How The Grizzly’s Christmas Got Its Name

Cindy Schuricht's book release, this picture shows an actual grizzly bear waving. He seems to be smiling.If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that I’ve adapted a children’s story, The Grizzly’s Christmas, written by my college anthropology instructor, Malcolm F. Farmer. The book is currently in the hands of the printers. We reviewed the proof Tuesday.

Rita Mailheau, a professional copy writer, suggested doing a series of interviews about the book. Actually, she more than suggested. She allayed my fears, decided on topics for four segments, organized the shoots, and handled all the technical issues. She’s great. You can go to  to find her blog, the most recent on interviewing, and learn about her services.

Before you view the first segment, here’s a short adaptation of a story I heard Jane Yolen tell. A young man searches the world for Truth. He finally finds her. She is an old, old woman with wrinkles, wispy white hair, and bunions. She teaches him for a year. When he is ready to go back into the world, he asks what he can do to thank her. “Tell them,” she said, “that I am young and beautiful.”

My request to you is that when you tell somebody about the video, please mention that I am young and beautiful. Thank you.

Part One: How The Grizzly’s Christmas Got Its Name or Would You Buy a Book from This Woman?

In this segment of a four-part interview series, I share about adapting Malcolm Farmer’s earlier work into our soon-to-be-released version—The Grizzly’s Christmas. It’s about  a treasure hunt.

Since we’re talking adaptations, I’d like to steer you to one of my favorites. There are many versions of The Water of Life, a Grimm’s tale, but I never felt the heart of the story until I read the version by Barbara Roasky, with gorgeous illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, and wisely published by Holiday House in 1986. Maybe I just need things more spelled out than other people do, but finally the test of galloping down the middle of the golden road made perfect sense.

This version of The Water of Life has become a part of my value system and informs my retelling of The Tortoise and the Hare, but that’s a different adaptation for a different day.

You can contact me at or through this blog.

My New Favorite Piece of Writing Advice

Karen Cushman (author of many books including, The Midwife’s Apprentice, Catherine, Called Birdy, and Will Sparrow’s Road) spoke at the SCBWI conference. She said we should look into our own writing to find solutions when our story stumps us. We write more than we know and should go back to find the clues and the implications we’ve already dropped like bread crumbs.

Some recent bread crumbs are convincing me she’s right.

Bread crumb #1Rita Mailheau, a friend, had about a month to write a complete novel for a contest. She had a very exciting scene at the end of the first chapter. It grabbed the reader and moved the plot, but had little connection to the overall conflict. Several chapters later, the protagonist was dealing with a family member whose actions were hurting the whole family, and it was unclear where the story should go.

What the hero had to do to survive in the first chapter became the metaphor for what he has to learn to do in other areas of his life. Connecting the two issues helped clarify one of the hero’s problems and to suggest solutions. And the best part was she had already put it in her story without realizing it.

Rita is a writer who loves her characters and laughs as she writes about them. She is able to immerse her characters in different historical times. If you’d like to meet Rita, you can find her on Facebook or Pinterest

Bread crumb # 2:  I got to meet Miranda Marks through another artist/author friend who suggested Miranda and I talk about a picture book she was writing and illustrating. The problem seemed to be that Miranda started her book as a fantasy and then switched into science. We talked about different ways to go one way or the other. But when I asked her what point she was trying to make, she spoke of the wonder a child feels when the world seems magical, and that she personally found that same sense of wonder in learning scientific reasons for natural phenomena. She wants children to see the wonder in learning about nature. She really had already put in what she wanted to say, she just needed to organize and connect it a little differently.

Lucky me! Miranda and I are now working on a book together. (I’ll tell you a little about it in a minute.) Her art work is beautiful. When she showed me her sample painting, I almost cried. You can find other examples of her work on her web site:

Miranda’s painting

Bread crumb #3The Grizzly _____’s Christmas is the book we’re working on together. It is a children’s story written by my college anthropology teacher, Malcolm Farmer. Shortly before his death, he asked me to help rewrite the story. One of Malcolm’s strong interests was the place/role of bears in various cultures’ rituals and belief systems so his story is about a bear. He had included, but didn’t explain, some of those beliefs.

For example, part of his story is about what this bear should be called. Various names, such as George, Smokey, or Louis are suggested and rejected. And he makes a reference to a taboo. Hmm? Rewriting this story was going to take research and I no longer could ask Malcolm directly so I’ve had to go to other academic sources.  The research has led to finding the other rich deposits of meaning that Malcolm hid in his story, leaving them for us to uncover and polish. I am so excited to be working on this project with Miranda. Will be keeping you posted periodically

Bread crumb #4:  One of the most satisfying experiences in my life was writing The Pig and the Dragon. Many times I felt I was being given a gift

rather than being an author. There were times as I wrote that something that had previously “appeared” suddenly resurfaced in a way that made me say, “That’s why that (the old line) is there. Here’s where it connects.”

Now, finally, I’m learning to consciously look for those bread crumbs. I had an ending to a story that felt right and good, but not quite perfect. I found a bread crumb, part of a sentence to add to the end, moved two sentences and added three lines—there was the ending that felt complete.


Which brings me to fairy tales. Bread crumbs aren’t just bread crumbs. They point the way home. What crumbs have  you found in your writing?