In 1993, after I was done telling stories at a theatre in Antigonish, Nova Scotia; I found a picture of a lighthouse lying on the stage. On the back it said, “Sarah Gillis, Antigonish”.
I liked the picture a lot and even though I knew nothing about Sarah, I made up a story about the picture in the back of the car as I was driven to my next show. The story was about a kid going to a lighthouse after her grandfather’s funeral.
So I had a story for Sarah only I didn’t know where she lived; so I called the library in Antigonish and asked if they could find a 6 or 7 or 8 year old Sarah who had given me a picture. I figured that Sarah probably liked to use the library. Rhynda Tudor, the librarian, said that she could probably track down Sarah, so I sent the library this letter:
I really liked the picture you gave me after I was done telling stories. I liked it so much that I made up a little story about it. You didn’t put your address on the back, so I am sending it to the librarian. I hope she can track you down.”
Antigonish is a very small town and it turned out that Rhynda had a good idea who the kid was. She called up Miriam Gillis and said, “Is Patricia sometimes called Sarah?”
“Yes”, said the mom, “Her real name is Sarah Patricia, but everybody calls her Patricia”
“Well, did she make a picture for Bob Munsch when he was here?
“I don’t know” said the mom. So the mom asked Patricia if she had made me a picture and Patricia said, “Yes I made one. I just left it cause I was too shy to give it to him.”
The librarian gave Patricia my story and Patricia wrote me back:
Nov. 4, Thursday 1993
It’s Patricia, Patricia Gillis. I love your books! I’m 8. The librarian found me. I was hoping you would be my pen pal. If you’re not too busy. My mom’s favourite book you made was I Love You Forever. I don’t have a favourite. I’m in grade 3. Well I have to go now. P.S. Can you give me a picture of you. Well bye.
P.S. I love the special story you made me.
P.S. Can you give me a picture of you. Well bye.
And Patricia’s mother wrote:
Dear Mr. Munsch,
You made my little girl very happy today. When the local library called and said that they had a letter form you, she insisted on going to the library right away. She was delighted with the stories you sent her.
It is quite interesting that you emphasized the grandfather in your story. She was very close to her grandfather who died over a year ago. It seemed quite fitting that your story stressed the importance of the grandfather.
Patricia and I really enjoyed your visit to Antigonish. She listened to every word you said before getting you to sign one of your books and then slipping the picture she had drawn to you.
It was most kind of you to send her the stories. As soon as she arrived home, after leaving the library, she called her teacher and told her that she would take the stories to class.
And this was very strange because I did not know that Patricia’s Grandfather had died when I made up the story. Right then was when I decided to made the story into a book someday, but I didn’t want to tell Patricia because it takes a long time for a story to get to be a book and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.
A long time later, in 2001, Scholastic Canada said they wanted to make this story into a book, so I went wrote to Patricia and asked if she wanted to be the kid in a book. Patricia was in high school!
Sarah said “Yes”, so I went to Antigonish and took lots of pictures. Sarah took a long walks with me all around town and told me what it was like to grow up there. Then we went and took lots of pictures of the lighthouse.
It was Cape George Lighthouse in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia, on Cape George Point which overlooks the waters of St. George’s Bay. It was built in 1968 and it is the third lighthouse built on this site. It is on a hill and its’ top is 360 feet above the bay. Both Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island are visible with a clear horizon. It was a wonderful spot.
It turned out that Patricia wanted to use her grandparents house for the house in the book, so we went to Mabou, on Cape Breton Island and took pictures of the house and had an absolutely wonderful grandma dinner that was one of the best dinners that I ever had. I stayed with Patricia’s family for 3 days.
When I got back, I gave all the photos to Janet Wilson, who is the artist for the book. I am really happy with the pictures she drew for it.