Celebrating Main Street !
Hi, readers! When the final Baby-sitters Club book was published in 2000, I said goodbye to the series that had been a special part of my life for over fifteen years. Although I knew I would miss Stoneybrook and the BSC, I was eager to explore new settings, meet new characters and write their stories. Over the next few years, my writing took me in many different directions. In Belle Teal, I wrote about the struggle of desegregation in the south in the 1960s. A Corner of the Universe introduces a character with what we now know to be a form of autism. Here Today is set in the 1960s at the time of the Kennedy assassination. The Doll People books tell stories about dolls that come alive at night after the lights go out and the families are asleep. I wrote A Dog’s Life and Everything for a Dog after I adopted my own dog, Sadie, who was born to a rescued stray.
I enjoyed the freedom I had to create these different stories, so when my editor (and good friend) David Levithan asked me to write a new series for Scholastic, I was initially hesitant. But as we discussed various settings for a series, David suggested combining two of my favorite things sewing and small towns. As many readers know, sewing, knitting, and needlework are my favorite hobbies, and have been since I was very young. As for small towns, I’ve lived in one for over twenty years, and I love to write about them, so I told David that my answer was "yes!"
My first task was to create what would become Camden Falls. I made a list of the shops in the town, drew a map of the town, and decided where each of the shops would be. I even made floor plans of the Row Houses where many of the characters would live. It was important to me to have a complete picture of this small New England town, and when it was done, I felt as familiar with the streets and shops of Camden Falls as I was with my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. As the large cast of characters came to life in my imagination, I was ready to get started.
In 2007, Welcome to Camden Falls was published, and readers were introduced to Flora and Ruby, two sisters who move to Camden Falls to live with their grandmother, Min, after the death of their parents. New best friends Nikki and Olivia, along with the townspeople and the residents of the Row Houses where Min lives, help Flora and Ruby make the difficult adjustment to a new town and life without their parents.
Nine more books would follow: Needle and Thread; 'Tis the Season; Best Friends; The Secret Book Club; September Surprises; Keeping Secrets; Special Delivery; Coming Apart; and this month, the publication of the final book in the Main Street series, Staying Together.
Writing the Main Street series turned out to be very different from writing the BSC series. For example, shortly after the BSC books began, we made a decision not to let the characters age. (Yes, they stayed approximately the same age for over 200 books!) But from the start of the Main Street series, we decided to allow the characters to age naturally. It was fun for me to have the chance to move the girls out of one grade and into the next, from elementary to middle school, and to watch their interests and challenges change as they grew two years older. Also, in the BSC series, each book was mostly about the adventures of a single BSC member, but in the Main Street series, I chose to write about all four girls and many of the adult characters in every book. This was a new (but fun!) challenge for me, and I enjoyed having the chance to frequently visit with some of my favorite characters and get to know them better each time.
Saying goodbye to Main Street is a little sad for me, but I’m grateful to David for his suggestions that led me to this fictional New England town. And for those of you who have been faithful readers of the Main Street books, thank you for following the adventures of Flora, Ruby, Nikki, Olivia and their neighbors in Camden Falls!