Sights and Insights - The Missourian: Feature Stories

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Sights and Insights

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 8:43 am

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

— Marcel Proust

For the past couple of weeks, there’s been a new set of eyes in our house. They belong to Nell Whittaker, our 19-year-old English guest — a girl full of enthusiasm, a foodie who sups on good eats and digests books as eagerly as I do. We’ve joked that if she sticks around Washington much longer, neither of us will be able to squeeze out the door by the time spring arrives.

One of the many blessings of having Nell stay with us, other than benefiting from her great sense of humor and all around niceness, are her shared observations. Many of us have lived in this area for years and take our community for granted, not only the beauty surrounding us, but also the wildlife, the friendliness of the people and the literacy opportunities offered through our newspaper.

This is Nell’s first trip to the States, and part of her Missourian internship will be helping with Family Reading Night this Friday. It’s the 14th year for the event, which will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Washington Middle School.

You’d have to be living in a cave to have missed reading about our special guests for that night, Carolyn Mueller, author of “Lily, a True Story of Courage & the Joplin Tornado,” the weimaraner star of her story, Lily, and Lily’s owner, Tara Prosser.

A gray, bounding bundle of energy, Lily lives in Joplin with Tara. She adopted the dog from a rescue shelter. Lily went on to become a search and rescue dog instrumental in the recovery from the Joplin tornado. An eight-chapter serial story about Lily just concluded in The Missourian.

This is all pretty exciting for the story’s author, who you’ll just love when you meet her. Carolyn, a mere pup of a writer, cut her teeth on her first book, “Bubbles, the Dwarf Zebu,” not only writing the book but illustrating it as well. Over the summer, Carolyn gave a presentation on “Bubbles” at Washington Public Library.

Carolyn and I have a bit of history. We met through Reedy Press, the St. Louis company that published “Twist of Fate,” “Patriotic Pals, Tails of Civil War Dogs,” and “My Washington, Photographs and Reflections,” by Jeanne Miller Wood and me.

Prior to Carolyn publishing “Bubbles,” we met for the first time at Barnes & Noble in West County. We struck it off famously, and I left a Carolyn fan, amazed at the young woman’s talent, confidence and humility. She really doesn’t know how clever she is, I left thinking, as I exited the bookstore.

Writing takes an enormous amount of time and the ability to turn off that horrible editor in your head that drones on and on, “You’re going to fail this time. Don’t even try.” Carolyn forges ahead, all fresh-faced zest supported by a work ethic that’s necessary to not only write but to market, which is equally time-consuming and frustrating.

This week, I met a Reedy Press staffer to pick up copies of “Lily,” a March Book Buzz Pick which will be offered for purchase at Family Reading Night and sent to area schools thanks to the goodness of our Book Buzz supporters. I’d seen the manuscript before on the computer, but in print it’s even better — “Wow” about covers this winner, a hardcover that I believe is destined to nab Missouri state library awards.

One of my favorites in the book world, Anita Silvey, says that a noteworthy picture book is the marriage of illustration and text. Carolyn and her illustrator Nick Hayes nail it with “Lily.”

The book debuts here, no one else has seen it yet. Come get your first look, meet sweet Carolyn and marvel at Lily. It will be a night you won’t soon forget — yet another local event to approach with fresh eyes, and a thankful heart.

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