Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What's the BACK Story? Three Little Gnomes & a Boy Named Orion + Nibbles McGibbles!!

The "Back Story!"

Book #1: 
Three Little Gnomes 
and a Boy Named Orion
Book  #2:
Three Little Gnomes 
and the One-Bite Mystery

Written by Rhonda Paglia 
Grammy Pags Stories for Kids
Illustrated by Ratna Kusuma Halim

I LOVE writing stories with, and for kids!  I wrote stories with my own children when they were little.  As a teacher, all of my elementary students wrote and illustrated their own books in my classes.  Now that I’m a grandmother, I get a great kick out of writing stories with my grandchildren.  We’ve produced many, many stories over the last nine years, although only one (so far), Three Little Gnomes and a Boy Named Orion, has been officially edited, published, and is now available for sale. 

I don’t usually share the back story for the first “Three Little Gnomes” book, because it’s a bit “embarrassing.”  However, since my author friend, Aviva Gittle asked, here’s the truth of it!

The REAL Orion - age 2. 
I was the only one home on this particular fall Saturday, so I decided to paint our little powder room.  I wanted it to be colorful and fun.  I tried various colored square patterns.  Nope!  Too claustrophobic!  I repainted and added swirly designs.  Nope!  The design made me dizzy!  Then I got the idea of creating a lovely, Zen-like, PEACEFUL garden scene, with a sky and clouds on the ceiling, and a colorful garden full of flowers on the walls.  YES!  That was it!!  For a non-painter, it worked and I had a lot of fun!  My family was so surprised to see the end result when they got home – and they actually LIKED it!!  I was so excited!!

The original cover
At the same time, we were babysitting our first grandchild, Orion, several times a week.  We were working on potty training.  Now that our powder room was a much more inviting, fun place, I thought maybe potty training would be more fun too!  Now Orion, and all of the other grandchildren to follow, could “pee” in Grammy’s garden bathroom! How many kids get to do THAT?!!

In addition to the lovely flowers, my husband added a couple of tractors, a wagon, a dog, and, of course, a little boy named Orion.   I added an airplane, some bugs, a beanstalk, a mouse carrying cheese, a castle, and a GIANT black kitty – all from the mouse version book of, “Jack and the Beanstalk!” (Jack is the little mouse and the giant is a huge black kitty!)  Orion loved it all and we spent many hours in the BR “garden!”

The 3 gnomes, the tractor, and the dog.
Anyway, I happen to love gnomes.  My nephew, Michael Paglia, who is a REAL artist, loved gnomes too.  I asked Michael if he could add several simple, line-drawn gnomes to the bathroom wall garden.  He did and they are adorable.  

One day, while Orion was “sitting a spell” – we were talking about those three garden gnomes (on the wall).   

“Orion, do you know the names of those little gnomes?” I asked.  After some VERY careful thought, this 2-year-old piped up, “That one is Whiskers!  He had a beard.  That one is Happy Tractor (Orion REALLY liked tractors at the time), and that one is Getting-a-Haircut (Orion had recently gotten a haircut, so of course, it made sense to call the gnome, Getting-a-Haircut!)

It was all just so cute, so I wrote the original story for Orion.  It was titled, The Gnomes at Papa & Grammy’s House.  It’s been a grandkids’ favorite and a well read story ever since.   When I started sharing some of my stories in 2013, I decided to rewrite the little gnomes’ story and add more details.  The result was Three Little Gnomes and a Boy Named Orion. The version that is currently available is Edition #2.  It’s an easy reader version for beginning readers.  Edition #1 was much longer, but is no longer available.

Okay, so back to the back story - it's not quite done!  Back Story Part 2: 

Dandy Whiskers, Sprinkle, Whisper
Although the names Happy Tractor and Getting-a-Haircut are adorable names for a family-centered story, I didn’t think readers outside of our family would connect to those names.  So, for the “public / published” version, I decided to run a little contest on Facebook.  I called it the “Name the Gnomes” contest.  Many people entered.  From those entries, the most popular names were chosen.  Whiskers retained his original name with the addition of “Dandy” because he pulled dandelions out of the flower gardens.  Sprinkle and Whisper were also named from that contest.

Nibbles McGibbles
The other name that really popped out from the contest was “Nibbles McGibbles.”  I LOVED the name, but I was so sad that it just didn’t fit for the story, Three Little Gnomes and a Boy Named Orion.  However, Nibbles McGibbles really “gnawed” at me.  He needed a story.  So, in Three Little Gnomes and the One-Bite Mystery, Nibbles McGibbles makes his entrance into the garden life of Dandy Whiskers, Whisper, and Sprinkle.  McGibbles, who is a kilt-wearing Scotsman, causes a bit of chaos for the three little gnomes, but with patience and some lessons learned, all works out well in the end for everyone!

Finally, I just have to add that working with my illustrator, Ratna Kusuma Halim, on both books has been the most amazing adventure!  Ratna is a talented, focused, intuitive artist!  I never sent her a picture of my garden, or of my grandson, Orion, but somehow, she captured them perfectly.  Ratna lives half-way around the world in Indonesia.  During our work on the two books, we became like sisters.  It’s like we were holding hands and embracing the world.  We both agreed that our best work must have been during our night conferences during dreamtime.  It blew me away at how “on” she was with the story details.  Through her beautiful illustrations, she captured the personality of the sweet characters, their conflicts, and the land where they lived.  It’s been a magical adventure for both of us!! <3