Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 11, 2020

Book Giveaway: THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS by Alayne Kay Christian

Alayne Kay Christian has a new picture book, THE WEED THAT WOKE CHRISTMAS, illustrated by Polina Gortman and published by Blue Wale Press. They have agreed to share a copy of the book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is 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 do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Alayne and Polina!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The The Weed that Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Tree is the story of a small gesture that turned into a phenomenon that was seen around the world. Partly truth and partly fiction, it is based on the inspiring true story of how a weed on a Toledo street corner helped spread the giving spirit far beyond its traffic island home. All Weed wants is to be seen, but people are in too much of a hurry to notice each other, let alone Weed. Weed watches, wishes, and waits until finally someone does see it. But Weed discovers that there is something far bigger and more important than a little weed being noticed.

BOOK JOURNEY:

There are several, but similar, versions of what happened in Toledo, Ohio in 2018. The following is my paraphrased version based on my memory of the day I first learned about the wondrous Christmas Weed.

It was just another Christmastime day in Texas until a little brown, shriveled up weed that was overloaded with Christmas decorations popped up on my television screen. I watched the corner of Secor and W. Alexis all abuzz with people celebrating the Toledo Christmas Weed. And I listened to its inspiring story on the news.

It all started with one small gesture. A family on their way home from church rode past the weed and a girl in the car commented that it reminded her of the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. The family stopped at a nearby store and bought the garland that would soon adorn the weed. Later, a woman left a small gift under the weed. From there, magic happened with the spirit of giving growing more than anyone could have ever imagined.

Stories of the Toledo Christmas Weed spread, and people reported the activity in social media. It was even reported on television and in newspapers all across the United States. People came from around the world to join in the jubilation. Safety became a problem with so many people crowding around, and all the donations were falling into the street. So the city set up donation points near the sidewalk where it was safer. Toys, clothing, water, food, blankets, pet food, and more overflowed the donation boxes and more lined the sidewalk. The donations were given to various charities, but the gifts just kept coming.

Sadly, on December 28, someone stole the Christmas Weed. The news called that “someone” a Grinch. He was caught on news cameras pulling the Christmas Weed from the ground, grabbing armfuls of gifts, and throwing it all in his trunk before taking off in his car. The next day, local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts cleaned up the area under the supervision of the police, and donations were given to local charities. Toledo’s Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz signed a proclamation celebrating the Toledo Christmas Weed and the togetherness and jollity it brought to the area. He read it on the radio for all to hear. The mayor invited Toledo residents to join him in celebrating the Christmas Weed and the camaraderie and community that it inspired.

First Attempts at Writing the Story

I knew immediately that this story had to be shared, and what better way to share than in a picture book. I researched and followed the Toledo Christmas Weed until the stories stopped coming. And I was amazed how the magic grew from the time I first heard the news report. I had gathered enough information that my inspiration to write the story ripened, and I was ready to write. But, when I tried to go the full nonfiction route, it felt too adult, and I wasn’t feeling the heart of the story that I wanted to tell. Thinking, since this is a children’s book, it should have a child protagonist, I decided to write it from the girl’s perspective. This led me to stray from the true story. In this version, the little girl decorates the weed and then visits it frequently to see how the Christmas spirit is growing all around it. But then, during an ice storm, a car slides into the weed. The brokenhearted girl decides that maybe she can save the weed, so she takes it home. Meanwhile, people bring potted plants, decorate them, and line the whole traffic island with their Christmas plants. The girl hangs a sign that reads “Birthplace of the Christmas Weed and The Giving Place.” The girl nurses the weed back to health and plants it on the traffic island. The weed thrives, and in the spring, it’s revealed that the weed is actually a unique looking Christmas tree. In the summer, the little girl plants flowers around the tree, and people hang gifts on the tree and bring donations to the new “Giving Place.” The final text reads, “The Christmas tree that once was a little seed tumbling in the wind became a symbol of giving the year round. And people noticed.” But the story was wordy and not as focused as I would have liked, making it a bit complicated as well. I still wasn’t “feeling” it. So, I took a risk.

Progression to Final Version

I decided to listen to my inner voice and write the story from the weed’s perspective. It was worth it to me to let go of my desire to write the nonfiction story, or have a child the protagonist, in order to write the story my heart told me to write. After critique buddies’ thoughts and writing many more versions, I simplified the text and honored my need to be a little more lyrical. I liked this final version because it is multifaceted in message with several different layers. It is about the desire to be “seen” or noticed when it seems no one sees you, which really equates to the desire to know that someone cares about you. It’s confirmation that you exist when perhaps your experiences have left you feeling invisible. Perhaps Weed isn’t insecure at all. Perhaps Weed is self-absorbed just like the townspeople around it. But whatever Weed’s true desire to be seen, once the little girl notices it, and it becomes the center of everyone’s attention, Weed realizes that there is something much more important than the desires of one little weed. So, there are messages of self-esteem, selflessness, and the more important messages of kindness, giving, unity, community, hope and more. I hope you will read it and find for yourself what the book means to you and let your children find their own message from the many layers this story offers.

Earlier I mentioned that I liked this version. Once artist Polina Gortman deepened the story and the messages with her own visual storytelling, I now love this version. I am super proud of it, and that is not something I often say related to me or mine. The visual story really brings home the messages of kindness, unity, and community. I love how Polina parallels Weed’s story with that of a homeless man who is seeking kindness. The text and illustrations together, in my humble opinion, are magic. That mix of two creative hearts coming together via text and art is what picture books are all about.

A Little About the Title

The title was a bit tricky. My first title was simply The Christmas Weed. After about the ninth comment (jokes in some cases) that someone connected the title with marijuana, I decided it wasn’t the best way to go. I bounced around titles like No One Noticed, The Spirit of Giving, The Giving Place, and more. But nothing I came up with seemed right. So, I thought about what happens in the story, and I realized that unaware people (who are basically sleepwalking through life) are awakened by the phenomenon of the Christmas Weed. And the title The Weed That Woke Christmas was born. I also felt it was important to honor the true story of the weed and the place that it occurred, Toledo. So, we decided on the subtitle The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. And now comes the part about launching a book in 2020.

Launching Books in 2020

2020 has been a trying year for most people. I feel like I should talk about that a little bit from the publishing side of the world and my personal book journey. The pandemic has had a major impact on children’s publishing for many reasons. Distraction, job loss leading to decreased budgets, school and library closings, business closings, and on and on we go. The majority of authors I know who were expecting 2020 releases had their books moved out to 2021 by their publishers. I was given the choice with my most recent books, and I decided to fight the virus and not let the world stop turning. I opted for 2020 releases. However, at that time, I didn’t know that I would barely be home from the hospital from knee replacement surgery when An Old Man and His Penguin would be launched. Or that my oldest brother would give up his earthly struggle three days before the launch of The Weed That Woke Christmas. As I write this post, with a broken heart, I prepare to travel to Missouri to say my final goodbye to my big brother. With these challenging life events, focusing on my books and their launches has been nearly impossible for me.

I mention the above because I think the challenges we have all faced in 2020, along with my own personal challenges, have dampened the joy that typically comes with a book journey. However, it is my nature to fight, and I will fight for my babies (books), not only for myself but also for the illustrators who brought them to life Polina Gortman, Milanka Reardon, and soon Blake Marsee (Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy: Cowboy Trouble). I will do my best to recover from my physical and emotional setbacks and help these beautiful books find their way into the world. This post is a step in that direction. Please don’t get me wrong, the path that these books put me on has delivered many moments of joy and comfort. I am so grateful for the experience of seeing them come alive illustration by illustration until they became the beautifully completed books that they are today. Some of the fabulous reviews brought tears of joy to my eyes. So, I can say that without these book journeys 2020 would have felt much bleaker. So I guess, I want to end this part about my book journey/personal struggles by encouraging everyone who is fighting, accepting, or dealing with whatever 2020 has brought your way, keep the faith. And if you are an author or illustrator, my wish for you is that your craft will be one of the places you can go to find hope and peace.

So Much More than a Christmas Story

Before I close, I’d like to revisit the title of the book. I struggled with the title because I wanted to be true to the Christmas Weed and honor what I consider its miracle. But I worried that the book will be considered a Christmas book. I worry about that because it is so much more than a Christmas story. It is a story that needs to be read year round. And given the state of our country in 2020, I pray that this beautiful story of unity will be read by many!

It is my hope that, just like in the story, the unity created by Weed will sprout around the world spreading and growing goodness and love . . . not only at Christmastime but all through the year.

Thank you, Kathy Temean for the honor of being a guest on your blog and for your never-ending support to the writing community.

ALAYNE’S BIO:

Alayne Kay Christian is the acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press and an award-winning children’s book author. She is the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. Her published works include Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series and the picture book Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa. The second Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy book, Cowboy Trouble, will be released summer of 2020. Her third picture book The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Story of the Toledo Christmas Weed will be available late summer 2020. Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. Learn more about Alayne, her work, and her services at https://alaynekaychristianauthor.com/. You can learn more about Blue Whale Press and their books at https://www.bluewhalepress.com/.

POLINA GORTMAN’S BIO:

Polina Gortman is a children’s book illustrator living and working just a little bit to the East from Seattle, Washington.

She was raised on the banks of the river Yenisey in Siberia by her grandmother, and spent her childhood exploring taiga, feeding burdock leaves to cows, eating blueberries by the handful and making up stories about precarious adventures of toys lost in a vegetable garden. As a young girl Polina spent hours poring over illustrations in kids magazines and story books. In 2007 she graduated from Siberian Federal University with a degree in Intercultural Communication and Japanese to Russian translation, but her love of creating and storytelling led her back to a drawing board in 2014.

When creating illustrations and developing characters, she draws inspiration from sketching people, wildlife and everyday playground shenanigans. She also enjoys picking apart stalagmites of picture books that grow in random locations at her house, board games and stargazing.

She is a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Western Washington and a local author-illustrator critique group “The Broad Strokes“.

To see what Polina’s up to right now, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Alayne, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I haven’t read the book, but I loved reading about your journey and it sound like a very inspiring story – something we all could use right now. I can envision this book becoming generational holiday family favorite. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey. I wish you all the best on your physical and emotional recovery. I can’t wait to read this story.

    Like

  2. what a delightful book

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  3. Congratulations, Alayne, wishing you all the best of success! And welcome to the ranks of Christmas Book Authors (((HUGS)))

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  4. Congrats on this wonderful book, my friend!

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story, both the process of bringing forth your beautiful book and facing your own personal challenges and sorrows. Both are inspiring in this difficult year. Wishing you all the best.

    Like

  6. Congrats, Alayne and Polina!

    Like

    • Sounds like such a cute story!

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  7. Alayne and Polina, I enjoyed hearing about your book’s journey. It sounds like a lovely touching book. I will share it on twitter and FB. Best of luck to you both.

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  8. What a unique and wonderful looking story! Congrats! Great pictures and I love the lyrical text that you shared. 🙂

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  9. Alayne, my sympathies on your loss. I hope the recovery from your surgery continues to go smoothly.

    I’m so excited to read this book! The illustrations are lovely. I’m so glad you shared this story in a picture book that will no doubt inspire many. Thank you for sharing the book’s journey. Congratulations!

    Like

  10. This is a heart warming story in a year full of disappointment and shows you can find a silver lining everywhere. Thank you Alayne and Polina for bringing this book to life.

    Like

  11. Such a fascinating story and journey! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Alayne! I look forward to reading this!

    I will Tweet this post and I follow by email, Kathy. 🙂

    Like

  12. Sounds like such a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing! I wish you both much success!

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  13. Hooray, Alayne! Congrats on this well-deserved story.

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  14. A lovely story of peace, sharing, love and finding the hope within. Congratulations dear Alayne and Polina!

    Like

  15. Oh my, a new Christmas book but one based on our society’s needs and good deeds
    Thank you!

    Like


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