A few weeks ago I reviewed a very cute book called The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper by Annebelle Fisher. It is about a young girl who is a great rhymer and finds out the reason she is so good at it is because she is related to Mother Goose. It has some really great little rhymes weaved throughout the story and I really liked it.
Today I have the author of that book on my blog with a guest post and I would love for you to make her feel welcome!
My Mom, My Book, and Me
By the time I’d finished the first draft of my new book, The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, I was picturing the inside of my head as an attic full of junk. The story is about fifth grader, Pixie, who lives in an acorn-shaped caretaker’s cottage on an estate that has the usual mansion, but also a very unexpected museum of rare and historical toilets. Pixie’s mother, a recreation therapist in a nursing home, wears costumes to work in order to trigger the residents’ memories of happier times. Often, when she stops at the grocery store, she’s still in a ball gown or tutu. As for Pixie, she’s been yearning for a golden retriever. Instead, the universe has gifted her with a pet goose egg. Oh yes – both Pixie and her mother are descendants of Mother Goose.
Where had all this stuff come from? And more importantly, how was it related? If I’ve learned anything from years of writing (nine other books under another name), it’s that writers are alchemists. A first draft that appears to be a clunker can be turned into a treasure through the process of revision. Return to your work with an open mind and you will see the connections that spark deeper meaning.
One of the questions an author can be sure she’ll be asked during a presentation to young readers is “What inspired you to write this book?” But the truth is, in the first draft I’m rarely writing about what I think I’m writing about. In the case of a fantasy like Pixie Piper, the answer is even more obscure. I thought I was writing about a girl who was having trouble fitting in. Pixie thinks it’s because of where she lives, her parents’ weird habits, and also because rhymes flow from her lips like water from a leaky spigot. She was kind of like me, when I was a kid. And I wasn’t even a relative of Mother Goose.
But in the second draft, as I filled in Mrs. Piper’s backstory, I began to notice something. Pixie’s mom was beginning to remind me of my own mother, Annabelle Fisher. (Yes, I am named for her.) Mrs. Piper was an orphan. My mom lost her mother on the day she was born. Both women knew little of their family histories. Mrs. Piper grew up in her grandparents’ home and wasn’t allowed to own any Mother Goose books. My mother was sent to an orphanage and returned to relatives around the age of seven. By that time she only spoke English and her relatives only spoke Yiddish, so they couldn’t tell her stories or read them to her. Yet, I learned many Mother Goose rhymes from my mother and can still recite them. I’m amazed that my mom managed to do that for me.
Both Pixie’s mother and mine encouraged their daughters to write. For me, the support was liberating. But there was more. Cleaning out closets one rainy day, I discovered my mother had saved my fourth grade writing – all of it! I like to think I was like Pixie discovering the egg that would become her beloved goose, lying in wait in the grass.
There was one more connection to be discovered – and it was a real eye opener. Pixie’s mother wasn’t allowed to play with other kids. Everyday after school she came home and stayed there. My mother got out more, but she was so restricted, she was forbidden from borrowing anyone’s roller skates because they might scuff her shoes.
Deprived of her childhood, Mrs. Piper believes that it’s important to have fun every day, no matter how old you are. It’s the reason she wears costumes to work and puts on plays with her senior ladies. And I’m pretty sure it’s the reason Annabelle Fisher was the only mother on the street jumping rope or playing hopscotch with my friends and me.
But I didn’t see any of this right away. It was only after I began revising that I made the connections between my mother and Mrs. Piper. They came slowly, each one a surprise and a gift.
Although Mother Goose is an imaginary character, there are mothers and grandmothers throughout history who are said to have inspired her creation. I like to think that my mother, Annabelle Fisher, is also part of the clan of Mother Goose. So yes, part of my inspiration came from the dreamy, creative child I was. But I believe the real reason I wrote this book was to honor Annabelle Fisher, my own Mother Goose.
The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper
by Annabelle Fisher
An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Annabelle Fisher is the author of The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, which reviewers have called, “entertaining,” “fresh,” “creative,” and “pretty darn charming.” She taught courses in writing middle grade and young adult literature in the Graduate Creative Writing Department of Manhattanville College for twelve years, and now leads writing workshops for kids, teens, and adults. She lives in Westchester County, New York, not too far from where the Headless Horseman roams at night.