Dear longtime reader,
When I worked as a newspaper reporter, we would print breaking stories and then months later realize that we never let our readers know the outcome of the story. I’m afraid I’m guilty of this as a blogger. So today, I want to follow up on a few items I have mentioned in my letters to you:
- The Ice Rink: A Bust I’m afraid our backyard ice rink was doomed from the beginning of this very snowy winter. Even if we had figured out how to haul enough water to fill in the frame, it snowed so much this winter it would have been a full-time job just trying to keep it dug out. I had nearly forgotten about it until this last week when the snow began to melt. There it is — the remains of our ice skating dreams. But maybe there is hope for next winter because …
- A well. Sam and I are in the midst of scheduling the drilling of our well this summer. It’ s an exciting but somewhat daunting prospect. Some of our neighbors have 100-foot, clear running wells, while others had to blast through bedrock and go down more than 300 feet. And there’s no guarantee you’ll ever hit water. But we’re going to cross our fingers and hope for the best. I’ll keep you posted … I promise.
- Have you seen the snow child? Some time ago I mentioned wanting people to submit photos and images of the snow child — snow sculptures, maybe drawings or artwork that called the fairy tale to mind. Many readers have been posting fabulous images on The Snow Child Facebook page. It has been wonderful to see all the different interpretations, images of fox and ice princesses and much more. If you would like to share an image, please post it on the Facebook page.
- Faina travels the world. This week I got news that The Snow Child will be published in China by OmniBook in Taipei. In addition, the English language version distributed by my UK publisher Headline has made its way to India. That brings us up to more than 20 languages and around 30 countries, that I know of. Last week a reader posted an image of the Lithuanian cover on The Snow Child Facebook page. What an amazing journey Faina has taken us on!
So now that I’ve caught up on a few things, I was wondering — is there anything else I’ve forgotten? Do you have any questions for me?
Dear artistic reader,
I first struck on the idea for my novel The Snow Child when I discovered the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka. An old man and woman have one great sorrow — they are unable to have children — but one night they build a little girl out of snow, and she comes to life. This simple folktale has been told through lacquer paintings, opera, ballet, and many other forms. But my own inspiration came from a paperback children’s version of the story with illustrations by the Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee.
So it is wonderful and surprising, with my novel now published, to learn that The Snow Child is continuing this chain of inspiration. Having read my book, a UK artist completed a series of ice sculptures and ultimately produced this “ice animated” short film in Finland. It is beautiful and magical.
In his blog, the sculptor wrote:
In October a publishing firm had sent me a proof of a book called the Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, it had not been published at the time and I found it quite magical and was very lucky to read it before anyone else. This led to me writing my own story about an Angel that Had No Wings, and this became the theme for an Ice Sculpture Trail in Bradford. So it dawned on me that this girl would want to play with the Lights that I think are just simply Life, the sparkle of Life that is within us all that just wants to play. But as with many things that sparkle is often shy and they run away from the girl.
You can read more about the film on his blog, at www.sandsculptureice.co.uk/blog/.
With much gratitude to the talented artist Jamie, and cheers to you all,
Dear April reader,
Thank you again for your lists of things that make you happy. And all of you were right — just reading them made me happier!
Today I want to share a few news items with you, including some upcoming events:
* BBC’s Book at Bedtime has produced an adaptation of The Snow Child with the amazing Miranda Richardson narrating. The first of 10 episodes airs tonight in the UK. It eventually will be archived on their website, where you will you be able to listen to it as well. I had a chance to hear a recording of it earlier. They have adapted the novel seamlessly, and Miranda Richardson is fabulous at the different voices. You might know the actress from movies like Harry Potter, in which she played Rita Skeeter, and The Hours, Enchanted April, Chicken Run, and many others.
* Join me on Twitter later this week for a tweet chat with the book club for Chatelaine Magazine in Canada. You just need an account on Twitter, and then follow the hashtag #ChatBooks. The tweet chat will be Thursday, April 5, at 8 pm EDT.
* Friday Reads is hosting a giveaway of The Snow Child this week. Friday Reads is an online community of book lovers, and you can learn more about how it works and how to get involved by clicking here. More about the contest can be found here.
* Kate Evans with Australia’s Radio National recently interviewed me. She had such great questions, and the editing and sound effects were lovely. If you’re interested in listening, click here.
* Earlier this winter I was fortunate enough to participate in an on-stage discussion at the Anchorage Museum with fellow Alaskan novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax (author of The Detour and The Spanish Bow.) The conversation is now available online — click here to listen.
I know some of you who read my letters are just getting introduced to blogs, so I want to explain the many links in this letter. If you put your mouse arrow on the words that are highlighted and underlined, and then click, a new page in your browser will open with the website page I want to share with you.
When I wrote my last letter, announcing an opportunity to win a copy of my novel, I was expecting to hear from a handful of you — curious people who hadn’t read it yet and hoped that with a little luck they might get a free book. Instead, as I sit here this St. Patrick’s Day morning, I’m feeling like the lucky one.
More than 130 of you asked to be entered in the drawing. As if this weren’t enough of a wonderful surprise, as I read through your comments I discovered that the vast majority of you had already read the book. You told me how it moved you, why you loved it, who you had shared it with.
I heard from Paris, Texas, London, Italy, Scotland, New York, Arizona, Chicago, Australia, Ohio, Ireland, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, Norway, and just down the street. I heard from booksellers and librarians, readers and book club members and writers. I heard from Alaskans, those of you who miss Alaska, and those who dream of visiting here someday.
Some of you asked for it to be inscribed to a friend, mother, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, or newborn child. Others confessed you wanted it entirely for yourself, and that made me smile.
One man wrote that he and his wife had read the novel and shared the original fairy tale with their young daughter, who now likes to pretend she sleeps in a bed of snow. Another wanted it inscribed in memory of his dear wife.
One of you described reading it on a beach in the Middle East. Another said she had wished for a longer train ride home from Glasgow, so she wouldn’t have to put it down.
You made me happy. You brought tears come to my eyes. You made me wish I could send each and every one of you an inscribed copy.
Choosing only two winners wasn’t easy. But I decided to enlist the assistance of my daughters. I asked each of them to pick a number between 1 and 136. My youngest, who just turned 5, chose her new favorite number: 5. My oldest, who at nearly 13 prides herself on being logical, randomly chose the number 90.
So, without further ado, the winners are the 5th and 90th entrants.
Drew, who wrote:
“I’d love a signed UK copy. Hope you enjoyed your time over here.”
And Amy, who wrote :
“Dear Mrs. Ivey,
I have just purchased a digital copy of your book and decided to investigate the web link. What a pleasant surprise I found. I have a friend who is intrigued by Alaska. If I were to be lucky, I would be very honored to receive a copy of your US edition and have it addressed to “Sharon”. Congratulations on the success of your first book. Kind Regards, Amy”
If each of you would please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, I’ll get your copies in the mail right away.
And to every one of you, thank you. May all your dreams come true.
Dear lucky-charm reader,
I’ve had some exciting news these past few weeks. Here in the United States, The Snow Child has stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks running — it’s currently #24. And in the UK, it is consistently making the top 10 on the Sunday Times bestseller list.
Some other exciting news: my personal copies of the US and UK editions recently arrived. To celebrate and thank all of you for coming along on the adventure with me, I’ve decided to have a contest.
Next Saturday, on lucky St. Patrick’s Day, I will give away one copy each of the US and UK editions. To enter the random drawing, leave a comment on this blog post (not any other post) between now and Friday, March 16, and tell me: which edition are you hoping to win? Also tell me if you would like me to sign it, and if you want it inscribed, to whom. These will be first edition, first printings.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll randomly select the two winners.
Dear well-traveled reader,
In my last letter, I left us on a British Airways flight north, with hot tea and milk and little biscuits. Glasgow, Scotland, was our destination.
It was a short trip from London, but night had fallen by the time we landed at 7 p.m. Samantha the publicist, as always, had us precisely on schedule — we jumped in a car to the hotel, dropped our luggage in the rooms, and headed to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. The menu was diverse and delicious, with creamy and spicy sauces, warm naan, lamb, seafood. But once again I was distracted from the meal by the wonderful conversation.
We joined Jack and Gillian, the Scotland regional managers for my UK publisher Headline, and Chris and Sue, owner and book buyer of the independent bookstore Atkinson-Pryce. As we passed the dishes of curry around the table, we talked about everything from digital books to bear sightings, Alaska’s long winters to Scotland’s upcoming referendum for secession. Within no time, we were sharing a meal with friends. We ended the evening with mango and pistachio ice cream.
The next morning, Gillian picked us up at the hotel in her car. We headed to local bookstores so I could sign copies of The Snow Child. At one Waterstones, I was welcomed by an enthusiastic staff who had created a display for the book. One of the booksellers even brought in an illustrated book from her own childhood that included the snow maiden fairy tale.
Quickly, though, it was time to move on. Sam, Samantha, Gillian and I all piled in the car and headed southeast out of Glasgow. As we wended our way through sheep-dotted fields, wind mills, rocky hillsides, and the sudden snow flurry, Gillian told us about the area in her beautiful Scottish accent.
With a population of about 2,000, Biggar is even smaller than my hometown of Palmer, Alaska, but it is clearly a hub of arts, music, and literature. There are museums, art galleries, the Biggar Ukulele Ensemble, and, of course, Atkinson-Pryce bookshop.
But before visiting the bookstore, we attended a literary luncheon at a nearby hotel. The event was organized by Chris and Sue, and many of their favorite customers had purchased tickets to attend.
One of the most delightful surprises of the entire trip came as we entered the banquet room. Biggar landscape painter Amy Marshall was displaying a charcoal piece she had done specifically in honor of The Snow Child — a little girl and a fox peeking through the woods at a little cabin. And throughout the room, Amy’s other winter paintings lent a perfect atmosphere.
My belief that this is an artistic town was confirmed when I met Fiona Gibson, the delightful author of books including The Great Escape, and Suzanne Rigg, another talented local author who had recently published a fascinating nonfiction history book called Men of Spirit and Enterprise.
We visited and ate our meals of roasted vegetable tarts, salmon, beef, fresh peas, and tender potatoes. (Despite warnings from American friends, I found the food in England and Scotland to be dangerously good. I think I may have to go on a diet now that I’m back home.)
After the meal, Fiona and I took our place in the center of the room and we began a conversation about The Snow Child. I could have talked with her for hours about writing and fiction. Then came the questions from the audience, and they were both touching and insightful. As we all visited, a snowstorm swept through the streets of Biggar.
After lunch, the sun came out and we walked through the brisk air down the street to the bookshop itself. The window display took my breath away — snowflakes and branches and magic. Inside, beside a glowing fireplace, I signed copies of The Snow Child. Then I went shopping. I purchased both Fiona and Suzanne’s books,as well as a retelling of the snow maiden fairy tale I hadn’t seen before. Sam found a 1904 edition of The New Testament in Braid Scots, and Chris and Sue gave him a copy of the comical Wee Animal ABC Scots alphabet children’s book, and me books by Kathleen Jamie and Linda Cracknell. Our suitcase would be a lot heavier on the way home.
But Samantha had her eye on the clock, and it was time to head to the next event. This one was in the nearby town of Moffat at the “posh” and beautiful Moffat House Hotel. Built in the 1750s, the hotel has sandstone pillars and an elegant ambiance. Moffat Book Events had organized an intimate but full house of readers and writers. I joined Liz Roberts at the front of the room where we had a conversation about my novel, my life in Alaska, even earthquakes. Later in the evening, I had a chance to visit with everyone and sign books.
All too soon, Samantha was making quiet motions that it was time to go. We had a long drive back to the hotel in Glasgow, and an early morning interview the next day.
In my next letter, I’ll tell you about our final two days in the UK.
Dear continuing reader,
So where did I leave us? Oh yes, on the narrow streets of London, a bit jet-lagged and head spinning with all the excitement. Let’s pick up there.
On Friday morning, a car picked up me and Sam at the hotel, and we returned to the Headline publishing offices to sign more books. Once again, I was struck by the teamwork and enthusiasm of the place. I realized that while I was at home in Alaska, all these people had been working hard to help The Snow Child into the world.
The two of us then set out in a car with the publicist Samantha and Ian, who also works for Headline publishing. As we rode through London, Sam and I asked about this sight or that. Our local friends kept us entertained the entire way. They didn’t always know the answers to our questions, but to keep things lively, they would quickly point out where someone was once hung or note the barbed wire fencing around the palace.
Our final destination — the lovely bookstore Dulwich Books. The owner had delicious homemade eccles cakes and tea. I signed books and visited with the staff and customers. It reminded me so much of Fireside Books, I felt entirely at home. But alas, I couldn’t stay long.
But the next stop was just as delightful: Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road. This is a huge, impressive bookstore, with multiple floors. Without my guide, Lisa, I never would have found my way from the medical section, with its skeletons and stethoscopes, to the poetry shelves. I was like a kid in a candy store, and they had to drag me away from all the books.
The four of us — Samantha, Ian, Sam and I — then headed to have lunch with David and Pavla of Goldsboro Books along with my editor Mary-Anne and Brid of Headline publishing. I’m pretty sure the meal was delicious, but I can’t recall the details because I was enthralled with asking questions of David — which software works best for bookstore inventory, how do you tell a forged autograph, which first editions are most prized.
One of the pinnacles of our adventure came next, though. As we all walked to Goldsboro Books, Sam and I craning our necks to take in the beautiful old buildings and red double-decker buses, we learned that the bookshop is located on Diagon Alley. Yes, that Diagon Alley. I may be 39, but I’m just as avid of a Harry Potter fan as the next little wizard. We started snapping photos. And then we were told that the window in Goldsboro Books itself was used in one of my favorite films, Miss Potter, where Beatrix Potter goes to first see her little books in a shop window.
I admit it. I signed the stock as quickly as I could, because I wanted a chance to look around the shop, which specializes in signed first editions, and mostly novels. I was giddy with excitement, and tried to remember the weight limits on luggage as I made my pile at the counter.
One of the sadder moments of the trip came next. In the Tube, the underground transportation in London, I had to bid goodbye to Mary-Anne Harrington, my lovely editor. I had so enjoyed her quiet humor and kindness, and was dismayed to know I wouldn’t see her again on the trip.
No time for sniffles, though — we had a plane to catch. But to give you a sense of just how manic this adventure was, in the London airport as we prepared to go through security, Samantha handed me her phone. It was a research interview with a BBC radio show.
So in my next letter, we’re off to Glasgow, Scotland!
My husband Sam and I just returned from a whirlwind tour of the UK, and I hardly know where to begin my letter. So I suppose I’ll begin at the beginning, just to give you a sense of how incredible, fast-paced, and touching our experience was.
But this day was not over. I signed more than 300 copies of the book in their office, then we were whisked to a dinner with UK press members, including people from We Love This Book, The Sunday Express, Woman and Home, Hearst,and The Bookseller. I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed such wonderful, bookish dinner conversation.
In the late hours of the night, Sam and I returned to our hotel so we could stare at the ceiling for a few hours, because of course back home it was the middle of the day.
Morning came quickly, and for breakfast I joined Samantha and Sandy Mahal of the Reading Agency, a UK charity designed to promote reading. Then we headed to the BBC Television Centre for an interview with the insightful Tim Masters (his next gig was the Oscars.)
But the day was still young — I jumped on a train with my editor Mary-Anne and Barbara from Headline, and we went to have lunch with Sue, the fiction buyer from the book retailer WHSmiths. As I enjoyed a steak pie and mash, the four of us talked about everything from school programs for children to the novels we love to read.
A train ride back into London, and I arrived at the hotel just in time for two telephone interviews — BBC Dumfries and the Irish Examiner.
Sam and I then quickly changed for dinner and jumped in an Addison Lee taxi to be swept off to the Albannach Restaurant near Trafalgar Square. Kim from Headline had organized a delightful and impressive dinner with staff from Waterstones, one of the largest book retailers in the UK. Waterstones had chosen The Snow Child for their prestigious Wasterstones 11, as well as named it their book of the month for February. With news that The Snow Child has landed on the bestseller list, the dinner was a celebration for all of us. There was a traditional Scottish dinner, glasses of champagne and even tiny silver sparklers to light up the night. As I visited with everyone, again and again I had the sense that if they were our neighbors, we would be dear friends. It was a magical evening.
Our journey, though, was only half done. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the rest.
Dear winter reader,
This is a gift for you, dear reader, that I have been saving for some time.
Those of you who have read The Snow Child might recall a scene in which Mabel
spends the morning picking bouquets of wildflowers. It’s June, and the Alaska forest is adorned in the fragile petals of arctic rose, starflowers and bluebells.
Last June, I went for a walk with my camera through the sunshine and green, and I photographed the flowers I describe in the book. Then I put them away for another day.
Looking outside at the gray sky and snow drifts, listening to the wind blow over the top of our house, I’ve decided it’s time to give them to you. So here they are.
When I met with my book club this past weekend, I was presented with one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given — a Snow Child snow globe.
My friend Rindi used the U.S. cover for inspiration, and she sculpted figurines of the girl and fox and birch trees out of clay. She used glitter for the snow, and a mixture of water, glycerine, and rubbing alcohol.
What makes it particularly enchanting is that the snow globe is made out of a glass Mason jar. Those of you who have read the story might recall that Esther often arrives with an armload of goodies — jams and spicy vegetables — all in Mason jars.
When you tip the jar and stir up the snow, it is like peering into a miniature world. It’s truly magical.