Pay Lots of Attention To That Man Behind the Screen!

Once upon a time, there was a writer who imagined a world populated with wizards, flying monkeys, invisible bears, good witches and bad, even baby dragons chained to their dens so that they wouldn't get up to mischief while their mom was away hunting.

Of course the author is Lyman Frank Baum, and while we're all familiar with movie based on his book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there is so much more about this fascinating writer that I never knew until I sat down with Kathleen Sorbello Di Scenna, Executive Director, The Lyman Frank Baum Foundation, Inc.

But first things first: the reason she got in touch with me is because the Foundation is launching an effort near and dear to the heart of anyone who loves books and writing: a Writers Program. The object of it is to help writers from the CNY area, particularly those who write in genres similar to L. Frank Baum's, get started, get critiqued, edited, and ultimately published!

Now here's the surprise: while many of you knew that L. Frank Baum wrote more than one Oz book, did you know that he wrote 14? I thought I had read them all, including a couple of my favorites, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and Ozma of Oz,  but I had no idea that the man was so prolific.
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Then Kathleen went on to explain that I didn't know the half of it - or better put, the tenth of it.

The writer was responsible for hundreds of works, including 55 novels in total, plus four "lost works", 83 short stories, over 200 poems, an unknown number of scripts, and many miscellaneous writings, including a form of "augmented reality," which included film, actors, and live music.

Here's another surprise: when Baum and his illustrator, William Denslow, approached George Hill & Co., in Chicago (Baum's publisher) with the first in the beloved children's series, they were prepared for the answer: "No." And they were prepared with a plan: they would front the money to publish the book themselves if Hill would market it.

When, several months later, Baum - upon the urging of his wife - went to Hill to see if there were any royalties, he was given a check which he assumed would be pocket change, folded it without looking, and tucked it in his pocket, forgetting about it until his wife, the estimable Maud, asked him about it. He, again without looking, handed it over, and she let out a shriek. $3000 in royalties - at the time, 1900, was a princely sum.

Needless to say, the book - the entire family of books - has gone on to create a mini-industry in books, movies, cartoons, merchandise, and children (not to mention adults) reading late into the night to find out what happens next to Dorothy, the Wizard, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow - all of those wonderful friends we came to know so well.

Much like the story itself, Baum's tale of the "humbug" wizard that is a tale within a tale (and characters within characters) Baum borrowed much of his story from the people and events of his own life and times.

Baum, with his peripatetic career, is most likely the model for his Wizard. Born in Chittenango (which holds its yearly festival), he was raised in Mattydale on a beautiful estate called  Rose Lawn. He and wife Maud lived on Onondaga Street in Syracuse for a time, and while they lived in many places over the years, there is an enduring legacy here in the Central New York area.

There is oh, so much more - curiouser, and curiouser! And you will have at least one opportunity to learn more as the Foundation presents a small event called Munchkins Remembered - Anniversaries, Authors and Autographs.

To be held at the War Memorial in Syracuse, Saturday September 19 from 10am to 6pm, the event will feature costumes, displays, munchkin memories (the actors recalling their experiences on film), and  the unveiling of The Lyman Frank Baum Writer's Series. It's mascot is (H)ighly (M)agnified Professor Wogglebug (T)hourghly (E)ducated.

"We would like," Kathleen explained, "to both bring in CNY authors (like Baum was) and to help foster and empower new book writers as well as support those who have already published works, offering help from beginning to end of a work and money provided to get the work published in the event a publisher cannot be obtained."

Individuals and organizations offering related goods and services are invited to buy tables ($30 each, draped and set up). Kathleen reminded me that since Baum wrote a little bit of everything, and did a little bit of everything from acting to dry goods, it would be difficult to find many organizations that couldn't find a way to relate to the man who is, quite possibly, Central New York's most beloved author.

Feel free to come dressed as your favorite character - there will be plenty of real magic on hand!

For more information contact:

The Lyman Frank Baum Foundation, Inc.415 North Salina Street
Syracuse, New York 13203


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