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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Frnka

The History Behind Grandma’s Dancing Shoes

I am super excited to announce that in November 2022, I released my first children’s book called Grandma’s Dancing Shoes.


It grew from a writing piece that I wrote during a writing workshop in 2007. The original piece is called Treasures and highlights some of my adventures at my grandparents when I was young. We always had so much fun. My grandparents had an unspoken limit. We knew what we could do and couldn’t do and most of the time operated within our limit. Parts of Grandma’s Dancing Shoes were brainstormed on a napkin at La Madeleine while I had lunch with my mom. Originally, I planned for them to be a part of Treasures, but soon found that the pieces needed their own story. I played around with them off and on for 15 years before I released the book. The story passed through the hands of two editors, a couple of friends gracious enough to give me feedback, and over a half-dozen artists before landing at Nina Struther’s kitchen table in February 2021 and eventually on the ipad of Allehseya Hawk

who helped with graphic design and final touches.


My grandmother passed away in June 2020 and my grandfather remained. I determined during Christmas break that year that it was time to publish the book, so I began praying earnestly and asked God to help me to find an illustrator. I wanted someone who could work closely with me to depict the light-hearted, whimsical story that I wanted it to be. Just as the new year began, I picked up a copy of our local neighborhood magazine. I was going to toss it, but saw Nina’s artwork on the cover. I thought it was a long shot, but decided to contact her. She said she primarily focused on architectural design, but might be up for the challenge. I sent her copies of three manuscripts. She instantly fell in love with Grandma’s Dancing Shoes and let me know that she was ready to begin work. Neither of us had experience in this realm, so we worked it out as we went. This would be a first for both of us and a journey that I am so thankful that we went on together.


A coffee date got us started and with each illustration she fell more in love with the characters and the story. She wanted to know more. I shared with her several family pictures because after all this story was based on the people dearest to me. We exchanged stories about growing up, about our grandparents, parents, our husbands, and our daughters. It was a beautiful experience for the both of us and one that I will treasure.


The story was inspired by a time when my parents called to see if our oldest daughter wanted to go to the Kolache Festival in East Bernard, TX. She was probably around six or seven at the time. My mom had given her a black sequined dress for an event she had attended and my mother-in-law had bought her black shoes to wear with it. Jocelynn’s least favorite thing to wear when she was young were tights or pantyhose. She preferred going barefoot or wearing flip flops, but if she had to wear dress shoes then she wore socks with them, so it seemed only natural that Jossie, the main character in “Grandma’s Dancing Shoes” would do the same.


Both of our girls love their grandmothers dearly and especially loved wearing their shoes and mine too. As a little girl, I also remember going into my mom’s and grandmothers’ closets to wear their shoes. I especially loved wearing high-heels and pretending to be fancy.


I grew up in a large Czech/Polish family. There was always a wedding or some event that usually involved Polka music and dancing. I remember when I was young my Dad would sweep me into his arms while he and my Mom would dance. He did this often with all of us, my brothers too. It was no surprise that when he became a grandpa he did the same with my daughters. Dancing with my parents and watching my girls dance with them was one of the most joyous places I could be. As I grew older, my grandfathers would ask me to dance too and the same for my daughters. We always had so much fun!


I didn’t set out to preserve or write this story, it just sort of came to light as I continued writing after the writing workshop and I am so thankful that it did.


It has not only allowed me to preserve a piece of my family’s story, but it has also provided space for a bit more joy, love and laughter in the lives of those who read it or hear about it as they recall some of their fondest memories growing up. For the little ones, I have watched as they discover some sort of connection to the character of Jossie, an action, or to the love that the story is meant to share.


I am including a few of the pictures that I shared with Nina that inspired some of the illustrations in the story. One that I am particularly fond of is the old KJT Hall in Nada, TX. It is where I spent some of my fondest memories with my grandparents.



Another is a picture of my parents dancing with my youngest daughter in their arms. Some of the best Polka music and dancing can take place right in the kitchen.



And, of course the main character, Jossie, was inspired by none other than our beautiful daughter seated here with her great-grandparents.


Grandma’s Dancing Shoes is a story of slow down, take your time, wait for it, it will come. It is a story of searching for, wondering, asking questions, and waiting a bit more. And, finally it is a story of finding the answer is not at all what you thought it might be — it’s even more magical! Especially when it comes to love.


Whether you purchase a copy of Grandma’s Dancing Shoes, listen to the free version here, or simply come to know the history of the story, it is my greatest hope that in some small way it provides you with just a bit more peace, joy, love, and laughter in your life.


Ya’ll have a beautiful day!


All My Love,

Jen

To purchase your own copy of Grandma’s Dancing Shoes click here.

To learn more about Get Strong with Jen! click here.

To schedule an author reading or school writing workshop click here.

To download the worksheets for Grandma’s Dancing Shoes click here.



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