Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Grandma’s wish come true

The late Shirley Mutz’s lifelong dream has come true.
An illustrated collection of her stories, entitled “A Walk Down Fairytale Lane,” is hot off the press—fulfilling Mutz’s wish to pass her magical tales on to not just her grandchildren but to grandchildren everywhere.

The story begins when Mutz’s daughter, Tania Angus, and granddaughter, Ashley Mutz-MacDonald, were taking care of her before she passed away on April 22, 2013.
“When I was younger, Grandma Shirley had a lot of grandchildren and so for a Christmas gift, she sat down and wrote stories and drew pictures,” said Mutz-MacDonald.
“And then she used a photocopier and made us our own colouring books as a gift.
“And then years and years went by, and she was getting a little bit sick, and my Aunt Tania and I were over there taking care of her all the time,” she continued.
“I was over there cleaning out her closet and in a box was a bunch of the stories.
“I said, ‘Oh, Grandma, here’s the stories you wrote when we were little!’” said Mutz-MacDonald.
“Then I found out that it was her lifelong dream to publish these stories.
“I would do anything for Grandma, so when she asked me to publish them, I couldn’t say no,” Mutz-MacDonald noted.
“And then I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, now I’ve got to figure out how to publish these stories.’”
So in February, 2013, Mutz-MacDonald and Angus got to work. Once they started working on the book, Mutz became elated that her tales of wonder soon would be available for the whole world to enjoy.
“Every time we talked about the book with her, her eyes lit up,” recalled Mutz-MacDonald.
“She was so excited. She couldn’t wait for the book to be published.”
Before her passing that April, Mutz also got to see a black-and-white version of the book’s cover, which was drawn by her son, Richard.
And mere weeks before her passing, she posed for a photo to be used on the “About the Author” page for the book.
“She’s got a nice little twinkle in her eye,” Angus said while looking at that photo of her mother.
While gathering together material for the book, Mutz-MacDonald and Angus also found an old letter Mutz once wrote to a prospective publisher, but never mailed, giving that publisher permission to change anything should her work ever see print.
“That just confirmed again how long she’d had this dream of hers,” said Mutz-MacDonald, adding it’s not clear how long ago the letter was written but that the paper definitely was aged and yellow.
Preparing the book for publication was a labour of love. Mutz-MacDonald and Angus spent more than a year-and-a-half getting it ready for publisher FriesenPress, making corrections, separating the illustrations from text, and making a lot of phone calls to their account manager.
“We didn’t realize there was a lot of work with self-publishing,” admitted Angus.
“It was a crazy amount of work,” she added. “We just thought it was a matter of getting her stories and sending them in.”
Both of them also conceded that despite their best efforts, there’s still probably a few typos and grammatical mistakes in the final product.
“Between me and Ashley, we must have read through this book a hundred times, and after a while you just don’t see [the mistakes],” Angus noted.
The family got the book back from the printer just a few weeks ago.
“That was a very big moment for us,” said Mutz-MacDonald.
“To work on something so long, to know that it was important to somebody, and to actually see the finished product, was so awesome,” she enthused.
“We dedicated a lot of time and sweat and tears into that book for Grandma.”
The book is dedicated to the memory of Mutz’s mother, Bertha Livingstone, who first told her the stories of the fairy, “Tiddlywinks.”
“‘Tiddlywinks’ has been in our family for three generations,” Angus smiled. “She’s more well-known to us than Tinkerbell.”
In anticipation of one day having her stories published, Mutz wrote the following passage which appears on the back cover of “A Walk Down Fairytale Lane”:
“Many years ago when I was a child, my mother would put my sister, Audrey, and I to bed. She would tell us stories about a little yellow-haired fairy named Tiddlywinks.
“I went eagerly to bed every night so I could find out what the little fairy has got into. Every night was a new adventure.
“Soon my sister and I were telling each other stories about our little friend, Tiddlywinks.
“We lived in the country on the bank of a wide and fast-flowing river. Sometimes out over the water, in a flash of golden sunlight, I would think I had seen her.
“It would always turn out to be a yellow bird or a butterfly, but I would continue to look anyway.
“As a teenager old enough to babysit, I would tell Tiddlywink’s stories. Then when my children and grandchildren came along, they also heard Tiddlywink’s stories.
“So now I am writing some down and I hope you have as much fun with them as we all did,” concluded Mutz in her dedication.
The 144-page book is a collection of 13 stories with illustrations. It is aimed at children aged three-seven.
Angus said her favourite stories in the book are “The Tooth Fairy” and “Babies” while Mutz-MacDonald simply remarked, “I just love it all.”
But if she had to choose, Mutz-MacDonald would cite the poem, “Remember,” which opens the collection and is dedicated to her grandmother’s sister, Audrey, who was her “fairy-chasing partner” when they were children.
A book launch for “A Walk Down Fairytale Lane” will be held Sunday, Sept. 7 from 3-7 p.m. at the Devlin Hall.
The public is welcome to drop in to buy their copy of the children’s book, have cake and coffee, and visit with family.
The new book has been eagerly anticipated by quite a few people, Angus noted, adding that in the past couple weeks, they keep asking her, “When’s the book launch?”
“It will be a good day to remember Grandma,” echoed Mutz-MacDonald.
“Grandma was a very well-known person in the community,” she noted. “She was always happy and joyful, and people kind of flocked to her, I think.”
“She was always involved in community stuff and had her greenhouse business for years,” said Angus.
“A Walk Down Fairytale Lane” is available now on Amazon.ca in hardcover and paperback, and will become available in e-book format for the Amazon Kindle.
The book also will be sold locally at businesses in Fort Frances and Devlin, including Main Street Market and Dev-Lynne’s.

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