From the desk of Amy Forss: A Second Scoop of Mildred D. Brown
The following is a post from Amy Helene Forss, author of Black Print with a White Carnation
Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938-1989 (Nebraska, 2014). Forss has a PhD in African American history and teaches at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. Her work has appeared in journals such as Nebraska History and Great Plains Quarterly. You can read about the first Scoop on Mildred D. Brown here.
A Second Scoop of Mildred D. Brown: Newspapers and Butter Pecan Ice Cream
As you know, I’ve been working on my children’s picture book manuscript for over three years. I’ve written a dozen revisions of it. But darned if it hasn’t been ringing. Do you know what I mean?
I wasn’t hearing that sound. The one you hear when you run your index finger around and around the rim of a water glass. I just wasn’t hearing that sound in my head. Something wasn’t quite right with the manuscript.
And after three years of looking at it I couldn’t hear what was missing. It wasn’t the story. I like the way it flowed. It wasn’t the illustrations. The cover art and the first five pages created so far by a talented local illustrator were doing Mrs. Brown and her newspaper carriers proud.
So, what was it? I knew I was close to figuring it out. But not close enough. Someone suggested a children’s book consultant. What was that? And for that matter, what did he/she do? I googled it. Apparently it’s someone who developmentally edits and manuscript evaluates. Hmm. Why not?
It turned out to be an excellent decision. First, the children’s book consultant had to decide if he wanted to work with me. Thank goodness he accepted me and my manuscript. Second, he read it. He asked me questions. I answered. Somewhere between responding to his queries, I found the ringing. It was the title. It needed to express the contents of the book and the character of those in it. I needed to make it more Mildred and include the young people around her.
After a couple of false starts, the title arrived: Newspapers and Butter Pecan Ice Cream: Mrs. Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star. It fit them. On several levels.
“Butter Pecan ice cream” tied into Mildred’s Deep Southern roots. It enveloped her Alabama home state and the yumminess of butter pecan goodness. It was the kind of flavor that makes you think of warmth and a rosier future for the youth. And “newspapers” offered a two-toned portion of sound. Mildred was the Omaha Star newspaper and “newspapers” gave another nod to the decades of boys and girls who sold it.
Newspapers and Butter Pecan Ice Cream features six newspaper carriers. Mildred D. Brown knew them; they were her family. Do you recognize them? Can you name them? If so, leave a comment.
I’ll take a double scoop, please.