Veronica’s Gifts

Categories: Children's books
March 22, 2010

I am happy to say that I have finally begun actual work on my children’s story ‘Veronica’s Gifts’.

I must admit that I hit a snag very shortly after revealing my story idea here.  I realized that it would be very difficult to write a story about children not receiving a gift at Christmas, without bringing up some serious questions about Santa Klaus.  I certainly don’t want to be responsible for any children of the world realizing that the big S. doesn’t exist.  (I mean heck, last Christmas Eve I set my computer up with the Norad Santa tracker for my niece and nephew, just to keep the dream alive.)

Checking out Norad

Checking Santa's Progress

Anyway, I searched online to see if I could find examples of children’s Christmas books that involved gift-giving but not Santa, and came up empty handed.

I asked my personal advisory committee (my husband and my sister) what they thought I should do.  Scott suggested leaving Santa out entirely, just pretending he doesn’t exist (doesn’t exist?!?). Tara told me about the time she tried to tell her kids about the toy drive for needy children at the mall, and they wondered why Santa wouldn’t be bringing presents to those kids just because they were poor.

The Santa Issue nearly put an end to the project all together.

But, I’ve decided to press on.  I’ll write the story without a Santa character, and then once I’m finished, I’ll decide whether to add him in.  That way, the story will at least get finished, and my grandmother will get to enjoy it, even if no one else.  Which was the point anyway.

So, I’m using Book in a Month, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.  And so far I’ve come up with the one-sentence story summary (A mischievous girl demonstrates the true spirit of Christmas when she learns that the children in her neighborhood will not receive a Christmas gift.) and a Story Idea map for Act 1 (I’ll keep this under wraps.)

If anyone has a suggestion for the Santa Issue, drop me a comment or send me an email. I’d be grateful to hear it :)

A quick note about books for Dementia patients

Categories: Children's books,Uncategorized,Working on
February 25, 2010

Ok, so this is not going to be a blog about Alzheimer’s disease, I promise, but…

Easy reading storybook for memory challenged adults

The Sunshine on My Face

…I thought I’d mention that I got the idea for ‘Veronica’s Gifts’ while perusing The Alzheimer’s Store for a gift for my Grandma last Christmas.  The store features tools to assist dementia patients and their helpers deal with every aspect of living with the disease.  Noble work!  It also has a section on Toys and Books.  In the books section there are activity books, colouring books, and storybooks, that look like they are meant for children.  Dementia patients are like children in many ways.

When I found out that there is a daily story time at my Grandmother’s nursing home, I got a little excited.  You know, how neat would it be for Gran to have a story about her told at one of those story times.  Even though Veronica’s Gifts is intended for children, this is where the idea for the story came from.

Anyway, if you’d like to learn more about Dementia and Alzheimer’s, check out  And, if you are struggling with what to buy for a family member or friend who is struggling with the disease, check out The Alzheimer’s Store.

“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young”

~Sir Arthur Pinero

Working on: Veronica’s Gifts

Categories: Children's books,Family,Working on
February 24, 2010

{Disclaimer: Extra-long post}

As I’ve stated just about everywhere on this site, my goal is to become a published author.  I would like to write books for adults, books for children, and articles in magazines.

I have many children’s book ideas in the queue, but the one that I am working on at the moment is based on a story that my Grandmother used to tell me about her childhood.

At the outset, I will tell you that my Grandma now suffers from mid to late stage Alzhiemer’s, but she was an excellent storyteller in her day (she is Irish after all.)  The mischief she got hersef into growing up in Ireland inspired many of the wonderful tales she told to me as a little girl.

Grandma, around 1926

Grandma, around 1926

Anyway, my Grandmother grew up in Dublin in a neighborhood called Harold’s Cross, which at the time was greatly affected by poverty.  Her mother owned the neighborhood general store, and her father was on disability from the post-office.  Her family lived in the two bedroom apartment above the store, and she shared one of those bedrooms with her brother’s and sisters.  Life was not easy, but her mother (my great-grandmother) was a hard worker and a survivor – they lived modestly but they were far better off than the people around them.

Every year at Christmas, Gran would tell me about what Christmas was like in Harold’s Cross.  Like I said, Gran’s family lived modestly, but they did receive a Christmas gift every year (and by that I mean one, very small, gift.)  Gran always felt badly that none of her friends got a present.  Well, one year (I think she might have been 8 or 9) she got it into her mind to make sure that all the kids in her neighborhood got something on Christmas Day.  So, she and her best friend went around to the neighborhood kids and told them to unlatch their windows on the evening of the 24th.

*To clarify this story for you, I suspect that Gran was a wee bit of a trouble-maker.  In fact, she probably made my great-grandmother’s life much more difficult than it already was (you know, what with raising 6 kids, caring for a disabled husband, running a store, and doing house-cleaning on the side.)  She had skinned knees and dirtied her clothes, she got in trouble at school, but she has always had a big and generous heart.

Anyway, as I was saying…being the trouble-maker that she was, Gran didn’t ask her mother’s help with her Christmas gift scheme.  Instead, she went into the shop after everyone in the house was asleep and took (well, stole) a heapful of penny toys, one for each kid in the neighborhood.  She and her friend then took the toys around to the houses and threw one into every child’s window.

Of course, this didn’t unfold without consequence.  She “Got a licken'” when her mother found out what had happened.  But the spirit of Christmas is nestled right here in the story of my Grandma the thief.  She knew that Christmas wasn’t coming for many of her friends.  In fact, she knew that many of her friends would be hungry or cold that day.  At 9 years old she couldn’t do much to help them with the food problem or light their fires to keep them warm.  But, she could give them a gift (or so she thought), and she did.

This particular story has always stuck with me.  I think of it sometimes when I feel put-upon or unlucky.


Grandma at the cottage, 2008

Gran is turning 90 this April.  She is still a trouble-maker, and she still has a ginormous heart.  She was voted ‘Resident of the Year’ at her Nursing Home this year.

Gran’s dementia is at the stage where she usually doesn’t recognize me.  She also doesn’t remember the stories from her childhood that she told to rapt audiences so long ago (me, my sister, and our friends.)  It breaks my heart that I didn’t pay closer attention, that I don’t remember these stories as completely as I should, and now this big part of my heritage may actually die with her as she slips further and further into the fog.

I don’t mean to be sentimental, but I actually tear up when I think of it.

But, my motto for this year is “It’s never too late”.  And so, I have decided to tell this story about my Grandmother Vera, in the form a children’s book that I hope she will be around long enough to read.  And, I hope she might recognize herself.

Of course, the story itself could use some fleshing out, a little work to make it ready for little one’s to tuck into bed with at night.  I understand that it can’t be just about a mischievous little girl who steals from her mother and gets away with it.  It will need a moral and a lesson.

I will post updates as I go, including some details on the process I’m following (I will be testing out Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days to help me outline the story.)  Here’s hoping I will have this finished in time to give this to her for Christmas this year.

Hi, I'm Tori, and welcome to my open book. I'm a freelance writer and web designer. This site is my scratch pad for thoughts and ideas, experiences and inspiration. Go ahead, eavesdrop on my life a little bit, you know you want to...