Saturday, September 10, 2016

Who Were The Black Olives?

A Remarkable Tale from the Land of Podd was my fifth book, and first children's picture book. On the first page (after the title page) there is a picture of a can of olives, with the statement Dedicated to the Black Olives. Because I've been asked fourteen thousand times "Who are the Black Olives?" I decided to tell, for the sake of posterity, the backstory.

A Remarkable Tale began as a poem that I wrote in the 90's in response to a work incident. The occasion was a training video that I'd written and was producing. There was a need at one point for someone to demonstrate the application of the product. The manager, however, did not want her hands on camera and declined doing the demo, which involved rolling out a piece of film to adhere on a surface. (Only her hands were to be shown.) Because she would not do it, all of her subordinates also declined when asked to show how the process is done. Only their hands would show, I reiterated. They each made excuses and it appeared that we were going to be stuck. But then the department director did it for us, even though he had a mild palsy which he had to go to great lengths to conceal during this shot which focused on his hands.

After all the footage had been shot, two days of editing and post-production followed. There were three of us involved in these two very long days. The second day took almost 14 hours because we were resolved not to have to return for a third day. Because of our determination to finish we decided not to break for supper and instead, as it was getting increasingly late and we were getting increasingly hungry, ordered a pizza.

As is often the case in most pizza decisions, arriving at agreement on the toppings became a problem. After much negotiation the one topping we all agreed on was black olives. One thing led to another and we decided to call ourselves The Black Olives and in the closing credits of the training video we included an acknowledgement to The Black Olives. It became our inside joke. When the finished product was delivered Debbie Anderson, the producer, also brought cans of black olives, one for myself and the department head who worked on the project with us. We had had some great laughs and I brought the olives home to put on a shelf in my office.

Because this poem was connected to the incident that served as its catalyst, the can of black olives became a symbol that belonged associated with the lesson which is contained in this book. Hence, the dedication.

The book is available online at and locally at Goin' Postal. The list price is $15 but I've been selling them for $10. I was disappointed that the Duluth Public Library felt the cover was too scary to be in the children's book section. I probably would have had a more cheerful cover image had I thought more like a marketing person. C'est la vie. My illustrator, Ian Welshons,  produced some absolutely fabulous pictures to illustrate the story. You can see a few of them here. You can see more examples of Ian's work here.

Meantime, life goes on. Que sera sera

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