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Family research project turns into children's book series for local author

'It was written for middle-grade readers, 9 to 12 years, and they seem to be enjoying it very much'

North Bay author Heather Stemp has a series for kids on Amelia Earhart and, interestingly it came about by accident.

The books for middle-grade readers, Amelia and Me, and Under Amelia’s Wings.are part of a series about Earhart after Stemp discovered a family connection.

Her family is originally from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, where her aunt and uncle ran the airstrip. Amelia Earhart once landed on the airstrip and met Heather’s relatives.

"My first book, "Amelia and Me," began as a research project into my family history," Stemp told BayToday. "The character of Ginny Ross is based on my Aunt Ginny, who really did prepare a thermos of soup for Amelia Earhart to take on her solo transatlantic flight from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, in 1932. When Ginny died in 2001, I realized I had to write her story or it would be lost forever."

The second book "Under Amelia's Wing" just seemed to flow out of the first one, and serves as an inspiring role model for young female readers.

"I felt Ginny and Amelia still had stories to tell. We re-meet Ginny in 1936, when Amelia Earhart is hired by Purdue University as a career counselor for women as an aviation advisor. With Amelia's encouragement, Ginny applies to the mechanical engineering program. She is accepted and eventually switches to aeronautical engineering after two years. She graduates with a degree and a pilot’s license.

In both books, Ginny faces many obstacles. In the 1930s a young woman who wants to be a pilot is very unusual. Most people believed women belonged at home, not in the cockpit of a plane. In spite of her degree and pilot’s licence, her struggle for acceptance as a pilot still isn’t over. 

Publisher Nimbus Press, is calling these books the first two books in the Ginny Ross Series with Stemp currently working on the third book.

Feedback to the first two books has been positive, says the retired teacher.

"The response to Amelia & Me has been good since it was first published in 2013. It was written for middle-grade readers, 9 to 12 years, and they seem to be enjoying it very much. What has surprised me is the number of adults who have told me they love the book. Parents and grandparents are reading it before giving it to their children and grandchildren."

Under Amelia’s Wing was just released on September 30 so Stemp will have a better idea of how it is doing after Christmas.

Stemp has this advice for aspiring authors.

"Learn the craft of writing. I did so through courses – some face to face and some online. Then don't give up. I can't count the number of drafts I've written of Amelia and Me and Under Amelia’s Wing. Write and then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite – with informative feedback from a good source, for example, a writers’ group, a professional association, or a mentor."

She admits the COVID pandemic has been tough on writers.

"We have a product to sell and we can’t get out there to sell it. If I can meet people in person, I have a much better chance to interest them in my books. I’ve really missed an in-person book launch, book signings, and just personally interacting with my readers. We’re all doing the best we can digitally but it’s not quite the same. I’m looking forward to an in-person book launch for my next book!"

If you like to pick up copies in person, there are signed copies at Coles and Allison's in North Bay. You can also go to Nimbus where it is also available as an audiobook, Amazon. or Stemp's own website.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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