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Volume xviii, Issue 3 ~ January 21 - January 27, 2010

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between the covers

Moonlight Memoirs — Remembering that Family and Friends are Forever

How a teen’s good idea became a first book.

reviewed by Jeannine Dudzinski
photo by Jeannine Dudzinski

Maggie Mei Lewis of Edgewater is a normal teen looking forward to getting her driver’s license. She is also an inspirational writer and published author.

Maggie Mei Lewis, of Edgewater, lives two lives. On the one hand, she’s a 16-year-old high-school musician eager to get her driver’s license. On the other, she’s an inspirational writer who’s learning young that making a name as an author takes more than a good idea.

Though a good idea helps. Moonlight Memoirs — Remembering that Family and Friends are Forever was born as Maggie sought to reconcile the loss of a pet. Her book is just such a journey. But it’s also a story and not, at least at the surface, Maggie’s story.

Two young, innocent mice are guided through the woods by an old, wise mouse. In a clearing in the woods, they meet an ensemble of animal spirits — cats, foxes and horses — who tell them inspiring stories. The story is written in short poems, four to six lines per page, that are evocative rather than didactic. It’s both sweet and searching, without going too far either way.

“I think that a lot of young people are searching to make sense of their world and are very interested in spiritual issues,” says Laura Strachan, an Annapolis-based literary agent, of Maggie’s journey. What sets her apart, the agent says, “is carrying through on the results of her introspection.”

Making a name as an author takes help as well as a good idea. When Maggie’s book was still a dream, she thought about it in pictures.

Her first major step — and this Montessori school graduate took it on her own — was finding an illustrator. On eBay, she found Melody Lamb, an artist and animal lover from the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. The story evolved as the two collaborated.

Lamb’s watercolor illustrations give substance to the brief text and keep you lingering over the page. Each one is a painting in itself, setting realistically and charmingly rendered creatures in a magical, moonlit forest with lots of blue shadows. Indeed, Lamb auctioned off each original painting on eBay.

When Maggie’s mother, Greta Johnson, saw her daughter’s devotion, she pitched in. With no experience in publishing, Johnson partnered with Self-Publishing Inc, a publisher on demand that guides would-be authors from concept to distribution, including setting up a webpage. Within that framework, Johnson created her own imprint, Good Times Press, LLC. “It has involved a lot of hard work, but all of it has been inspired work,” Johnson says.

The hardcover book is as attractive and well made as the best you find on the shelves in a children’s bookstore. It’s glossy, substantial and whimsically designed, with mouse footprints bordering each page.

Making a name as an author takes readers as well as help and a good idea. To make that crucial connection, the 16-year-old author has filled fall calendar with visits to local book fairs, independent book stores, toy stores and community events.

The mother-daughter team have also sought out interest groups with whom their message resonates. Because Maggie was adopted from China when she was nine months old), she and Johnson first promoted the book through the adoption community. Maggie celebrated National Adoption Day, November 21, with a a book signing at Hooray For Books in Alexandria.

On December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, she donated 224 books to T*A*P*S, the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors, headquartered in Washington D.C. Moonlight Memoirs will become an item in their resource kit, which is sent free of charge to military families who’ve suffered loss. “This book will have a special impact on grieving children, comforting them that love is not gone, it did not end, it will remain present in their lives,” says Bonnie Carroll, founder of TAPS.

Johnson and her author daughter plan a healing mission for Moonlight Memoirs. Johnson, a retired Navy commander, wants to bring the book and its message of lasting love into settings where grief is common: hospices and the military, “specifically in elementary schools and libraries on base, perhaps even the exchanges.”

“We are hoping that will be a helpful resource,” Johnson says.

Meanwhile, Maggie continues on the book circuit.

“On January 14,” she blogged, “I presented Moonlight Memoirs to a local Kiwanis Club that had invited me to come. Along with a Power-Point presentation, we talked about the story, illustration, editing, layout, publishing and printing process. Then I also talked about what message I am trying to get out to the world, and how I hope to do so through this book.”

$14.95 at

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