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Story with family heritage in mind
Christine Bollen has been writing children’s books for about 10 years now.
For her last five books, Bollen and her illustrator, Tanya Matyuschenko, have created lush, water-colored, fictional worlds for her readers.
But for Bollen, book number six, “An Angel In My Garden”, was different.
“After having grandchildren of my own and thinking about my grandparents, I wanted to look back and remember them and where my grandmother came from,” she said. “Then the idea for my story came to mind.”
Originally from Wenatchee, Bollen moved to Arizona 25 years ago. For her first work of historical fiction, Bollen returned to her Pacific Northwest roots, weaving a fictional tale about her grandmother, Minnie Clara, into a background populated by the first pioneers to come to the Puyallup and Green River valleys.
“The book is also about my great grandparents, Rominous and Minnie Nix,” she said. “They were both gone before my dad was born even. They were some of the early pioneers – friends of the Meekers. They settled in the Puyallup area.”
According to Bollen, she first started off by researching the lives of her great grandparents.
“My dad gave me this book 30 years ago, but I never really thought a whole lot about it then, I was never interested then,” she said. “But it was written by Larry Kolano, who was actually a cousin, they were also his great grandparents. So that is where I got a lot of the information.”
In addition to the book, “Puyallup Perspectives,” Bollen said she relied on the personal memories of another cousin.
“Alberta Johnson helped also,” Bollen said. “She’s a cousin who is 99 and lives in Chehalis in a care home.”
Along the way, Bollen said she learned many interesting tidbits about her great-grandfather.
“He had two different families,” she said. “I don’t know how many wives he had. The first family, she was a part-Cowlitz Indian and was the granddaughter of a chief.”
Bollen said she took her historical information, married it to a tale that detailed the everyday life of her grandmother and an angel who visits her and came up with the book.
“I try to make the books Christian, because I feel that’s what our country is missing right now, God, country and family,” Bollen said. “I did use some Bible verses in the book.”
After finishing the writing, Bollen said she sent the manuscript off to Matyuschenko, whom Bollen first met as a missionary in The Ukraine.
“We were there for two years, and one of my interpreters, Tanya, she wanted to illustrate a book,” Bollen said.
Initially, Bollen said she tried to help Matyuschenko publish her own book.
“Then I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I write a book and she can do the illustrations for me?’” she said. “She teaches art to children and has an art degree. I feel like it’s a ministry helping her.”
Once the illustrations for the book were done, Bollen said she set to work getting a publisher.
“It took me a couple years to get it written and published,” she said. “I was determined though, I didn’t want to just pay to get it out. So Iooked around and found someone who thought the manuscript was good enough to publish without me having to pay. They actually paid me.”
With “An Angel In My Garden” finished and published – by PublishAmerica – Bollen said she is already working on a new book.
“My children said to me, ‘why don’t you write a book about when you were a kid’,” Bollen said. “So I thought about the kids that were in my classroom.”
“An Angel In My Garden” is available at Barnes and Noble Booksellers or online at www.publishamerica.com.