A former Clinton County resident knows how to find that special spark in the ordinary.
Although Anna Grossnickle Hines hasn’t written a book in recent years, she wouldn’t object to doing it again.
While Hines, 73, now lives outside of Santa Monica, California with her husband Gary — in their self-built, efficient, all-electric, solar-powered house — she fondly recalls her time in the Buckeye State.
Hines, 73, lived in Wilmington as a very young child, while her father, Earl Grossnickle, went to Wilmington College and Miami University on the GI Bill. Her family then lived near Harveysburg, where she went to first and second grades.
Then she went to school in Blanchester, where her grandfather, Joe B. Putman, was the principal of the elementary school now named for him.
“My Grossnickle grandparents (Paul and Evelyn) lived on a small farm near Edenton and Grandpa was a mechanic in Blanchester,” said Hines.
Some of her best memories of living in Ohio are those times she spent on her grandparents’ farm.
“We gathered there almost every weekend along with my dad’s sister, brother, their spouses, and kids, plus my grandparents’three foster children. There were always eight adults and more than a dozen children around the dinner table on Sundays, with lots of space for us to roam and explore, and make up our own games,” she recalled.
She said they were also involved in planting and harvesting. She remembers sitting around a picnic table with her cousins, shelling bowls and dishpans full of peas they had picked.
“When on the farm with my family, I had a wonderful sense of belonging,” she said.
Hines and her family then moved to Los Angeles after her 11th birthday in 1957. But the spark for writing and illustrating started before the move when she was 7.
Hines told the News Journal it occurred to her that “somebody must have the job of drawing all the pictures in all the books I loved so much.”
The journey to her first book was met with conflict.
“Back then there were no classes or programs in writing for children, and the teachers at the college discouraged my goal, telling me it was a waste of my talent and that I should do either ‘real art’ or commercial art,” she said.
This led her to get a job as a daycare center teacher. In the meantime, she taught herself how to write children’s books by reading hundreds of picture books to herself and to her young students.
“What did I love? What not? Why? What did the children respond to? Why? I also experimented with different art and reproduction techniques and began writing in earnest,” she said.
During this time she married, had two children, divorced, went back to school to get her teaching credentials, and began submitting her work to publishing companies.
“Seven years from the time I first started submitting my work, after collecting over 100 rejection letters, I sold my first book in 1981,” she said.
Since then she’s published such books as “I Am A Tyrannosaurus,” “Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace,” “1, 2, Buckle My Shoe,” and “Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti.”
Hines never went for a theme or feeling with the books.
“Each one started with an idea or combination of ideas, that I developed into a story,” she said. “My most successful books were about the everyday events in the lives of children, things that might seem mundane to adults, but are very important to children.”
A July 1987 review of Hines’s book “It’s Just Me, Emily” from the Horn Book states, “Anna Grossnickle Hines, that sorceress of the ordinary, has once again touched her wand to a simple event and transformed it into a delightful picture book.” Hines believes this review captures her work.
Looking back at her time as a writer, one thing she wished she did was ask for help.
“I wish I’d had the courage to ask for help, to seek out a mentor, perhaps,” she said. “Being shy and very introverted, I wasn’t able to do that. What enabled me to even begin submitting my work, was being introduced to a then brand new organization, SCBW, now SCBWI — Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. That’s where I found out where and how to submit my work, and learned a lot more about the craft.”
She told the News Journal there were now chapters all over the world and she suggested anyone interested in writing or illustrating for children get acquainted with them and take advantage of all they have to offer.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574