08 8:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Had she won, it would have been published. The "Written and Illustrated" company closed up shop that same year.

10/11/08 10:10 PM  
Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Tom: This is absolutely beautiful work. You should be very proud (and I know you are) of your daughter. And how terrific is it that a dad and daughter could work together like this. What a wonderful relationship you have.

Well, I'm ashamed! I thought you had only been writing about politics this last month, and I see I was wrong. Sorry about that! I'll start checking in more often. D

10/11/08 10:53 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Donnetta Lee,
You were not wrong. I was writing about issues that matter to me, but I've moved on--what else can I do? =) Actually, I relocated those for future reference as undefined "CHANGE" plays out, but I'll not be doing that here at POI.

10/11/08 11:18 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Tom, thank you for clearing up the grade she was in, but that is still completely incredible work for a 5th grader...she is truly talented!

11/11/08 2:20 AM  

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