Fulfilling Grandma's Bucket List


For one of our first Retellng projects my friend Jane sent me her husband Richard’s cowboy poems and stories that became Cowboy Troubadour. This collection preserves Richard’s wit and wisdom from a boyhood on a western ranch and from traveling the world with a sleeping bag and a Martin guitar.

Jane contacted me again to fulfill another dream. Her grandmother, long deceased, had written a novel set in Grand Lake, Colorado, in the early 1900s that had never been published. The literary agent had told her grandmother that it was useless to try to publish it since it didn’t contain any sex or violence.

But it did poignantly capture a place and a time. It is a story of life in an isolated mountain town on the eve of great change, and it is a story of the heart.

The book is not her grandmother’s memoir, but Jane could hear her grandmother's voice in idioms, in details she chose, in characters’ outlooks on events and relationships. (See my blog post in The Memoir/Fiction Divide.) Jane took great satisfaction in honoring her grandmother by completing her dream.

She appropriately resisted the urge to update the language or edit the story. Jane added historical photographs from the period in Grand Lake and drawings of clothing typical of the times.

Another pleasure for Jane was to donate the book to the Grand Lake Area Historical Society to sell in their museum alongside two books of local history published by her grandmother. This would have pleased her grandmother as well.

Do you have a family manuscript that needs to be brought to life, even if the reading audience would be small...just because it does?