I came up with the concept for this story when my daughter was five years old. She cut all her hair off one afternoon and to fix it, all of it had to come off, inches from her scalp. One day while we were at the library, a group of little girls asked if she was a boy or girl, or just an ugly girl. The concept of beautiful vs. ugly came to my mind and it’s taken this long to put it all down on paper. My daughter didn’t mind, nothing has ever bothered her, but it bothered me. What is beautiful to one person isn’t to another.
I wrote this book based on my step-daughter and her anxiety over the fact she was small at age twelve and wasn't growing in comparison to everyone else at her school. Seeing the universe inside her little body and large soul, I opened my Rumi book and found a quote that brought me to the story of Jun Anzu. “Don't feel lonely, the entire universe is inside of you.” - Rumi. There are three more stories in the series that will take us to Africa, Brazil and France.But, all with the same message - the universe is inside you.
I wrote these books based on my step-daughter's love of bears and her nickname "Little Bear". I always knew little Mishka would be from Russia, and I had a great time creating 'Berries for Breakfast', but it didn't feel complete. 'Lentils for Lunch', and 'Salmon for Super', came naturally after my illustrator, Hayley Helsten created the character. 'Finnian's Hares', coming soon, will explore Australia, in the same format as Mishka's Bears, counting and being adventurous in his homeland.
What can I say? My daughter was seven years old when her parents divorced. It wasn’t an easy year. But, she had two cousins, my sister's boys, that all went to the same school, that were a great support. One day, after the Halloween Parade at school, I walked out to greet them. My daughter was in a witch's hat covering herself and her two cousins in a polka dot umbrella. My nephews were dressed in radical - nonsensical costumes, but it reflected their quirkiness. 'The Unusual Mudpies’ was created from that scene.
Months later, I would write 'adventures' for my daughter as she went through struggles at school and at home. One chapter, “The Unexpected Hat,” was written after my daughter came home from school at age eight with the following limerick:
“There once was a curious cat, who wanted a beautiful hat. But nobody cared. So no one could spare, a beautiful hat for the cat.”
Her cousins were always there and sometimes with their own issues of not being heard or wanting to hide behind glasses. I wrote for them and about them, too, creating characters in the story that would always be there for my daughter’s character, Tallulah Froom.
Divorce isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to watch a child go through the process either. I relied on my quirky, wonderful, and weird family to get me through it. By immersing myself into Tallulah Froom's world, I could pull from the strengths of my family, my childhood experiences and incorporate my daughter's experiences as well. I realized I had an opportunity to rebuild my life, brick by brick through creativity.
When I was little, my aunts and uncle sang, a lot. One of my favorite songs was Beautiful City from my favorite musical, Godspell. I loved it when they would sing it. I remember when I wanted to bring the Tallulah Froom world to life, I lost confidence in myself. I couldn’t even try to create something so large - I didn’t know where to begin. But, remembering the lyrics to the song, especially “When your trust is all but shattered, when you faith is all but killed, you can give up, bitter and battered…. Or you can slowly start to build….” I knew I could do it - I just needed to take it slow and be patient with myself.
Nearly every member of my family is a character in my Tallulah Froom world.
I decided I would rebuild, but something entirely new, for my daughter, even if it took a long time to stack each brick. The first draft was written in October of 2010. I am finally launching Tallulah Froom the summer of 2016. I slowly built this world for my daughter. All the wonderful and unusual characters come from those in my life I want to celebrate. I am excited to share my family with readers.
I love my family.
Tallulah Froom’s characters are based on nearly all my aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins. Without a colorful childhood, the town of Dancey Chance wouldn’t be possible. I owe so much to my family.
My Grandma Keele is my character, Grandma Twiddle in my books. She is the most magical being I have ever known in my life. I owe my creativity to her and the experiences I had as her sidekick as a little girl. She and my Grandpa Keele ran a bakery called Tan Top Bakery for years in Santa Maria, CA. They both instilled in me an appreciation for quality food and just how far sprinkles can go to make someone’s day!
These are pictures of my Grandpa Zaugg and me. He is the inspiration for Grandpa Twiddle in the stories. He is the most beloved person I’ve ever had in my life. He passed away in 2013, but is still in my heart, every day. I have never been so lost and torn apart when he died. He was darling and loved me so much.
This is a picture of my older sister, Jessica, who was born with Down syndrome. I love her so much! She is my character, Liberty-Jessica Mary-Marie Nunn. Yes, I wore leg braces. Jessica is the sweetest human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She was - as still is - always clapping and holding her clasped hands to her heart. Born in 1972, she is still alive and living on the central coast in a group home where she is thriving. Once a year when I visit, her first words are “Sawa. Home. Sawa. Home.”
My mom always had music in the house while we grew up. She is beautiful and my character, Wunna, is based on my mom, full of magic and beautiful wonder. The fifth Un-Book titled “The Unwritten Book,” will be dedicated to her, but you’ll just have to wait. For a sneak peak, you can listen to ‘Hang On Little Tomato’ by Pink Martini, which is referenced on the last page of the book - completing the Tallulah Froom Un-Book Series.
These are pictures of my younger sister, Danielle and me. She is my character Ohmy Box! She has a dynamic personality that is unmatched and unrivaled in the family. I basically thought she was my baby doll. I taught her how to walk and talk. But most importantly, I taught her how to make her first mudpie. She is the wonderful mother of my two nephews that are my Jespa and Giggy characters.
This is my younger brother Sam and me. He is my character, Mr. Coats. The first time I ever met him is the picture in the middle. I was introduced to him after he came home from the hospital and I reached for him. Then, as I proceeded to take him from my mom, I said, “Mine.” And I have wrapped my arms around him ever since claiming, “Mine,” after all these years. He is now a fabulous grown man with children of his own. I always knew I was safe when I was around him.
This is my baby brother, Clayton. He is my character Spoon in the books. We had a special language when he was growing up. He had a terrible lisp (that is gone now) and I was the only one who knew what he was saying. He was the ray of sunlight in our home, always. He is still the radiating light in our family and I am proud to say he is also a father of wonderful children.
My siblings and I grew up on the central coast, in Santa Maria. We spent nearly every weekend of our childhood between Avila Beach and Pismo Beach. We grew up ridiculously poor, but we didn’t know it until we were older and had a great appreciation of what our parents went through to keep a roof over our head. Halloween was always a great adventure, never knowing exactly what we were going to be, but the creative minds of our parents always made us feel magical. We lived in Orcutt, California for a time, when my brother Clayton was born. This is where I learned to play frisbee with a hubcap. I sliced my brother Sam’s nose right open. The picture on the far right is in the front lawn of our house on First Street. It was Clayton’s blessing day. My Grandparents were good sports. I wouldn’t smile. What a pill. The house was next to a Baptist church. I learned to get my groove on Sunday afternoons by rocking out to the band. It was in this yard that my imagination began to fly, seeing whimsy and beauty and magic in everything. Maybe it was the smell from Orcutt Ice Cream Parlor every afternoon when they made the waffle cones? Perhaps.
This is my dad, Curt. He and his wife are Mr. and Mrs. Bloom who run the store, Bobbles and Bubbles. He is the reason I had such a fun filled childhood. He was also the inspiration for Ben & Dunagen, the twin magicians, in the books. Magic is free. Magic is imperative for childhood. But when it comes from your daddy, magic is so profound, it leaves a wonderful mark on the soul. My daddy is a good man.
My cousins, Benny and Jason Keele in this picture are one and two years older than me. They were the family ‘rascals,’ and I believe - still are. Benny, Jason, myself and my sister Jessica, are the four oldest grandchildren of over 80 that my grandparents have. I spent a lot of time with these two cousins. They used to knot my hair when I was asleep while we drove home from the beach in my Grandma Keele’s big orange van. They are the characters, Wuncer & Twice in my books. When I wasn’t playing with them, I was sitting with my teddy bear, watching Electric Company. Or, I was reading books to my younger siblings.
I plan on having five Un-Books. My love of words and my love for my daughter created this wonderful character and exceptionally weird, but whimsical world. I hope I continue to receive inspiration to continue with the series long after the Un-Books are complete.
Here are my first concepts for covers for the chapters:
After writing these books for so many years, getting married, and moving houses, one afternoon, my newly married daughter-in-law showed me her graphics on her webpage. She wanted to build a portfolio. I suggested she illustrate a few covers to my stories to pad her portfolio. After a few months, we became addicted to the world of Tallulah Froom and one thing lead to another. I was prompted to publish my stories and expand Tallulah Froom. Hayley soon became my employee and personal Illustrator. Let’s just say, she fits right in! Jeff’s character is Mr. Chester Chester and Hayley’s character is Ms. Raspberry Drop. So fun!
My Illustrator, Hayley, and I went through several versions of the book covers, town maps, family tree, etc. Here are some fun drafts.
A new life, a new family - life is great.
So, as you can see, this is a project of love, of my childhood memories and my wonderful family that I would be absolutely lost without.
I hope you enjoy my family as much as I have and continued to do.
I love my family. My heart is full.