By HANNAH FLEACE
In the evenings between the first book and sleep, three-year-old Yonder was usually droopy-eyed but still awake. So he’d ask for another story. This time, a story from his mom’s imagination.
One of those nights, “Atlin Blue and Miss Scarlet” were born.
“We’d been growing vegetables and herbs for years now,” Author Emily Grace Willis said. “I just kinda came up with the idea of this giant carrot growing.”
She would tell it over and over again in different forms and began to love the story.
Willis wrote the first draft on a family vacation to Wisconsin. It was lengthy, needing cutting and hacking. The next winter, the painting illustrations were finished. Finally, three years after it was conceived, “Altin Blue and Miss Scarlet” appeared in the shops along Broadway.
“I want to encourage kids to garden and encourage them to find magic,” Willis said. “There really is magic when you plant a seed.”
[quote_right]“I want to encourage kids to garden and encourage them to find magic,” Willis said. “There really is magic when you plant a seed.”[/quote_right]
Yonder still likes “voice stories,” but they’ve moved from giant carrots to pirate cats.
While this was Willis’ debut book, she has a few ideas for a second book inspired by her daughter, Lupine.
“I have to thank my son because he inspired it all,” Willis said. “And to Dorothy Brady for starting the community garden in the 1990s. Without the garden and my son, I don’t know if the story would’ve been written.”
Another Skagway local released a book this summer. It’s not a children’s book, but something adults can settle down with.
When Nita Nettleton was a girl she used to thump out stories on her mother’s typewriter. This summer, she published her fourth novel, “Nowhere Else To Go But Dyea.” Her novel follows a newly-freed convict and his adventures and misdeeds in the Alaskan wilderness of Dyea.
But it didn’t start as a novel.
“I started writing a play a couple years ago about a convicted felon,” Nettleton said. “But when Lynn Canal Publishers ventured into fiction, I wanted to be their first fiction author.”
The play became a 208-page book that can be found in the Skagway News Depot and Books. A sequel is in the works, too.
“I tend to try and put unlikely people in mundane situations,” Nettleton said. “Living in Skagway and Dyea is pretty out there, but I tried to figure out who would be the most unlikely to put out there.”
Nettleton is a big believer in writing what you know.
“Skagway and Dyea are so colorful and rich,” she said “It’s a pretty wide arena here, and the people are deliciously diverse.”
The common denominator of the books published this summer, is the artwork by Courtenay Birdsall Clifford.
An Alaskan native and Skagway resident of eight years and self-employed artist, the venture into illustrating was new for Clifford.
She painted the first book cover for a Juneau based company two years ago. Since, she’s done five book covers and has a few more coming.
The illustrations for “Atlin Blue and Miss Scarlet” were a new kind of challenge: fourteen watercolor designs that included plants with facial features that had to have a similar look and style.
“It probably took me about four months total,” Clifford said. “I sketched them all first and then painted them.”
The cover for Nettleton’s book started with two sketches. Publisher Jeff Brady and Nettleton suggested a cabin to go on the front.
“Pretty much, [the] Skagway community was the inspiration and Dyea,” Clifford said. “I’ve painted Dyea a lot. It’s one of my standards so I had an idea.”
Both books can be found in the Skagway News Depot and Books store. Clifford and Willis are selling the original paintings and copies of the book at the Farmer’s Market each month.