‘Lunch Box Lady’ Can Spice Up Your Writing - The Missourian: Feature Stories

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Sights and Insights ‘Lunch Box Lady’ Can Spice Up Your Writing

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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:42 am, Wed Feb 27, 2013.

Being around Christi Mitchell is energizing. It’s clear from the get-go that this fresh-faced Washington newbie isn’t letting any grass grow under her feet, or lunch boxes go unnoticed.

If you attend her presentation at Washington Public Library on March 7 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., you’ll see what I mean.

Christi will be the gal in the front of the audience with the blue hair and bright clothes, reading and acting out “The Lunch Box Lady,” a book she coauthored with her sister Annette. The program is tailored to children 8-14, but is open to folks of all ages — a sample serving of what to expect from a series of writing workshops Christi will soon teach at ArtCanDo, 618 W. Fifth St.

“The Lunch Box Lady” features Mable, a sweet gal employed at a lunch box factory. The perky do-gooder nearly gets her dreams derailed when Mrs. Cruncherton throws a toothpick in the works.

Set-in-her ways, the old crank wants the Munch Lunch Box Factory to produce brown lunch boxes as mundane as the contents they’ll hold, onion soup and water, an entrée sure to make any student weep.

Fortunately, Mable has an admirer at the factory, Mr. Munch, its founder. He puts the lid on ol’ Mrs. Cruncherton. Soon Mable’s back to fashioning lunch boxes with pizzazz, packed with healthy food and snacks.

A theater major, actress and writer, Christi hails from Wyoming and has lived in Washington since mid-December. She moved here after her husband Josh accepted a position with The Missourian. Besides turning out newspaper copy as a reporter, Josh has written two books and formed his own publishing company, West South Publishing. “He’s a real inspiration to me,” Christi said.

The two have lots in common, writing for starters. Christi’s last position teaching writing and composition was in Wyoming as an adjunct professor at Laramie County Community College. Prior to living in Wyoming, where Christi was raised, the couple resided in Mississippi, Josh’s home state and the birthplace of “The Lunch Box Lady.”

Mable sprang out of Christi’s mind and onto the page when the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education encouraged her to design a lesson plan as a teaching artist. The timing was perfect because the area had just pushed to get fried catfish off school lunch menus. And that’s how the idea for “The Lunch Box Lady” came to fruition. “I just let my imagination go,” Christi said.

So did her other sister, Anita. She created the eye-catching illustrations in the book. Anita cut the fonts and shapes for the story out of construction paper, and sent them to Christi who used her sewing machine to attach them to the pages. “I’m not a computer layout person, but I can craft things,” Christi said with a smile.

The result is an inviting book with kid appeal designed to highlight the gift of creativity and the Golden Rule, with a bit of nutrition thrown in for good measure.

As any author will tell you, writing a book is the first challenge; the real trick is knowing how to market your work — getting it into the hands of readers. A hard sell isn’t Christi’s style, but being brave and taking risks sure is.

Soon after Christi moved to town, she knew she wanted to continue to work, incorporating her writing and acting skills as she has in other places she’s lived, so she began exploring local possibilities. Driving down Fifth Street in Washington she noticed the sign on the front of ArtCanDo and emailed the owner, later stopping by with her portfolio.

“The Lunch Box Lady” doesn’t come up with half-baked ideas. In mid-March Christi will kick off her newest adventure, teaching writing for children and adults at ArtCanDo.

The program at the library will give people a taste of what to expect from a newcomer sure to make her mark in Washington, a teaching artist who said she wants to give back what she knows “by helping others shine.”

For more details about Christi’s workshops at ArtCanDo, people can email beverlyann@artcando.org, or phone Beverly Ann Wells, 314-706-3961.

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