Once upon a time, there were 24 drafts written of the children's story, "Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story," by Anna Egan Smucker of Bridgeport.
Smucker told the children who attended the Philippi Public Library Summer Reading Camp on Wednesday that it is important to work hard toward their goals, and that even writers and artists don't "get it right the first time."
"The message of that is just don't give up," Smucker said. "If you want something, keep trying."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Children’s author Anna Egan Smucker of Bridgeport demonstrates how bees created the Golden Delicious apple through pollination with the help of 8-year-old Philippi volunteers, from left, Addison Taylor, Elizabeth Jones and April Gochenour.
Smucker encouraged the children not to quit trying to achieve their goals. She said that even the famous children's writer Dr. Seuss received rejection letters 27 times before his first book was published.
She asked the children, "What if Dr. Seuss gave up and went to work at Walmart?" Had Seuss given up because of rejection letters, today's children would not be able to read stories like "And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street."
"Anything worthwhile takes a lot of work," Smucker said.
As with every finished book, "Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story" had to start with an idea. Smucker said she read an article about the discovery of the Golden Delicious apple and thought it would make a good picture book, so she filed it away in a "bulging idea file." She said that ideas for stories can be everywhere, and she encouraged the children to write down and store ideas so they are not forgotten.
Smucker said a little research showed her that no one had attempted to create a picture book about the discovery of the Golden Delicious apple in Clay County. She then went to work to make her vision a reality.
After many rough drafts and several rejection letters, "Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story" finally came to print. The children's book is a non-fiction narrative telling the story of the apple's origin and discovery.
"It grew for the very first time in the whole wide world right here in West Virginia," Smucker told the children.
Paul Stark traveled across the country to Odessa in Clay County after tasting the Golden Delicious apple for the first time. Smucker said he loved the apple so much he hired workers to build a protective cage around the tree that produced it. This was the only tree that produced the Golden Delicious apples until Stark was able to plant more of the same, using its branches in a delicate process, Smucker said.
Every Golden Delicious apple, no matter where it is located in the world, descended from that one tree in Clay County, Smucker said. The Golden Delicious later became the West Virginia state fruit.
Smucker said she became a writer because she is a reader. She said her parents read aloud to her as a child. Her other written works include "No Star Nights," "To Keep the South Manitou Light," "Outside the Window" and "A History of West Virginia." Many of her published works, both fiction and non-fiction, have historical roots. Smucker is a former educator at Alderson-Broaddus College.
Smucker said she is currently working on a novel titled "Cross My Heart," and she has other titles being published.
Smucker's presentation was well received by the students, who asked her to read "Outside the Window," a book she hadn't planned to present.
"I thought it was wonderful," librarian Judy Buckner Larry said. "The kids really enjoyed it, I believe. We hope to bring more good things to the library."
The summer reading program runs Monday through Friday at the Philippi Public Library. It will continue this week and then resume in the second week of July. The reading camp is accompanied by free food for children.
Other summer reading activities include "Dig Into Reading," where children get to "dig up some dirt and trouble." For more information about the summer reading camps, call the library at 304-457-3495.