The Story Behind the Story
Late in 2011, I was at a Civil War Reenactment in Buchanan, Virginia, with my Avery and Gunner books. My friend Chris Pierson traveled with me. A couple approached my table. He was a chatty guy with a Brooklyn accent; his wife a demure Japanese lady. He bought a book and I signed it for him. But his wife was in deep conversation with Chris. Finally, Chris asked, “Deanna, are you getting any of this?” No. She drew the lady to my table and said to her, “Tell my friend what you just told me.”
Kinuko Jambor and her husband Richard told me about a historical event in the United States in 1926. It was fascinating. Chris and I are both fairly knowledgeable in U.S. History, but neither of us had ever heard about the Friendship Dolls the children of the United States sent to Japan, and the beautiful Ambassador Dolls Japan sent to reciprocate. I couldn’t wait to get home to start researching this event. It was all true. I needed to learn more. Chris and I contacted the Jambors and made a trip to their home in Roanoke, Virginia, then on to the North Carolina Natural History Museum in Raleigh where we were shown into the vault to meet one of the Ambassador Dolls. The story got richer the more we learned. I knew it had to be told to a new generation.
For the next year or so I wrote my story, and found a publisher. The acquisitions editor wrote me a lovely note about how well done it was and that he felt it was an important story. They offered a contract; the book would be published in 2016. I worked the next year with the editor assigned to my work. We finished in September 2015.
I contacted the museums in the U. S. that house Ambassador Dolls to tell them about the book they might want in their gift shop, and Power Point Program I was developing. I worked on origami doll bookmarks to pass out at conferences and bookstores, announcing the book.
One of the bookmarks made its way to The Spencer Doll and Toy Museum in Spencer, North Carolina. Beth Nance, the owner and curator, called and asked to host the release party. She’d always wanted to have a Hinamatusuri Festival at her museum for Japan’s National Doll Day in March. I was overwhelmed. Decorations sent from the Japanese Consulate in Atlanta hung from the ceiling. The tables looked like a wedding reception. She ordered 55 books to give as favors to her guests. The dinner, the displays, oh my goodness, you just can’t imagine it. There was an obi demonstration and a presentation on locating the missing dolls, and my (first) power point playlet, which they loved. Beth had used my acknowledgement page and invited everyone listed there. The expert whose website had guided me and who had read and commented on my early draft, flew down from Connecticut with his wife, and we met in person for the first time. She even arranged for me to be on noontime TV in Charlotte with my book. Can I just say, this day was an author’s thrill?
And now, just like the protagonist in my story, I am on a quest to see these dolls. Museums are responding and I’m trying to go to as many as I can. My first official trip was in April to the West. My husband and I flew to Helena, MT. The State History Museum put their doll on display. I gave my presentation, they served little doll cookies, and I taught the guests to make the origami bookmarks. It was a great day. We drove all around MT and then to SD, where the History Museum in Pierre also brought their doll out for viewing. After touring around the Dakotas and Wyoming, we flew home.
Twelve days ago we left for a wedding in New York. We incorporated some family visits along the way, and after the wedding we drove to Springfield, Massachusetts. Wonderful hosts and a lovely historical auditorium with all the latest techno for my power point. They brought their doll out of the vault and placed her on a podium right next to the stage. I was nearly speechless. What an honor. Following the presentation, Q & A and book signing, the curators carefully removed her and returned her to the vault. This was a large audience that gathers every Thursday noon for lunch lectures. I worried I might not be academic enough for them, but they loved it. They went out of their way to tell me and even in the Café later in the afternoon people found us to say how fascinated they were, enjoyed the presentation and looked forward to their book.
We went next to Rockville, MD, to visit our daughter and son-in-law. She had arranged a little soiree at their beautiful library. A facebook friend, Father Matthew, from the Bethesda Retreat Center, saw my post about it on CWG and he came. Was that nice? Then two high school friends from MI, who now live in Silver Springs, also saw the post on fb and they came. Friends of my daughter from her work at FDA came with family. We made bookmarks and talked about all the books, showed slides for the Doll book, and made bookmarks. It was a special day and it lasted an hour longer than planned.
On our drive home today we drove through Roanoke, stopped to visit the Jambors and delivered a book for them. They were so pleased. They want to have the book translated.
Am I having fun with this?