Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eva Vargas and beloved Betty MacDonald fan club fan

Betty MacDonald fan club fans,

we received this mail from our Betty MacDonald fan club honor member Gwen Grant, beloved author and Betty MacDonald fan. 

I agree we have the most interesting and fascinating Betty MacDonald fan club honor members.

Betty MacDonald fan club fans from all over the world  enjoy reading Gwen Grant's wonderful books.


Dear Betty MacDonald fan club fans,

i've just taken down from my bookshelves the four books of Betty's that I have and they've been read so much, the covers of THE EGG AND I and ONIONS IN THE STEW are a a bit battered! I was interested in the dates they were published and thought others might be interested, as well.

THE EGG AND I - 1955 - llth impression

and 'WHO, ME?' 1960 - a compilation of Betty's work and this has a small photograph of Betty on the cover of the book itself and inside there is a photograph of Betty and two of her grandchildren.

Three of them are Book Club books and they look nothing from the outside - give no idea of the brilliant world within. Opening one of Betty's books is like finding treasure. The 1949 and 1951 books I bought at a Jumble Sale when I was about 17 and had read THE EGG AND I. I felt so fortunate to find them and carried them home as tenderly as if they were eggs! I think they were printed on wartime paper because the paper isn't spectacular. I imagine, though, that there are much older books than these around and just as much loved as mine.

Another fan of Betty's asked recently how old I was when I first read Betty's books - I think I was about 16. I read THE EGG AND I first because from the moment I read that first paragraph, I was hooked. I loved reading about people's lives and that opening paragraph is so instantly appealing.
My own books were much influenced by Betty, especially KNOCK AND WAIT, which is the story of my year at an Open Air School, which was a bit like a Sanatorium but wasn't.

PRIVATE-KEEP OUT is the first in my trilogy dealing with my childhood. There are fictional elements to this book but the basis is true.
My family, for instance, at that time was my three brothers but I had a sister who died. All the same, I thought of her as still being my family, so I put her in my book as Lucy. I have another sister younger than me - so the heroine had two sisters, but, I have to say, all the nice parts of Rose are my youngest sister's - all the other bits are me! The town I lived in is there, the street I lived in, the feelings I had, many of the things that happened.

KNOCK AND WAIT - When I first wrote this book, it wasn't at all funny, and I wasn't happy with it. It sounded too sad and too dark, so, remembering THE PLAGUE AND I and Betty and Kimi's response to their situation, I rewrote KNOCK AND WAIT and this time I was happy with it. It was funny and yet it showed the truth of my year in that hsopital school. Betty walks a tightrope with THE PLAGUE AND I because to write about something so life changing as a serious illness and yet keep it light but without minimising the impact it has on your life or belittling the experience, because, of course, there are others who suffer as well, is tremendously difficult. Betty had that unique ability and I think that ability came from the generosity of her nature.

ONE WAY ONLY - there are fictional elements in this book but still mixed with many elements of truth.

I have written other children's books about subjects that have been important to me and these will eventually appear on my website which is still being built. I wish I could say I was building it but it's my husband, Ian, (a Scot) who is actually doing the work. When my is finished, all my books will be on it and more of my poems.

I have written four picture books - LITTLE BLUE CAR, which is about a new little car learning how he works - just like all small children. This was a story I used to tell my grandchildren. Their father had a little blue car so I just brought the car to life - helped by the children's fondness for it.

JONPANDA - about a Panda. I have that Panda still. I had him when I was a little girl and now he's so old and battered, he lives in tissue paper in a paper bag in the cupboard. JONPANDA comes to life for his friend, Mamie, who has rescued him from a wretched life at the fairground and they share a challenging experience together.

MATTHEW AND HIS MAGIC KITE - a story of a little boy's adventure on a kite that turns out to be magic. He goes to the North Pole on the kite because I always loved the idea of the North Pole, and has an adventure with a bear. Now this bear was one that used to be in Dundee, Scotland, museum and we lived there for a year. I used to take my sons to look at it but my imagination was captured by this bear and I looked at it as much as the boys. I once stepped over the rail that said 'KEEP OUT' and touched its fur and it was hard and spiky. Poor bear.

RACE DAY- this is a story about all kinds of vehicles competing in a race - but it's also about Littel Red Bubble car being kind to animals and to the other vehicles in the race. I guess I just wanted to highlight how so very often kindess and competitiveness go hand in hand.

At the moment, I'm working on a book called THE LAST COAL BARGE. I live in a village that used to have a coal mine at its heart. That's gone now but in its place there is a marina. However, there is a history in the old pit area and Danny meets part of it when he meets the mysterious Jarred Turner, his pony, Boxer and his pet blackbird, Casey. It tells of the fate of the last coal barge lying in the deep water of the pit.

PRIVATE-KEEP OUT can be ordered from Amazon but the other books have to be sought out. 

I hope many of you will read my stories and enjoy them.


Gwen Grant

Vita Magica

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