Author to lead book discussion, book signing
By Suzanne Misciagna, Correspondent, UnionvilleTimes.com
CHADDS FORD – Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Barbara Walsh, will be highlighting her new children’s book, Sammy in the Sky, illustrated by Jamie Wyeth, at the 63rd Annual Chadds Ford Art Sale and Show on March 23 and 24. The show will be held at Chadds Ford Elementary School, 3 Baltimore Pike, in Chadds Ford.
Walsh’s new children’s book, Sammy in the Sky, tells of her family’s love for their dog and how they dealt with the loss of their beloved pet. The book was a true story, inspired by Walsh’s first family pet, Sammy, who was diagnosed with cancer.
“Sammy was my daughter, Emma’s, best friend,” says Walsh. “When he died, it was her first experience with death. It was really tough for her.” Her daughter, Nora, also had many questions about Sammy’s passing and would often look to the sky telling Sammy to come home.
Walsh wrote down her daughters’ thoughts and feelings about the loss. “There aren’t a lot of books out there for children that deal with loss and grief in a realistic way,” says Walsh. “I believe this book can help anyone dealing with grief. It’s a book that kids and adults can both relate to. We all have to deal with grief and learn to move forward,” she adds. “The book reminds us to keep the memories alive in our hearts of the ones we’ve loved and lost.”
Sammy in the Sky, now in its fourth printing, has helped other families deal with loss. “I get a lot of emails from parents telling me how much the book has helped their family get through such a difficult time,” she adds.
Through the advice of a fellow journalist and friend, Walsh sent the manuscript to Jamie Wyeth with the hope that he would consider illustrating the book. After several revisions, Wyeth agreed to do the illustrations.
“At first, I was nervous talking to such an iconic artist,” says Walsh. “But, the book really resonated with Jamie because he loved dogs.” Wyeth’s illustrations helped bring Sammy in the Sky to life. “His illustrations evoke every emotion presented in the story: love, joy, grief, and reconciliation,” says Walsh.
As a child, Walsh enjoyed listening to stories told by her Nana whom she describes as a ‘natural born storyteller.’ “She always loved to tell stories. What I didn’t realize was that the stories my Nana told me were actually true.”
One such story was the passion behind Walsh’s latest book, August Gale: A Father and Daughter’s Journey into the Storm. Although Walsh spent over 25 years in the journalism field, she shared with her father her desire to leave reporting behind and write a book. What Walsh didn’t know was that a possible story for her book existed in her very own family.
August Gale is a personal story about Walsh’s ancestors who were affected by a deadly hurricane in August 1935 as they made their living fishing on the icy waters in Newfoundland. The book prompted a nine year journey for Walsh and her father as they traveled back and forth between Newfoundland and Brooklyn in their quest to learn more about their ancestors and the deadly storm. August Gale also depicts the emotions of Walsh’s father in coming to terms with being abandoned as a young child.
Walsh’s love of writing began as a shy child who preferred to observe and listen rather than talk. “Communication was more effective for me through the written word, so writing came naturally to me,” says Walsh. “Today, I am always writing in my head. Often, I wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about the words I am going to write, the characters, or the sentences on the page.”
Walsh is hoping to inspire a love of writing in the students of Chadds Ford Elementary School, with whom she will visit for a writing workshop on March 23 prior to the art sale.
“Stories are everywhere around us,” says Walsh. They can be as simple as a story about the squirrel you see in your backyard and telling the story from a different viewpoint.” Walsh believes that some of the best stories are close to home. She encourages families to write down stories told by their relatives so they will be remembered and cherished. “Often times when our family members pass on, their stories go with them.”
For aspiring writers, Walsh’s advice is to read good books and to really think about what you are reading – to think about the sentences, to analyze them. Secondly, write often. “It is so important to not be discouraged if someone tells you that you can’t write,” says Walsh. “Writing is a lot like music, if you read it out loud, you hear what works and what doesn’t work,” Walsh adds. “Some people are born to write but we can all be writers. We all have our own, unique, style.”
Walsh will lead a book discussion on Sammy in the Sky at the Chadds Ford Art Show on Saturday, March 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a book signing from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Copies of August Gale will also be available for sale.