In 1997 on a farm in Lake Crystal, firefighters decided to conduct a live burn training on a building near a maple tree. The result? The tree – named Mabel – was badly damaged.
The farm belongs to the family of Maggie Jones who witnessed the tragedy.
“I’ve known that tree my whole life and she was an amazing, beautiful, big umbrella tree with branches almost touching the ground,” she said. “It was very heartbreaking to see her injured. I’ve watched that tree slowly heal ever since. ”
The tree’s determination to live inspired Jones to write a children’s book about it. “Mabel Teaches Finn About Healing” is a story about tragedy and healing from it, despite how challenging it may be.
Twenty-five years later, Mabel has not only healed and grown, but Jones’ hopes her retelling of Mable’s story in the form of a children’s book will inspire people of all ages.
Jones will sign copies of her book between 10 am and 12 pm Saturday, June 4 at Willie’s Roadside Shop in Lake Crystal. Her book will be available for purchase at the shop or online at grandmaggie.com.
The book actually began as a 300-word short story entered in a writing contest for a little bookstore in Grand Marais called Drury Lane. Her lifelong love for writing inspired her to participate and her story ended up winning second place.
“It was just a nice little challenge,” Jones said. “I’ve always had this story in the back of my head because the tree is so amazing at coming back from that injury. So when they posted the little contest, I just thought it was a good opportunity to tell that story. ”
Soon after, she decided to turn it into a children’s book. In order to achieve her desired visuals to go along with the story, she reached out to local artist Brian Frink.
“I’ve known Brian quite a while,” Jones said. “I have many of his paintings on my wall. He had never done a children’s book before and was willing to learn and try something new. ”
Frink said he had total creative freedom while working on the project, which he enjoyed. But he also said he struggled a bit with it being his first attempt at illustrating a children’s book.
“It took about three years total to make all the paintings for it,” he said. “The process was, at times, very frustrating, but also wonderful. It was new territory for me as an artist. ”
Frink had no experience as a designer, either, so the two brought on graphic designer Ellen Schofield and typography designer Brad Coulter. They took Frink’s illustrations and formatted them for the book.
“It was a collaboration in that sense, which I love,” he said. “The story was there. It just took other people to find it. ”
Both Frink and Jones said they are proud of the completed project. Frink even said he would do it again if given the opportunity.
“I learned how to step out of my own limitations as a painter,” he said. “There are moments where somebody will present you a challenge like Maggie did this one. I could have just said ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But it was really interesting to be able to do something I hadn’t done. Which is what artists should be doing; seeking ways to grow beyond what you know. ”
As for Jones, she realized that her first-ever children’s book was not only inspired by Mabel, but by her love for her grandkids as well.
“As a grandmother, you always want stories to tell your grandkids,” Jones said. “I’m glad this can be one of them.”