Posted in Blog by People's Press on July 7, 2011
It’s one thing to write a novel, but when it’s finally published and released for the first time it’s an entirely different story. We spoke with first-time author and long-time Aspen resident Sandy Munro about the June release of his book, “Finding Uri,” and what it’s like to take something so deeply personal and make it public for the first time.
Your book, Finding Uri, is about your discovery of a shoe box full of letters written between your mother and your father, who died when you were only three years old during World War II. What’s been the response so far?
The thing that seems to come up for a lot of people is they realize they too have letters that tell a story. I’ve sent all these people rummaging looking for old letters!
That’s what prompted this whole project for you—letters from a sent in a shoebox.
Yes. I discovered 190 letters in a musty old shoebox. It was totally unexpected. My mom was the life of the party type. She was very outgoing and yet she never told me about any of this. My father was killed when I was three-and-a-half. I only have one fleeting memory of him. I read one letter and saw they were very emotional. I realized I couldn’t just start reading willy-nilly. Some were six or seven pages long. So I put them in a fireproof lock box and it was a year before I started reading them. I was writing about experience as I was reading the letters for the first time. So the reader is with me on that journey. It took me almost two years to read the letters and do the research about that time period and the war and the naval ships he was stationed on. It’s like “Bridges of Madison County” meets a naval aviation manual or something [laughs].
What inspired you?
My editor, Karen Chamberlain, was diagnosed with liver cancer and passed away two weeks before the book was finished. She was a great lady. She said all families have stories. They’re all important to somebody, and they all deserve to be told. It’s a way to connect with your roots and make them live again. Reading those letters, it was like I was with my Mom and Dad again, getting to know my mother as a 23-year-old woman who was madly in love. The importance of family stories and tradition of family stories is what has been amplified in my mind.
What was the experience like for you?
There’s nothing like the tactile sense of a written letter. My mother had written the last twenty-six letters after she’d received a telegram that he was missing, so they were marked return to sender. When I opened them, they had been sealed since 1945. Some of them they had perfume in there, and you could still smell it.
Why do you think she never told you about all this?
I’d hear little snippets here and there. She remarried when I was eight years old. My stepfather was my father for all practical purposes. She would talk sometimes about Uri, but I only got little sketches. I went to a prep school that also happened to be a prep school for Annapolis. I knew if I didn’t go somewhere my parents would kill me, so I went to Annapolis. Part of what I explored in this book are some similarities. Uri was a naval aviator flying in torpedo bombers off of the USS Enterprise. I never gave a moment’s thought that I was following in his footsteps and yet in a way I was, I became a naval pilot.
What’s the reader response been like so far?
I’ve had people tell me they stayed up through the night reading and others who found it so emotional they could only take it in small doses. So far it’s been gratifying because I haven’t had any bad reviews. Of course at this level, you don’t get bad reviews. You just don’t hear from people [laughs].
How did it feel to put the letters away?
It was good to lock the letters back up in the box. I spent so much time with them, it was kind of a relief. And I’m really happy the book has been well received so far.
Posted in Blog by People's Press on June 29, 2011
People’s Press: As a writer and a mother, it would seem a natural step for you to want to write a children’s book. What was your experience like as a first-time writer in this genre? What were some of the rewards and challenges?
Amiee White Beazley: I can’t say that I had a long-term plan to write a children’s book. I am the editor of edbileASPEN, a contributor to several other pubs, and have been working on a YA (young adult genre) novel for years. Last fall, I was actively working on completing that project when this story evolved. But as a mother of two boys, I have spent a fair amount of time reading and creating impromptu children’s stories with the kids, so it certainly did cross my mind at times. So when Tanner and I came up with the bare bones of what is now Snowmastodon! Snow Day Adventure, it felt like the right story at the right time—and it is! One of the obvious rewards is that my children have a story that encapsulates a time in their lives that they won’t soon forget. The challenges are making sure that every word does the work it was intended to do, and that children are captured by the story and illustrations.
Illustrations are such a big part of a children’s book writing effort. How did you first team up with Paul Antonson, and what was the process like?
Paul and I knew each other at Syracuse University, where we both graduated in 1995. We hadn’t been in touch in a while, but through mutual friends (and Facebook, of course) we reconnected. After college, Paul lived in Vermont and then New York City where he developed a specialty in drawing mountains and “furry beasts.” He was perfect for the project, and our personalities clicked again after so many years. So I had already come up with the story, and after reading an early draft, he was on board.
The book was inspired by the 2010 Ice Age discoveries in Snowmass. Tell us a little more about that and how it translated so well into a story for children.
My husband Brian and I took our boys Tanner and Brady to see the bones and tusks last fall during a public display in Snowmass. On our way home Tanner and I were playing a game where we created a story about what the animals would have done in Snowmass, what their lives were like, that sort of thing. When I got home, I sat down and wrote it all down. The discovery is one of those things that not only defines a geographic place like Snowmass, but for kids, it will define part of their childhood. I wanted this story to be a part of that—for them to remember the mastodons and sloths with adorable faces and with great character and a fun story. The main part of our book is a fun, fictional, snow day story that is inspired by the [archeological] dig, but the back of the book is a three-page nonfiction story that tells the actual story of the dig and the animals. So it’s really two books in one.
What do your kids think about the book?
They love it! Brady, who will be three this summer, has the cutest pronunciation of “Snowmastodon!” I have ever heard. And Tanner, of course, knowing the hand he had in formulating the story, feels a real ownership and pride in the project. They have been very patient with me during some intense days and weeks on the book, and love to hear me read to other children. They always find a spot right next to me, so that everyone knows we are a team. And indeed we are!
Posted in Blog by People's Press on June 14, 2011
Come meet Snowmastodon and her friends Sloth, Beaver, Bison, Salamander, and Mammoth.
Author Amiee White Beazley and Illustrator Paul Antonson will read from their new book: Snowmastodon! Snow Day Adventure.
When: 3:30 - 5:30pm
Where: Viceroy, Snowmass Village, CO
For more information: 970.704.5829
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