Just when we thought 2022 couldn’t get any more exciting - with the celebration of The Max Letters’ first birthday, and our first big holiday gifting season…
The librarians of Mississippi made a big announcement that took us by surprise!
We were floored to find out that the book The Max Letters’ debut story-by-mail collection is based on - The Witch’s Tower by David Walker - won the 2022 Book of the Year award in the Youth category from the Mississippi Library Association!
The Witch’s Tower is not only the book that inspired the creation of The Max Letters - it’s also the first book in the Max Series.
Being the author’s daughter, I’m of course wildly proud.
It’s one thing to grow up knowing the magic and wonder of these special Max stories, but it’s another thing entirely to see my father, the author, receive this kind of public affirmation.
And from librarians, no less!!
If one is to win a literary award - these are the very special group of book-loving, good-story-knowing humans one wants to win it from, no?
It’s especially fun to celebrate this official win for a book that has been so many decades in the making.
The Book of the Year award is given to books published within the past year, and The Witch’s Tower qualified, as it was officially published by my dad just last year.
But it’s really a book that began a long time ago, when my father was in his twenties.
My dad has always been a creative soul, and wrote stories and books all through his career as a public school teacher and education consultant.
Like so many writers before him, he spent years submitting stories to agents and publishers the old-fashioned way, printing pages and pages of manuscripts and mailing them off with cover letters and hopes of the right person taking notice.
These were the days of the gatekeepers, before the internet made reaching “the world” directly with your art possible.
And these were also the days when fantasy fiction - in the style of wizards, elves and talking beasts that my dad loved and admired from the greats before him like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis - was not in fashion. So the publishing houses weren’t interested.
Today, artists and authors like my dad have the ability to directly access their would-be readers and followers.
So my dad began to self-publish his books. They’re as diverse as his interests and talents, and I encourage any fiction readers to take your pick and be delighted - they’re all simply fantastic in their own unique ways.
But his cherished Max stories…
He kept to himself.
Well, not entirely to himself. Locally, friends, friends’ children, and even one friend’s entire 7th grade class, all got to experience the fantastic magic of Max’s adventures in Gaspaar.
Over the years, hundreds of readers enjoyed the Max series as my dad continued to revisit, refine and expand it.
So you can see why it felt so special for him to finally release his finished product into the wild.
When he did, I reread The Witch’s Tower myself, curious how it would stand the test of time after all these years.
Yes, I had great memories of Max’s adventures from my childhood, falling asleep listening to my dad read the stories to me.
But I was a kid. And this was my dad.
I’m relieved - no, thrilled! - to report, my dad is actually an incredible writer.
Even though he’d never say it, I can. Not only as a fiction fan myself… but as a person who has staked her whole business on it...
And now, as someone who receives regular enthusiastic thanks from families of young Max Letters readers from across the world. (Which, by the way, gives me so much joy sometimes I think I could burst!)
But I will say… even with all that validation here at home, and within our little business…
Receiving this recognition from the Mississippi Library Association makes me so proud. For the story itself, and also for my dad.
Watching my dad dream, write, put away, rewrite, and put away again, his treasured stories over all these years…
I think he’d been holding onto the idea that the gatekeepers should be the ones to put this special story onto bookshelves.
But when you know your art is ready, and the gatekeepers don’t choose you - I believe you need to choose you.
I love that he finally decided to let go, and give his heart to the world himself.
I think when you do that, something happens. Providence moves too.
That’s taken from a quote I have framed on my bedroom wall:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”–William H. Murray
So after all this time and journey to get here, it seems fitting that in the year we celebrated the “launch” of a very old book - and a brand new story letter adventure along with it…
The esteemed librarians of Mississippi would find and choose this very special, well-loved story as the best of the year.
I choose it, too.
P.S. You can choose it too - in traditional book format here or in our special Max Letters year-long adventure by mail experience.