The Unintended Publisher

I was delighted when Grandma Jeanne posted the photo of my Door County sweetheart Alice enjoying a small book I sent her. Two Nisse in Santaland was the only Christmas book I ever published. Here’s how that came to pass:

For several years I wrote stuff for Pat Sherman’s Woman Today magazine, just getting underway. On one occasion, I was assigned the story of a grandmother who was completing a children’s book she started when her children were small. Fifty years later, she was finishing it for her grandchildren.

Winifred Stanley was a charming, articulate, long-retired college professor. The book told about the visit of two Nisse’ kids (Norway’s little people) as they visited Santa’s little people (elves). In the course of the interview, I asked Winifred about her publishing strategy. She named a high-priced firm in the East and showed me proposed illustrations. I was appalled:  comic strip stuff.

A Minneapolis publisher immediately came to mind. I suggested Winifred put her project on hold while I poked around. The Minneapolis firm was not accepting new projects so I turned to my Wordshed artist, Harvey Sandstrom, for advice. He knew publishers. Harvey scanned the story, reread it, and said, “That could be interesting!” Thus Wordshed Books became Winifred’s unintended publisher.

While Harvey worked on illustrations and design, I tackled editing. Winifred’s writing was grammatically meticulous but hardly kid friendly. My suggestions met cool resistance. I worked gingerly. Then Harvey to the rescue: his pages design called for small blocks of type matching illustrations. That called for text adjustments.

Page by page, a charming book came together. One page showed two dancing fairies that bore a striking resemblance to Winifred’s grandchildren. It was a fine book. Then, a goof: Winifred choice for a front cover was a mountain scene of the Norway coast. Harvey captured it wonderfully, but we had a kids’ book with an adult cover, dooming off-shelf marketing.

Ah the peril of too much zeal and too little knowledge.

Old Grandpa Lloyd