One hundred years ago, in a small town in Tennessee, a circus elephant named Mary was put to death. She had killed a circus worker defending herself from his abuse. RESCUING IVY was inspired by this true story, but it has a much happier ending.
Today I want to congratulate Karen Kulinski from Griffith, Indiana on the launch of her middle grade novel, RESCUING IVY! It’s very exciting to join a friend in celebrating their new book, but especially so when you’ve shared the ups and downs of the writer’s journey with that friend for so many years, as Karen and I have. And I have the inside scoop!
Writers sometimes get stuck on an idea and it just won’t let go! I asked Karen what her inspiration was in writing this book. Here’s what she had to say.
“Mary (the ‘real’ elephant) was my inspiration. From the beginning I felt that I was writing the book to make up just a little bit for the fact that no one spoke up for her in 1916, no one tried to save her. By rescuing Ivy in my book, I like to think that it might in some way make up for what happened to her. It sounds crazy, I know, but then there is a bit of craziness in all writers or they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.”
Unless you’re a writer, you probably wouldn’t imagine the time and work that goes into writing a book, especially a children’s book. ‘Picture books can be written in a day,’ some think, and a novel, in a few weeks. You might be surprised to learn that it took nine years for RESCUING IVY to come to life!
I asked Karen: What kept you going? What kept you from giving up on IVY? Here’s what she said.
“From the beginning, I felt that I was born to write this book. The idea grabbed me and never let go. Everything fell into place like magic while I was doing the research. And the actual writing of the book went easier than any other writing had. And along the way I had the encouragement of my husband and my writing friends.”
‘Research, in fiction!?’ you might ask. But a writer needs to know the world they’re writing about. They need to be in that world, with all their senses, and the feelings that go with it in order for the reader to believe what the characters feel and why they act the way they do.
Here’s what Karen had to say about her research for RESCUING IVY.
“My research took me to two small traveling circuses to watch the elephants help raise the huge circus tents just like Mary would have in 1916. It took me to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which was the site of the winter layoff of the Ringling Brothers Circus for many years. Baraboo is the home town of the five Ringling brothers and the site has been turned into a museum, with a wonderful research library. My research took me to Riddle’s Elephant Sanctuary in Arkansas to talk to the people there about elephant behavior, especially circus elephant behavior. And it took me into books, reading about early 20th century circuses in books loaned to me by the Circus World library.”
The book was finally ready! It had been written, received critiques from writing friends, and had been revised many times.
I asked what some of the obstacles were that stood in the way before Karen’s book was finally published.
“I spent three years submitting and waiting,” Karen said. “Editors took months to get back to me with rejection letters. Some held the book for as long as a year, and another rejected it after 18 months when the editor who I was working with left for a different publishing house that only published books in series. In all, IVY got 25 rejection letters! Then I sent it to High Hill Press—and they loved it! They planned to publish it the next year, but it took 2 ½ hears before it was finally published.”
And it’s well worth the wait! In RESCUING IVY, Danna’s favorite circus elephant, Ivy, is wrongly accused of killing a circus worker. Young Danna was witness to the scene, but no one will believe her story! Danna convinces her older brother, and together they team up with a young circus worker and some hoboes to rescue Ivy from being put to death.
Young readers will enjoy the photos and facts about real elephants and the circus at the end of the book. Included are websites where readers can find more information about the circus, hoboes and animal rights.
Thank you, Karen, for sharing some of your journey of RESCUING IVY with our readers here!
You can find out more about Karen and her books on her website, Down at the Depot.
Then, read her blog, Off the Rails.
High Hill Press 2016