The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Weaving a ribbon of words in Kansas, ND and Ethiopia

Tonight I’m getting ready for my annual writing retreat and thinking about how the ribbon twists and weaves and goes round and round.  I had the thrilldom of reading these words from LeAnn Clark (the Kansas teacher on the left in this picture) to the North Dakota family that gave the money to plant these books in an Ethiopian school:  “The man in pictures is  Ato Berhane Beyene,the librarian at the
library. He taught at Enat (I think that means “mother”) Ethiopia School for 22 years before an Ethiopia Reads library was planted there 3 years ago. He was very proud of his school which is a public. school for grades 4-9. (There is a sister school for grades 1-3 nearby.) There are around 500 students. He is an absolute delight…full of energy and
very animated.

He whizzed around the library holding 2 rather grimy, plastic, water bottles, with pinwheels made from paper from a
student notebook attached to the caps, to demonstrate how he taught the
power of air. You couldn’t wipe a smile from his face as he spoke about the
students’ love for the library. “The students would spend 2-3 hours in the library if it was allowed,” he said.

Whew.  Kansas.  North Dakota.  Ethiopia.  Certain spots on the map feel so far from other spots, don’t they?  But the family that decided to donate the money to plant that library in a school in Ethiopia wanted to honor their North Dakota reading mom.  And I got to visit a great ND school a few weeks ago to say thank you because they raised $1800 to get books to kids in Ethiopia.  In fact, the students voted to skip the books THEY usually get during ND Reading Month because they wanted students in Ethiopia to have books to read.

In North Dakota, I also got to talk to writers at the children’s literature conference at UND and do a presentation about Lanie to classes and moms and grandmas and girls who told me about their gardens and butterflies and bugs.  “Write about what you know about and care about,” I said over and over.  And so the ribbon twists and the words string out in a long, long path from writer to reader, from one reader to another, across generations, across continents.

Written about what you know about and care about, recently?  Visited your library?  Kissed a book?  Started a ribbon on its wandering path?

2 thoughts on “Weaving a ribbon of words in Kansas, ND and Ethiopia”

  1. jane,
    good evening.
    i have an idea for a book for american girl and i’d like your help in knowing who to contact.
    it is about a health and social issue that is beginning to burden our families and health care system and for which at this time there is no cure…. alzheimer’s disease.
    my family found a way to cope with the confusion and silence as we lost my father to this thief.
    i have an idea to share our story that took much of the fear out of it and gave us a way to connect with dear old poppa as he slid away.
    would you be in touch with me at my email address?
    i would greatly value your help.
    my best, james

    • Actually, I had nothing to do with the general theme of either of my American Girl books, nor do I know any of the people (personally) who generated those, alas. I was first contacted by an editor for SABA because they were doing a series called “Girls of Many Lands.” The team knew before I was contacted, the second time, that they wanted a doll of the year who would love and care for the earth. I took it from there and shaped the stories with my imagination.


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