Monday, February 2, 2009

Michigander Monday: Bernadine Cook

What a pleasure today to feature Bernadine Cook!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself and about your books.

Bernadine: 1954: We are living hand to mouth... paycheck to paycheck, and expecting our 5th child. I decide to write 'The Great American Novel,' and have about 70 pgs finished, when child #4 wants attention. I pick her up to rock her, and tell her a story that I made up as I rocked. She falls asleep. Child #one, 11 yrs old, says to me, "Why don't you write down the story you just told Lise? It's as good as the one we got from the library today."

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of picture books.

So child #1 and I go to the old manual typewriter my husband had given me, and proceeded to put the story into book form. We finished about 2 a.m. the next day.

I knew nothing about submitting a manuscript. So blithely put it in an envelope, sans SASE, and sent it to the publisher whose book we were not impressed with, I still remember the title..."Shapes" by, of all people, Margaret Wise Brown! (the publisher later told me that she herself did not like the book, and advised him not to publish it.)

Three months later, manuscript forgotten, I got the letter from the publisher... first words were "We're delighted with your story, and would like to publish it. Is a $300 advance agreeable to you?" At that time, a $30 advance would have been welcome.

I was so tickled, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote another one.. The Curious Little Kitten. Both books -- The Little Fish That Got Away and The Curious Little Kitten -- were published in 1956.

I just didn't know I couldn't do it. Then I got careless, and the next book took three years of work, and a lot of help from the publisher, but it too, Looking for Susie, was published.

I have since self-published The Little Puppy That Lost Its Tail, and had another picture book 'printed', but not 'published'. Only about 50 copies for friends & their children. Then I sold Shorty And That Cat to the Japanese publisher who now had all three of the other books. A Korean publisher also has The Curious Little Kitten, and has expressed an interest in the others.

2009: I am now 84 going on 85. I still dabble a bit in writing, and have a manuscript almost ready for submission. It has a lot of animal photos in it, and I am now waiting for my son, a photographer, to provide first class photos for the book. One of our SCBWI-Michigan members, Sherry Wells, was kind enough to take a look at it and gave me some excellent suggestions.

The Little Fish book is currently with HarperCollins, and has been in print since 1956, in one form or another. The other books are not now in print in the USA, but are still in Japan and one in Korea. I have found Japanese and Korean publishers are happy to take a look at what you have, and while slow with the royalties, are very nice to work with.

I do enjoy our group, and have learned much from our members. Wish we had some members in Michigan's U.P. where the weather is cold and gets colder.

Debbie: Do you have other books or projects currently on the horizon?

Bernadine: Just the one mentioned above.

Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?

Bernadine: I have not done many appearances since moving to the U.P.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Bernadine: There are so many 'favorite' places in Michigan, Greenfield Village, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, etc. But if I had to pick just one in which to spend a day, it would be The Hartwick Pines, off I-75 near Houghton Lake. There is a little church there at the end of a trail, lumbering museum, and, of course, the pines! An original stand of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Bernadine: The walk across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day each year. I've walked it twice.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Bernadine: More than a few fun people are those on the list serve in the SCBWI-Michigan chapter.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Bernadine: That whatever it is you want to find, you can most likely find it in Michigan.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Bernadine: I like to be called a Michigander. I can't be an honest to goodness 'Yooper,' as I have only been in the U.P. four years. I believe the true 'Yoopers' are those who were born here.

I'd love to hear from any of those who might want to visit with me.

Debbie: Bernadine, it's been a true pleasure and honor. I still have my much loved, very tattered copy of The Little Fish That Got Away from my own childhood. What a joy to have hosted its author here today!


April said...

I have known Bernadine Cook for nearly 5 months. In this short time- a friendship blossomed.

I am thankful to have her in my life. She is, by all means, a remarkable person whom I have grown to love and admire.

Her intellectual and creative talents have been the fuel for wonders; a tool and treat for all to enjoy!

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