Just in time for Christmas, a new Homer writer and artist has published her first book. Bumblebee Books, an imprint of Olympia Publishers, London, United Kingdom, released on Thanksgiving “A Christmas Parade” by Madeline A. Hawthorne, the pen name for Madeline Veldstra.
Set in Homer, “A Christmas Parade” tells the story of a girl whose mother runs a bakery. One day during the holiday season, the girl decides she wants to have a parade where they will drive up and down the street in her dad’s pickup truck, giving out candy and spreading cheer. The mother agrees and closes the bakery for an hour.
“Bakers and baristas stop work, put down rolling pins, pull cookies and bread out of the oven, close up registers, and spill into neighboring shops telling everyone to come to the Christmas Parade,” Hawthorne/Veldstra writes.
It’s a short parade, so at the end of the street, the truck turns around, the girl puts on a new costume, and each time leads the parade watchers in Christmas songs.
Veldstra, 26, grew up in Manassas, Virginia, and came to Homer after she met her husband, Ethan Veldstra, at a youth mission program in Wyoming. She moved to Homer in 2016 and wound up working at Two Sisters Bakery for nine months.
“I loved baking so much growing up,” Veldstra said. “I have pictures of me standing up next to the stove when I was super little, standing on a step stool.”
Veldstra got the idea for her book from a story Carri Thurman, one of the Two Sisters co-owners, told her about when Thurman’s daughter was 4 and wanted to have a St. Patrick’s Day parade. They shut down the bakery and held a little parade in Old Town.
“I was sitting there rolling out dough as she (Thurman) told me this, and thought, this has to be some kind of children’s book,” Veldstra said. “… This (“A Christmas Parade”) isn’t a true story, but it was inspired by a true story.”
Homeschooled as a child, Veldstra said she was inspired to write in her early years. Her parents used the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy by the 19th century writer and educator. The Mason method uses a lot of literature and hands-on activity.
“As a kid I was always making these little books and putting little price tags on them and selling them in my little store,” Veldstra said.
In high school, Veldstra took an online creative writing class.
“The school I was in had really good writing teachers,” she said. “I did a short novel.”
That instruction served her well in writing, Veldstra said. For one thing, she learned the rules of English.
“I write in a kind of poetic fashion,” she said. “I use a lot of fragments, but I know it’s a fragment. There’s a difference between intentionally breaking a grammar rule and not knowing.”
In 2017, Madeline and Ethan Veldstra got married, and traveled “all over tarnation” before settling in Homer. Ethan works as a fabricator at Bay Welding and Madeline works at home raising their two children. A third child is on the way. Madeline Veldstra wrote “A Christmas Story” during nap times. It sat in her computer for five years until her husband pestered her to send it out.
“I sent it on a whim one day, and here I am with a book published,” Veldstra said.
Without an agent, Veldstra had limited options to send out a manuscript unsolicited and from an unpublished writer. She did some research, found a half dozen prospects, and sent out her book. Olympia Publishers made her an offer. She got a traditional publishing contract, where the publisher pays the cost of publication.
“Honestly, we didn’t pursue this for the money, but I wanted someone to know they would be interested enough to publish it,” Veldstra said.
Veldstra also illustrated the book. Originally she did watercolor paintings, but her publisher didn’t like the art. A brother-in-law who works in digital art suggested she try that medium.
“I thought, ‘I’ll give it a try,’” she said. “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I’ve learned a new skill.”
She redid some illustrations, sent them to the publisher and got the go-ahead to do more.
“Then it was like every nap time I was working on illustrations,” Veldstra said.
With two small children, Veldstra writes when she can, but doesn’t force herself to write every day. She does keep a journal, though.
“I try to write one thing for the day that’s noteworthy,” she said.
Though she doesn’t have a current project in the works, Veldstra said she’d like to start a writing group for people to write down memories or memoirs, something she did when she lived back east. Veldstra had some health issues, and said she found keeping a journal helped her. She said she might take that journal and mingle it with narrative storytelling. Her journal has a lot of raw material that she said could help someone going through something similar.
“This is what someone who’s in the muck is going through and feeling, and there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Veldstra said. “You can feel these icky feelings and there’s still hope.”
Veldstra only found out about her book’s release on Thanksgiving. She doesn’t even have author’s copies yet, and can’t do any signings. She said the Homer Bookstore can get it on special order. It’s also available for order through Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com and in Great Britain through Olympia Publishers at https://olympiapublishers.com/books/a-christmas-parade.