Author Linda E Marshall has agreed to Giveaway a copy of book RAINBOW WEAVER. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.
Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around her village, Ixchel finds it littered with colorful plastic bags. There is nowhere to put all the bags, so they just keep accumulating.
Suddenly, Ixchel has an idea! She collects and washes the plastic bags. Then she cuts each bag into thin strips. Sitting at her loom, Ixchel weaves the plastic strips into a colorful fabric that looks like a beautiful rainbow just like the weavings of Mayan women before her.
A dear friend of mine, originally from Guatemala, now lives in Albany, NY. She and her family moved there to escape the terror, violence, and kidnappings that have haunted Guatemala. I was a graduate student in Cultural Anthropology when kindly professors invited my husband and me to dinner. They wanted to introduce us to Brenda and her (late) husband Fredy.
The introduction was a success! Brenda and I became friends. My husband and Fredy became squash partners. Almost immediately, we learned of their love for their native country and their deep concern for the Mayan people. The Maya faced political strife, genocidal civil war and government policies. Brenda and Fredy wanted to help. But, how?
Brenda, the anthropologist, and Fredy, the businessman, brainstormed. Recognizing that the Maya in Guatemala are among the most skilled, artistic weavers in the world, Brenda and Fredy determined to help the weavers bring their products to U.S. markets – and to do so in a way that would bring good, fair prices to the weavers. That meant quality control, innovative ideas, and an emphasis on choosing (or developing) design appropriate for U.S. markets.
Brenda and Fredy created an organization. They called it Mayan Hands. I helped as best as I could. Since having met Brenda and Fredy, I’d experienced some health problems. I’d left graduate school (without my Ph.D.), opened a bookstore, and began writing. I shared my writing with Brenda and Fredy. They encouraged me and sent my work to another friend, an esteemed journalist. He, in turn, encouraged me further.
Meanwhile, in addition to setting up Mayan Hands, Brenda was teaching anthropology. To further her research, she was returning to Chiapas, Mexico, where she had done fieldwork. She invited me to join her. In Chiapas, I climbed mountainous dirt paths to get to the Mayan village of Chamula. I slept on the ground in our hostess’s dirt-floor hut. I used the milpa as a latrine. Chamula was poor. Dirt poor. I recalled the thousands of dollars that had been spent on my health care…and thought the few pennies it would take to cure many of the health problems I saw in Chiapas. The contrast between the care I received and that of the Chamulan Maya was unspeakable. Unnerving.
Not long after Brenda and returned from Chiapas, Fredy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After several years and valiant struggle, Fredy left us. Brenda, continuing her work on the dream they’d both shared, re-doubled her efforts to help the Mayan people.
Mayan Hands grew. Wanting to help, I offered to write something. I wanted to bring more attention to the beauty, and to the problems, of the Mayan people, especially in Guatemala. I wanted to help Brenda. I wanted to do something in memory of Fredy.
One day, Brenda, Anne Kelly (a mutual friend and tireless worker for Mayan Hands) and I met in Brenda’s living room. The weavers had been re-purposing old plastic bags, weaving them into things like change purses. We brainstormed a story…The main character would be a child who wanted to weave. But the threads were (and are) expensive. Using the “if at first you can’t succeed, try, try again,” approach, I had our fictional character try different materials. My trip with Brenda to Chiapas (and my personal experience of having raised sheep on my own farm) helped me visualize the story.
I went home…and wrote. I wrote poetically because, to me, the land of the Mayan people called for poetry. I gave the character a name: Ixchel. I gave her an older brother – one initially skeptical of his sister’s efforts, but who later pitched in to help. On the advise of a friend, I strengthened the relationship between Ixchel and her mother. I wanted the universal quality of the story to be about mothers and daughters and how they can work together.
I went to Guatemala and met with weavers from Mayan Hands and Maya Works co-operatives. I read them my story, at that time called Ixchel Weaves a Rainbow. I asked their advice. I took careful notes.
I returned to the U.S., discussed the story with my critique group, made revisions, and shared them with Brenda and Anne. With their approval, I sent the manuscript out to a publishing house. It was rejected. I analyzed the rejection, and trying to learn from editorial expertise, revised the story.
About the same time, I applied to the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature (RUCCL) mentorship day. I was accepted and, at RUCCL, met with and received representation from Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis.
Christa sent Rainbow to Jessica Echeverria at Lee & Low. Jessica asked if I was willing to revise
– without any guarantee of their acquisition of the manuscript. Of course, I was! I was – and still am – hungry for editorial feedback. I reworked the piece once or twice and…Jessica Echeverria of Lee & Low acquired it!
Still, the manuscript needed work. The skeptical brother was erased from the story. More attention was given to the environment. A word was tweaked here, a phrase removed there. As Elisa Chavarri’s amazing artwork gave life to the story, minor changes were needed in the text. We worked together, a team.
And now, years later, there’s a beautiful book. A rainbow. Proceeds from it have and will continue to provide money for eyeglasses, health, and dental care for the weavers and their families. What a miracle. What a rainbow!
I feel very grateful…and thankful to all who have helped me on this journey.
Prior to writing for children, Linda (Elovitz) Marshall taught early childhood education and development as well as parenting education. A cultural anthropologist (just shy of her Ph.D.), Linda has also owned and operated a bookstore, produced “as-told-to” autobiographies, raised four children and a small flock of sheep. Rainbow Weaver is Linda’s eighth picture book. In addition, she writes chapter books, Middle Grade novels, and occasional essays for newspapers and magazines.
Linda is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis
Thank you Linda for sharing your book’s journey and offering a copy of Rainbow Weaver to one lucky winner. Don’t miss this book. Here’s the link to Amazon.