Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GUIDEBOOK

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.


The first guidebook that pops into my head is WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING. I wore that book out! But that's an adult answer. It took me a little longer to remember a guidebook from my childhood. 

What I finally came up with was all the books I used in order to learn how to care for horses. I knew SO MUCH about horses and horse care! And my research wasn't limited to just one book or even one type of book. I supplemented the more factual volumes with literature, like the James Herriot books, which I adored. 

I also loved DEAR READERS AND WRITERS by Marguerite Henry. It's basically a book of letters Marguerite received, and her responses to them. Little did I know that someday I, too, would receive letters about books I've written. This book is one of the select few that survived our downsizing adventure a few years ago. It turns out to be not just a guidebook for animals (horses, especially), but also a guidebook for being an author. And there's a page I've sticky-noted – why did I mark this page? For what purpose? I cannot recall. What I can do is share it here with all of you:

Dear Marguerite Henry,
Which book has been the most satisfying to you?
Mary Rasmussen, Baltimore, Maryland

[MH:] CINNABAR was far and away my most fun book to do. But truthfully, I am like a mother with many children. Each story means something very special to me; so I could no more name a favorite than a mother could say she likes her firstborn best, or her youngest.

The reason, I guess, that Cinnabar's story was the most fun was because I felt as free as Cinnabar. I knew that when it was done, I wouldn't have to ask him, or his vixen, or his cubs, to read it very carefully and sign a paper saying they approved every word I had written about them.

When you are free, the words kind of sing themselves along. [bolding courtesy of moi, because how true, how true!]

.... and I have just this moment decided what my summer reading project will be: The Marguerite Henry Complete Collection! I can't wait to get started.


  1. Oh there is a Freudian typo here. Check it out. I love it. BUT mainly I want to know if you ever saw the video about her called The Story of a Book and it is all about writing San Domingo the Medicine Hat Stallion. I will see if I can find if it is online. I saw it over 20 times. It is wonderful about her, the movie itself, her writing process, advice to writers etc. I am so glad you share this and I am so glad you have this summer project. She made you fall in love with her in the movie. I am excited.

  2. I can't seem to find too much info on the movie. I was showing it in school up until 2011 when I retired. Oh I hope you can see it sometime if you haven't.


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