Why I Wrote Santa’s Mysterious Boot: Finding the True Spirit of Christmas
My husband, Bill is a professional Santa Claus. About ten years ago, I started my career as Mrs. Claus. We visit many homes, businesses and hospitals during the holiday season. Last year our Christmas season began before Thanksgiving and continued through Christmas Eve.
My children’s picture book, Santa’s Mysterious Boot was inspired by the many stories that Santa has experienced each year. I thought about the many kids who have tried to stay awake on Christmas Eve, just to catch Santa in the act of delivering presents. The story began to form in my mind. In a way, this story became a Cinderella story where Santa leaves his boot behind and the boys hold the boot hostage, thinking that if Santa comes back to get his boot, they can still catch the real Santa Claus.
The boys, Tim and Tommy Adams, put an ad in the paper for Santa to come to the middle of the mall, so he can claim his boot. Santa Clauses of different shapes and sizes arrive to try on the boot—but where is the real Santa Claus?
Santa has other ideas, in which he can teach the boys the true spirit of Christmas. He teaches them about giving to others. In the end, the boys feel much happier, and Santa gets his boot back.
My publishing journey
It was early in the year when I decided I wanted to publish this book, by September. I really needed to find an illustrator. I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew an illustrator who would work on my book. I had several contacts and one said she would do the book—but not this year. The next one said she would love to do it, but then, after a few months, she backed out.
This took me closer and closer to my deadline. I got an idea and put an ad on Craig’s List. I asked for an illustrator in my area who would like to do illustrations for my picture book. I heard from more and more people each day—from across the country. Each one sent me samples of their work. I chose two. Kerah Diez was from my area and she had just graduated from Utah State.
Kerah sent samples and I had to break the hard question. “Can you have the illustrations finished by September?”
It was May by then and she said, “Sure! No problem!”
We met and I gave her the story and told her what I wanted. She went right to work and did a great job. Everything was done, well before the deadline. Kerah did all the illustrations by hand and used watercolors.
The second illustrator, Trevor Brown, was hired to work on the tenth-anniversary editions of my Through the Rug series. He also did a great job on the cover and inside illustrations.
I was at the League of Utah Writer’s Conference and after the banquet, they were announcing the winners of the Published Book Award. I knew there was no chance to win with a children’s picture book. I have been a member of the League of Utah Writers since 2004 and I’ve never seen a picture book win before.
The people at the table I was sitting at had left as the awards went on and on. The last friend sitting with me had to use the restroom. There I was, sitting at a table with the empty seats of all my friends when they finally got to the children’s and middle-grade book category. It was unreal. I heard some book being announced. It seemed familiar.
“The Winner is, Santa’s Mysterious Boot, Finding the True Spirit of Christmas, by Jill Ammon Vanderwood!” I looked around, then I got up and walked to the front of the room. I was given a certificate and a gold pen for an award! I stood there and cheered at that empty table. My friend came back from the restroom in time to take my picture.