Michael Lowell Welch… grew up in the Midwest and as a boy of 13—Autry’s age in Next Christmas in Girouette—he helped his grandfather put up hay with horses. “My grandfather, like the Amish men who farmed the land nearby, loved to work with horses,” says Michael. “I have woven my memories of him into this book. My grandmother is in the book as well, along with the town constable who kept watch over our little village while operating her sewing shop in Cardington, Ohio.”
Also woven into the book are memories of the serial Christmas stories that covered the back page of The Marion Star, the newspaper Michael grew up reading, along with the radio dramas that were still popular in the early 1950s. “The little town of Girouette is modeled to some extent after East Glacier, Montana,” Michael says, “where my daughters and I spent an unforgettable week one August on a horse-packing trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. One day, we’re going to return to Montana in December to see what an old-fashioned western Christmas really looks like.”
Michael, whose acting background comes through in the audio version of Next Christmas in Girouette (available on Podiobooks), spent four years teaching young children in the Philippines with the Peace Corps and in Appalachian Ohio after he returned from overseas. He earned a Masters Degree in Education with the idea of writing books Girouette, and then spent 40 years as a PR director and development officer in higher education. “It’s just like John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ As least, that’s what happened to me,” Michael says. “Now I’m back to writing for children and loving it.”
Michael’s younger daughter, Dylan, an artist in Berkeley, illustrated the book by drawing upon a visit to a ghost town in the California Sierras called Bodie. Michael’s older daughter, Kat, brings her experience as a wilderness/equine therapist based in Boulder to the fore as she promotes Next Christmas in Girouette on social networking sites.
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