Back in 2002, I discovered the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators and decided to start writing exclusively for kids. I was a writer long before that, having worked on newspapers since high school. But after seeing a brief in the newspaper about a children's writing workshop at Augustana College, I signed up. That's where I learned about SCBWI and all that it offered a fledgling childrens writer like me.
|Esther Howland valentine, circa 1850|
The story was about Esther Howland, a 19th-century New Englander who started her own valentine-making company. Mid-century, she was the largest company in the United States, grossing over $100,000 with the cards that she and a handful of local women assembled in the attic workshop of Howland's home in Worcester, Massachussetts. I read her story in a local newspaper article and it fascinated me, as well as the photos of the delicate, multi-layered valentines.
Flash forward four months to the Christmas after I'd made the Highlights sale. My husband has always had the gift for finding me just the right present, but that year he topped them all, past and (mostly likely) future. His gift was perfect: romantic, creative, and very personal. Contacting one of the sources I'd used for the article, a lady who collected antique valentines and had Howland valentines of her own, he asked to buy one for me to commemorate my first sale.
Needless to say, I was stunned when I unwrapped the valentine, encased in a heavy plastic sleeve, and read the collector's accompanying letter. She wrote she had never sold one of her valentines before, had no intention of doing so again, but this was an 'extenuating circumstance'. Indeed, it was. I look at the valentine now, framed and hanging in our front room, as a token of love and recognition for an important milestone. I can't imagine a more thoughtful gift.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone!