by Natasha Wing
This story was a long time in the making. But you know, sometimes delays are for a reason. And when a book comes out is simply when it comes out, and you just need to roll with it. That’s what I learned trying to create an independently-published book during Covid. And in the end, it’s a better book because of the delays.
The Legend of Lop-eared Larry was a story I wrote at the beginning of my career nearly 30 years ago. I had a lop rabbit named Br’er and I wrote a story to pay tribute to him. I was curious why some rabbits’ ears stuck up and others hung down. So I wrote an origination tale about a rabbit that was born with floppy ears and how his ears helped save the Easter celebration. I wanted to celebrate differences instead of, like Larry’s parents, try to hide them.
One of my favorite writers as a kid was Beatrix Potter. I was influenced by her writing style and told my story in an old-fashioned voice which is partly the reason why it wasn’t published traditionally. “Too old fashioned.” “Not current.” After the rejections, I filed it away. But every time I revisited it, I still loved Larry and the tone of the story. Over the years, I continued to revise it, and once in a while, I’d show it to an agent, always to be told it wasn’t publishable in today’s market.
As self-publishing became more sophisticated and accepted, I decided I wasn’t going to end my writing career without publishing this story. So I made the financial commitment to publish it myself. And because I had full creative freedom now, I also decided to publish it under a pen name, Hester Applebee. Why Hester Applebee? Because if you’ve been a W all your career, you end up at the end of book shelves and author lists. I wanted to be at the beginning this time! And Hester Applebee sounded like the name of a sweet aunt who lived in the English countryside. I found a photo of an elated boy holding his bunny plushies and made him the muse for Auntie Hester.
I was lucky to find a fellow Colorado creative, Brittany David, on SCBWI’s portfolio site. When I saw her rendering of rabbits, I knew I had found my illustrator! Turns out Brittany also had a lop bunny, Lil Zacky. She brought her love of rabbits to the illustrations and I couldn’t be happier with them!
I’ve been having fun thinking out of the box for this book. I found some kid reviewers from a Domestic Rabbit magazine ad. A few bookstore bunnies, as well as Easter Bunny, endorsed my book. And I had carrot seed packets printed up for giveaways instead of business cards. Carrot cake is my birthday cake of choice so I included a recipe for decadent carrot cake and cream cheese frosting.
Yes there were lots of hardships during the Covid pandemic (I lost my dad to complications from the virus), but there were also good things that came out of it, like reuniting with my old critique group, and finally publishing a story I have loved for 30 years, The Legend of Lop-eared Larry.
Author Bio: Natasha Wing (aka Hester Applebee) is a best-selling children’s book author who has been publishing for 30 years. Her most popular books are from The Night Before series that are holiday and school-themed stories based on The Night Before Christmas. She also writes biographies, joke books, and has a new board book coming out next year on her birthday. Natasha lives in Colorado and does virtual classroom visits. Perhaps her kitty, Purrsia, will end up in a book someday.
Back of the Book Cover copy:
Larry was born with floppy ears. He’s an outcast until his ears save his village’s Easter celebration. From then on, Lop-eared Larry was a legend throughout the land.