Story Wonders: The Gift of a Letter to a Picture Book Author

Topics: Inspiration

To feel more prosperous, give something away.

I don’t often feel prosperous and when I first heard this advice, it puzzled me.

If you give something precious away, the speaker said, it comes back to you in strange and mysterious ways. Not in a weird manifestation but in a spiritual way. (No one was promising me a million dollars, mind you, and I’ve lived long enough not to buy it if they did.)

I wanted to test the idea and sorted through an inventory of things I have to give away. I thought of my stereo, my favortie cooking pan, and my writing books. I also thought of my full spectrum light–very precious to me on the long winter nights.

But nothing felt right until one day I went to the library with my son.

“Mom! That book! We need that one!” Quinton said, reaching for what a librarian had propped up at the top of the bookshelf so patrons might notice it. I don’t remember seeing his face light up over a book like that in all the years we have been checking out books.

We took Madeline Finn and the Library Dog from the shelf, and he insisted that we sit together at one of the round tables. Quinton had recognized it because the school librarian read it to his class months ago.

As we got to the plot twist, his smile got even wider with all four dimples showing. In spite of his excitement, he held his tongue and didn’t spoil the ending for me.

Quinton struggles to read and absolutely identified with Madeline Finn, the main character who hates the shame of not getting the words right in class. The story is all about how the little girl goes to the library where she meets Bonnie, the Libary Dog, and things begin to change for her. (I won’t spoil the ending for you either, but I do promise you will like it! I think we broke libary rules with our loud joy on the last page.)

Keep Trying by Papp

When we read it AGAIN at bedtime, we found a photo of the author with a bio so we read that next, needing more of this book we now both loved. The author Lisa Papp apparently has three cats–just like we do. Quinton and I decided to write to her the next day. We needed to know the names of her cats!

Before school the following morning, Quinton told me what to write, and I typed it into an email after a quick search found her address.

Ms. Papp was every bit as lovely as her book, telling us their names and even sending us extra artwork about the characters.

And the moment I received her happy email, it occured to me that I found my thing to give away.

Whenever I write, I am always hoping in the softest places of my heart that someone will feel better or more alive for reading my words. I can only imagine what it would be like to have a child write to me, telling me he needed my book and felt better about his own struggles because he read my words.

An email like that is the thing I long for most and I gave it away.

That advice was spot on. Giving it away swung the gift right back at me. Made me feel prosperous even.

And it was Good.


Here is the art Lisa Papp sent us, posted with her permission. We’re going to print it and put it in our copy of the book–which of course we had to buy.


And her cats names are Winterberry, Kringle, and Miss Elf.

Her FOSTER cats are “Wooly, Misty, Tuft, Mama, Tinder, Mulberry, and the two kittens from a spring litter – Clover and Clementine.”

I think I may ask her the next time I need to name a cat!






About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Beth February 2, 2018, 11:09 PM

    Love this.

    • Karrie Zylstra February 3, 2018, 12:23 PM


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