Seeing one of my book jackets for the first time is always an emotional experience for me. It’s this moment that tells me the book is truly finished, and I can’t ever know this without feeling a mixture of happiness and sorrow—or without revisiting the stages of taking that particular book from conception to cover. Seeing the finished jacket for How High the Moon was especially nostalgic for me, as I remembered how it all began.
I had gone with my daughter to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at what has to be the most magnificent theater ever made: the Stefanie H. Weill Center in Sheboygan, WI. I’d heard the history of this theater and visited the site online, but nothing prepared me for what was waiting inside. It was purely magical! So magical, that try as I might to keep my eyes on the screen for what is one of my all-time favorite classics, all I could “see” was a little girl with dark curls, hiding somewhere above the seats, catching the matinee for free.
I harbored this image in the back of my mind for weeks, knowing that little girl would be the protagonist of my next book and that the Weil Center would provide the backdrop, but unsure of what the story would be. That is, until my dear friend Brenda Larsen and another close friend came to visit. Brenda had been diagnosed with brain cancer, and as much as I tried to remain hopeful that she could beat the horrifying odds, in my heart, I feared she’d die.
We were sitting in a restaurant—three friends sharing and laughing like we’d done together for at least a decade, Brenda’s dire predicament temporarily disregarded because that’s what she wanted —when Brenda brought up “The Taxi Stand Ladies.” She could hardly believe that in all the years we’d been friends, she’d never told us about them. Nobody could tell a story better than Brenda, and she had us in stitches as she painted a visual portrait of herself as a child. Sometimes on her way to the movie theater she would stop and talk to The Taxi Stand Ladies—the name she’d given the two beauties who stood on her street corner, Brenda oblivious to the fact that they were hookers. She told us about the day they adorned her with make-up, and how livid her father was when he came home and found her standing before the mirror, singing into the handle of her hairbrush, looking like a "Taxi Stand Lady." And suddenly, the story of the dark-haired little girl hiding in the theater sprang to life.
Brenda knew the power of stories to heal us, entertain us, teach us, and connect us to each other. It is what made her such a great storyteller, and why she so championed my writing. Now that Brenda is gone, I find added meaning in being able to share a small part of her history—and a whole lot of her spirit—with you through Isabella "Teaspoon" Marlene.
My heartfelt gratitude to all of you who will welcome Teaspoon and her family-of-the-heart into your lives. Thank you so much for buying and sharing my books, reviewing them on Amazon and your blogs, and writing me such enthusiastic emails. Your efforts not only warm me and inspire me, but they help guarantee that I’ll be able to continue waking up every morning to do what I love to do most. To show my appreciation, I’ve heeded your promptings and am currently writing a sequel to The Book of Bright Ideas. I’ll keep you posted!