At our Women Writing the West Conference I had the honor of rooming with a woman who has become a special friend, Betty Bauer. She released a children’s book last year entitled: Tamika and Friends. Betty is an amazing writer and dedicated woman to not only her stories, but also the youth who read them.
Tamika and Friends is about a young Puebloan girl’s migration from her ancestral home of Mesa Verde, Colorado to Bandelier, New Mexico. Not only did Tamika move, but her friends did as well as food became scarce and the enemy tirbes pushed close. This is a must read for every grade: 4th and up. Betty is a master at capturing the essence of the Puebloan existence. Tamika and Friends included photographs, illustrations, maps and sidebars that add a rich flavor to her story.
I love how Betty wove the culture into her story as it is as unique and special as a grandmother’s legacy. She describes types of food and how it was stored, the importance of pottery and how it’s made, hunting and manhood, the beautiful whorl unmarried girls boasted for hairstyle, and their masterfully built cliff dwellings.
In addition, Betty created a list of vocabulary words describing the Puebloan life and culture: mesa, petroglyphs, yucca, Kiva and more. This book is not just about Tamika, but it also includes her friends, how they separate, and then find one another as time passes.
I asked Betty to talk about researching her book and her tutoring experience:
Research for Tamika and Friends began during May of 2010 when I spent two weeks in a hogan at Mesa Verde National Park. I was humbled to be the first writer in the park’s Artist–in-Residency program and thrilled to be the first “artist” to meet with school children who toured the park. I took tours; questioned Park Rangers’ and interpretors in depth; read everything I could get my hands on, including books from the park’s research library; studied exhibits at Chapin Museum; walked among the ruins and land where the Ancestral Puebloans lived; and sat quietly – allowing myself to absorb vibrations and feelings that came to me. When I felt information was lacking verification, I consulted contemporary Pueblo tribal members as to their understanding of the cliff dwellers.
For 14 years I have tutored on the Navajo Reservation at both Cameron/Tuba City AZ and Monument Valley/Mexican Hat UT, volunteering in grades 1-12, depending on the situation. Signing up for this service through Road Scholar (Elderhostel) resulted from my love of the Native American experiences I had with Lewis and Clark study tours as a representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Although the Navajo tribe is not one of the 19 tribes that descended from the early inhabitants of Mesa Verde, I did consult both students and rangers as I worked on my manuscript. Tutoring at Monument Valley High School in language arts gave me an excellent chance to share excerpts of my writing for their suggestions.They were especially helpful in approving the artist’s illustrations for my book when both realistic and cartoonlike drawings were shown to the students.
Because of a printing error of my book Bison and Burro, I have been donating faulty copies to the students whenever my assignment is with the early grades in
the Reservation schools. The disbelief and then happiness in their beautiful black eyes erase my disappointment at the unplanned version of my first book.
Currently, I am concentrating on the marketing of my new book with appearances in classrooms and book signings. Any writing I’m doing now has to do with family
stories and history.
Betty Bauer, Overland Park, Kansas www.portamentopublishing.com