Ask the Author: 'Jelly Bean Dean'
December 2020 | by brooke wagner | photos by lovely hitchcock
“These are moments we’ll remember, just you and me. I’m always here. I’ll always be.
When someone is cruel to you, just remember my love - you were sprinkled with special teardrops from up above.”
These heartfelt lines were written as a way to honor a mother who made a lifelong impression not only on her family but on everyone around her. Jerrine Huston was born in Fairview, MT, in the spring of 1930. She worked as a Federal court clerk for many years, but her greatest accomplishment in life was raising two children, Tom and Tracy. Late in her life, Alzheimer’s robbed Jerrine of many of her memories, but it couldn't touch the love she felt for her family, friends, and caretakers. Jerrine, nicknamed "Jelly Bean Dean" by a relative, wasn't a fan of her middle name and quickly adopted the moniker in favor of having to answer to the alternative (Blanche). When Jerrine passed away in September of 2019, her daughter Tracy Stanaway was inspired to write a book using the clever phrase, incorporating jelly bean characters, and a message of kindness she knew would make her mom proud. We caught up with Tracy to find out more about her latest endeavor.
Q: When did the idea for the book come to mind?
A: I was sitting on an airplane stuck on a long flight to San Diego and just had an overwhelming desire to start writing a book. My mom had passed away about three weeks before, and I was grieving and needed to channel that grief somehow. I didn't even have a pen or paper, but I used the notes app on my phone to get some thoughts down. The plane hit terrible turbulence, which would normally bother me, but words just started tumbling onto my phone and kept me distracted. I wrote the entire book on that flight.
Q: What is the message of the book, and why is it so important to you?
A: The message of this book is that it's ok to be different. Each of us is made special and unique, no matter what. It wasn't meant specifically for this time and place in history, but with all the unrest in our world today, it ended up being pretty appropriate for these times. A friend, Carol Clapper, said it best after reading the book. She said, "Its message is so needed today-not only for children but for parents. Each and every one of us ‘beans’ needs to remember deep down we are all good, and every other bean is special too!" This message of love and appreciation for others comes straight from the values my mom instilled in our family. I know that she loved me, unconditionally. The lessons I learned from her were taught in how she treated each and every person she met.
Q: Can you describe the publishing process for the book?
A: I sent the book to three different publishers. I chose the one who handled the distribution themselves, and it saved me a lot of time and energy. First, the book had to be edited, which was already done pretty thoroughly because my sweet husband is very good at that. Next, we added illustrations. I had to describe exactly what I wanted in each scene. At first, I didn't like the Jelly Beans that the illustrators drew at all! After several months of going back and forth, we finally agreed on the illustrations. The process took a bit longer because of the pandemic, as offices shut down, and everyone from my publishing company had to work from home. The day the books were finally delivered to my house was the anniversary of my mother's death. It was a bittersweet day - I wanted so badly to run to my mom and show her the book.
Q: What are some ways that the book reflects your mom’s personality?
A: In Jelly Bean Dean, there are several special things that came from my time with my mom. The Jelly Bean named “Rose” was one of my mom's caretakers at her memory care unit in West Park Village. She loved her very much and always called her, her best friend. The beans that turned into the Little Green Man from Mars and Red Red Robin were the first dance costumes my mom ever made me. Blue was her favorite color, and her eyes were the prettiest blue you had ever seen. I looked into those eyes until Jesus looked into them in heaven. Another character, "Miss P," bean represents her granddaughter Piper. In the sequel, my other children are characters in that book. Yes, I wrote a sequel, and it's in the illustration phase right now! The name of this book is called Jelly Bean Dean and the Bubble Machine, and talks about the fears that children and adults face and how to deal with them. Each of the characters in both books takes on a vibrant life of their own, as did my own precious "Jelly Bean Dean."
SLM Book Club: 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' | November 2020
You'll want to belly up to 'The Lager Queen of Minnesota' if you like character-driven novels, family dramas, female protagonists, or have an interest in small-town, Midwestern life. (And you don’t have to be a beer-drinker to appreciate it.)