Meet Janet Lawler, Levy Research Grant Recipient

Blog Post 1: Author-Illustrators

 As a writer, I confess to a long-held jealousy of the author/illustrator who gets to “play” with both parts of the picture book package, from idea through publication. I somehow had the idea (prejudice?) that creating a picture book is easier for these multi-talented people because they can “see” the whole project; the story (and related art) must just flow for them. I suspected that their process would not include the painstaking attention that I give to every word, and to every one of multiple variations of a story.

Although I have had several well-received picture books published, I continue to strive to improve my craft. I decided that a study of the process of author/illustrators might well help me better understand the magical interface of text and art that occurs in the best picture books. I hope my research helps improve my skill as a picture book writer, even if unlocking the secrets of author/illustrators can’t turn me into an artist.

Because I mostly write for the very young, I started my research with archival material of author/illustrator Katie Davis, who also writes for this audience. While I have only completed a review of two of her picture books, Kindergarten Rocks! and I Hate to Go to Bed!, I have already learned so much. And I have totally discarded my assumptions and prejudices.

Katie’s author/illustrator process is meticulous and time-consuming. For I Hate to Go to Bed! I studied twenty-seven dummies that Katie created. Each one included text revisions and illustration revisions, as she tweaked her story in major and minor ways. It appeared that many of these versions were done as part of her creative process before she came to the point where she was satisfied and ready to show a dummy to an editor. (I hope to interview Katie, to confirm this and ask other questions).

I now think that the author/illustrator’s job of writing a story may even be harder than mine because he or she thinks visually and can see so many possibilities.

Text and illustration revision of I Hate to Go to Bed! by Katie Davis

As a representative sample, here are several text revisions Katie played with for the opening spread of this book:

 I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very outgoing person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something. And I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.


I hate to go to bed. This is because I’m a very fun person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something fun. And when I’m sent to bed, I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.


I hate to go to bed! My mama and daddy absolutely swear nothing good is happening and that I won’t miss anything but I’m not too sure.


I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very fun person and I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.


I hate to go to bed! Because I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.


I HATE to go to bed! I just KNOW I’m missing something.


I HATE to go to bed! I just know I’m missing something!


A study of the illustrations in these many dummies reveals a similar “visual” revision process. All of the dummies show a frowning little girl (Katie captured her protagonist immediately). Some of the earliest dummies show “thought bubbles” of her parents partying after she is asleep. Others show her room with piles of toilet paper rolls (from which she later makes binoculars for spying). In some, her matching fowl (ducks/chicks?) slippers are quipping back and forth.

Here are three examples of Katie’s many illustrations drawn for the opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!  Click on each image to enlarge.


Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 1st dummy in Box 4: Folder 15 of Katie Davis Papers.  All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 1st dummy in Box 4: Folder 15 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.


A later version, with simplified text:

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 2nd dummy in Box 4: Folder 18 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 2nd dummy in Box 4: Folder 18 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

And the final opening spread found in the published book:

Davis, Katie. I Hate to Go to Bed! (New York: Harcourt Children’s Books, 1999), 4-5. Photo taken from : CLDC1438, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Davis, Katie. I Hate to Go to Bed! (New York: Harcourt Children’s Books, 1999), 4-5. Photo taken from : CLDC1438, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

The study of both text and illustrations reveals that Katie kept working the text and art, paring both to their essence.  Her final version of the first spread immediately grabs a reader and sets the stage for the storyline to play out in a well-paced way over the rest of the book.

The frowning face of the determined protagonist remains almost identical throughout all versions of the first spread. Ultimately, that face, along with twelve words in two short sentences, clearly share her BIG problem with the reader.

Throughout the many variations of the remaining storyline, Katie explores different approaches, both with art and text, to reveal how her protagonist tackles and solves her dilemma. All versions include varied layers of meaning and humor. Sometimes, the same words, illustrated in different ways, change the plot and the story’s pacing.

How will what I’ve studied so far change my own process as an author?

I plan to slow my process down to focus more clearly on my story’s essence. I will try to pare text to get to the universal—the situation, emotion, or problem that every kid can relate to in my writing.

I hope slowing down will help me to imagine different ways the story arc might play out around the universal theme. I shall play “what if?” and “why not?” with my words in a way that will let an illustrator fill in blanks. I will strive to be less wedded to the “first” story I write; there may be other words or plot angles that offer more opportunities for an illustrator.

If I am to truly leave room for an illustrator, I need to focus even more on making every single word musical and meaningful.

Writers should make dummies as part of their process

To accomplish all of the above, or to strive to do so, I plan to create a dummy (for the text) for every story I write. I have done this with some of my manuscripts, but not all, since I have developed a good sense of story arc and appropriate length for a 32-page picture book. However, I believe parsing the text of each story I write, and placing it on the pages, will further improve my craft by encouraging me to 1) better examine what words belong on each page/spread, 2) consider whether my words allow for expansion of my story through different actions/illustrations, 3) improve forward plot motion and page turns,4) evaluate alternate story possibilities and pacing, and, just perhaps, 5) “see” more clearly how a better story might be told.

I can’t wait to start! And I can’t wait to continue my research!



Exploring Bolivian political culture in the years between the War of the Pacific & the Federal War of 1899 in newspapers

[This summer, we at the Archives and Special Collections department at the Dodd Research Center had the pleasure to welcome Forrest Hylton, PhD, one of our Strochlitz Travel Grant awardee of this year, who came to us to do some research for his coming book, Reverberations of Insurgency: Indian Communities, the Federal War of 1899, and the Regeneration of Bolivia. Below is his essay recounting his experience working with a selection of Bolivian newspapers that are part of the Latin American Newspapers Collection. Enjoy, Marisol Ramos, Subject Librarian and Curator of the Latina/o, Latin American and Caribbean Collections]

La Bandera Federal (newspaper)

A Bolivian newspapers from Sucre (1884)

It is always a pleasure to work in the Archives and Special Collections of a research library, and thanks to a Strochlitz Travel Grant, I came to the Dodd Center to use the Latin American newspapers collection, which is particularly strong for Bolivia in the nineteenth century. The research I did in the course of several days will allow me to analyze key features of Bolivian political culture in the years between the War of the Pacific and the Federal War of 1899 for the first chapter of a book manuscript entitled Reverberations of Insurgency: Indian Communities, the Federal War of 1899, and the Regeneration of Bolivia.

The manuscript examines sovereignty, political representation, and property rights, as well as processes of racial-ethnic and state formation, and highlights indigenous forms of organization and mobilization that combined elements from pre-colonial, late-colonial, and republican political cultures. I argue for the role that politics played in defining collective self and other, and thus for its centrality to the construction of ethnic and racial identities in late-nineteenth-century Bolivia. In the Federal War of 1899, modes of indigenous sovereignty and political representation that had been forged in anti-colonial insurrections of the late eighteenth century resurfaced with dramatic force, and victorious Liberals tarred them with the epithet of “race war.” These were non-liberal, but not separatist or ethnocidal movements, which aspired to hegemony at the sub-national level. Non-indigenous groups would be subject to indigenous authority, at least in the countryside where nine of ten Bolivians lived. Yet indigenous insurgents were firmly allied with Liberal federalists. I have used judicial sources from Bolivia to understand these aspects of indigenous insurgency.

I came to Storrs to look at Bolivian newspapers from the 1880s and 90s to develop a clearer picture of the Liberal Party, in its own words and in the provinces, as well as the Conservative response to Liberal initiatives, proposals, and candidates. The Latin American newspaper collection at the Dodd Center has a number of papers, such as El Artesano Liberal, El Artesano, La Democracia, Ecos Liberales, Ecos Federales, Ecos de Aroma, El Liberal, and El Imparcial, that explicitly identified themselves as organs of the Liberal Party in Sucre, Potosí, and Oruro, as well as La Paz, and these papers—many of them produced by and for artisans—carried extensive coverage of elections of 1884, 1888, 1892, and 1896 and the fraud, intimidation, and violence that went with them, in country seats as well as provincial capitals. This coverage helps us see why the Liberal Party revolted against Conservative rule in 1899, since the electoral path to power was blocked by Conservative political monopoly, which also favored Conservative business interests in land and commerce. It also allows me to reconstruct the political and journalistic careers of leading creole figures in the Federal War, Conservative as well as Liberal, such Severo Fernández Alonso, José Manuel Pando, Ismael Montes, Fernando Guachalla, Adolfo Mier, and Claudio Quintín Barrios, and focal points of Liberal organizing in the provinces, such as Sicasica, Colquechaca, and Corocoro.

One of the remarkable things about Liberal newspapers is their interest in and coverage of local electoral efforts, particularly in Sicasica and Luribay, the area south of La Paz where the most important leaders of the Federal War emerged on the creole as well as the indigenous side. I had hoped to find news of local indigenous uprisings connected to Liberal electoral campaigns, particularly in Sicasica, but it appears that indigenous communities were largely absent from official debate and discussion among Liberals and Conservatives during the 1880s and 90s. The two articles I found in the Liberal press that mention indigenous uprisings (or the threat of them) condemned them as a threat to property rights and propertied persons, which suggests that Liberals had not seriously considered mobilizing indigenous communities until the late 1890s, even though there were local-level indigenous revolts beginning in the late 1880s.

I had expected to find evidence of Liberals and indigenous communities working together against Conservatives at least since the late 1880s, but it now looks as though indigenous activism against the privatization of community lands and Liberal opposition to Conservative political monopoly operated on largely separate tracks, with little overlap before 1896. Thus it is possible to see the Federal War of 1899 as the result of a general crisis of sovereignty, in which the convergence between indigenous movements for self-government in the countryside and the Liberal opposition based in provincial capitals and county seats—a temporary marriage of convenience—changed the country’s political geography decisively. The short-lived nature of the convergence, in turn, makes it easier to understand why Liberals turned on their erstwhile indigenous community allies immediately after coming to power.

Curator, Marisol Ramos showing Strochlitz Travel Grant awardee Forest Hylton a Bolivian newspaper

Curator, Marisol Ramos showing Strochlitz Travel Grant awardee Forest Hylton a Bolivian newspaper

The Dodd Center’s collection is essential for anyone wishing to understand creole and mestizo political culture of urban centers in nineteenth-century Bolivia, and though they fell beyond the scope of my own research on the 1880s and 90s, I found numerous papers from the 1860s and 70s, as well as the 1830s. What makes the collection particularly remarkable is its variety and diversity, for it contains materials from provincial capitals that have not, to the best of my knowledge, been preserved in Bolivia itself. I am grateful to have had a chance to look at the Dodd Center’s impressive collection, however briefly, and hope to return in the future.

Forrest Hylton, PhD, was a Lecturer in History & Literature at Harvard University in 2013-14, and beginning in 2014-15, he will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University. 

New Hours for Archives & Special Collections!

Hartford Electric Light Company Records

Archives & Special Collections has changed its hours beginning today, August 25.  We are now open Mondays through Fridays, 9:00a.m. to 4:30p.m.

More hours to serve you better!

These hours are in effect all Fall semester, except for when we are closed Monday, September 1, for Labor Day, and November 27-28, for Thanksgiving.

Call our reference desk at 860.486.2524 if you have questions.


Ed Young donates extensive archives to Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

Archives & Special Collections is proud to announce that Ed Young, the multi-award winning author and illustrator of children’s books, has donated his extensive collection of artwork, sketches, scrolls, storyboards, color studies and other archival materials to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  Mr. Young was born in Tientsin, China, lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and moved to the United States in 1951 to study architecture.  He graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and taught at the Pratt Institute, Yale University, Naropa Institute, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The awards and accolades for his books are too numerous to list but include the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po (1989) and Caldecott Honors for The Emperor and the Kite (1967) and Seven Blind Mice (1992). His books have been named to the ALA Notable Books list seven times, have been awarded the AIGA Award: The Fifty Most Beautiful Books of the Year ten times, and have received three Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Awards.  Mr. Young was also nominated in 1992 and 2000 as the U.S. representative to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award, for “works that have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.” Some of Mr. Young’s best-known and most-loved books are derived from Chinese folktales and include The Sons of the Dragon King (2004); Monkey King  (2001); The Lost Horse (1998); Mouse Match (1997); Night Visitors (1997); Little Plum (1994); Red Thread (1993); Seven Blind Mice (1992); The Voice of the Great Bell (1989); The Eyes of the Dragon (1986); Yeh Shen (1982); White Wave (1979); Cricket Boy (1977), and 8000 Stones (1971).

Ed Young in his studio
Ed Young in his studio © Gina Randazzo 2014. All rights reserved.

The Ed Young Papers have been on deposit in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection for approximately eighteen years.  His artwork travels extensively around the world for exhibitions, including many museums in this country as well as the European Union.  Mr. Young employs various media such as collage, watercolor and pastel, making his collection a treasure trove for researchers in the fine arts.  The finding aid for the Ed Young Papers provides information on the more than ninety books’ worth of archival materials.  Mr. Young now lives in Westchester County, New York, with his family and a cat.  More information on Ed Young is available at   The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection holds a substantial collection of materials pertaining to children’s literature and is very grateful for this extremely important addition.

Thank you, Mr. Young!



A traveling preacher with Connecticut ties

It happens with delightful frequency that historical treasures find their way to our archives in round-about ways.  Last week I received a call from UConn history professor Christopher Clark, who had been contacted by a woman in Texas who owned a letter that had a connection to eastern Connecticut.  Dr. Clark put me in touch with Ms. Anne Bowbeer of San Antonio, who described the letter and asked if I would like to include it in the archive.  I most certainly would!

Letter from S. Hitchcock of Reidsville [possibly North Carolina] to Michael Richmond of Windham County, Connecticut, August 13, 1835

Letter from S. Hitchcock of Reidsville [possibly North Carolina] to Michael Richmond of Windham County, Connecticut, August 13, 1835

The letter, written on August 13, 1835, from Mr. S. Hitchcock of Reidsville (no state stated but likely North Carolina, possibly Georgia) to Mr. Michael Richmond of Westford, Windham County, Connecticut, tells us that Mr. Hitchcock is originally from Connecticut and plans to return at the end of the month to hold a religious meeting.  Here is a transcription of the letter:

Reidsville August 13th A.D. 1835

My dear Sir I expected to have written to you, long before this time. But in consequence of the plentiful harvest and few Labourers in this region I have delayed writing till now. By letter received from Connecticut I have understood that my temporal concerns required that I should once more journey to my native town. And as any field of labour in this Country is verry extensive; and my whole time devoted to religious service I have waited [for] the vacancy of a fifth Sabbath that I might consistently[?] leave my circuit for a few days; you may therefore expect (If the Lord will) me to attend meeting at your Meeting house on the fifth Sunday in August at the usual hour of meeting. You are therefore at liberty to make the appointment if you think it best. I greatly desire your prosperity as a free religious; people had[?] should have much to write; But as I hope soon to see you face to face I defer writing more. Serve the Lord and Fare Well. Your Respectfully S. Hitchcock.

The letter brings up a lot of questions — who was S. Hitchcock?  What led him to leave Connecticut?  Who was Michael Richmond?

Perhaps an inquisitive student from the region will choose to research these men and their place in history.  For now we’re grateful to Ms. Bowbeer for her thoughtful decision to send the letter to us and allow us to save it for another 180 years and beyond.

Radical Families: Rethinking Life and Relationships in Intentional Living Communities

image (8) Communes, especially the communities that arose in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, occupy a particular place in popular culture. Films, movies, novels, and public memory have provided a particular rendering of the experiences, relationships, and motivations that drove people “back to the land” as part of the larger cultural, political, and social shifts of the post-war period. But how did the members of these communities define their experiences? What did it look like to live in these spaces? Using materials from the Alternative Press Collection and the Diane di Prima papers, this exhibit seeks to offer a visual record of daily activities on a variety of communities; religious, political or otherwise, that will challenge or confirm viewers understanding of communal living. More specifically, these photos and documents focus on family life in these spaces. What did it look like to be part of a family in an intentional living community? How were mid-century ideas of motherhood, fatherhood, and generational boundaries and knowledge questioned, reinforced, or redefined. By asking these questions viewers will hopefully gain a richer portrait of what it meant to live and grow in these radical spaces and how these communities fit in to a longer history of the family and of communal living in the United States. image (3)

This exhibit was curated by Graduate Student Intern Danielle Dumaine. It will be on display in the John P. McDonald Reading Room, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center until the end of September.

2014 Reunion of the sisters of Delta Pi

Birth of Delta Pi, November 1955

Birth of Delta Pi, November 1955

On July 26, 2014 the sisters of Delta Pi returned to Storrs to visit, reminisce, share stories and remember those who have passed.  In addition to the stories and tours of campus and the Storrs surroundings, a number of the sisters brought with them momentos, photographs, banners, beanies, clippings, notes, patches and other bits of Delta Pi history.  Many of these items have been donated to the University Memorabilia Collection in the University Archives, where they are now securely preserved and available for the future.  In this regard, Delta Pi is now one of the best documented student organizations in the Archives.  Congratulations to the sisters of Delta Pi!


Crowded reunion at the Nathan Hale, July 26, 2014

Crowded reunion at the Nathan Hale, July 26, 2014

Founding sisters

Founding sisters

Welcome to the sisters of Delta Pi

On Saturday July 26, 2014, the sisters of Delta Pi will be gathering for a reunion in Storrs. In addition to sharing stories of experiences since leaving UConn, the sisters have gathered documentation of the sorority and its activities over the years to add to the four scrapbooks, which will be available for viewing during the reunion, currently held in the University Archives.

The University Archives is interested in documenting student activities and organizations at the University.  Anyone interested in donating materials should contact the University Archivist, Betsy Pittman (

Celebrating National Parks and Recreation Month With Historical Photographs of Connecticut

caseonesmallThis July, Archives & Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center is celebrating National Parks and Recreation month through the temporary exhibit titled “Baseball, Beaches, and Bathing Beauties.” All month, two display cases in the John P. McDonald Reading Room will feature photographs from collections held in the archives that highlight the visual history of summertime fun in Connecticut.

Case one focuses on summer outings to Ocean Beach in New London by the Thermos Company. Stop by and see photographs of Thermos employees enjoying seasonal picnic favorites like tug-of-war, wheelbarrow races, pie-eating contests, and relaxing in the sand. Case two highlights more summertime casetwosmallactivities including the Willimantic Boom Box parade, softball and baseball, and Southern New England Telephone Company’s employee picnics. In addition to photographs, the exhibit contains several texts about outdoor activities including an article from 1946 in Coronet from the Edwin Way Teale Collection and several books from the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection including Kathryn Lasky’s Pond Year and Betsy Mable Hill’s Summer Comes to Apple Market.

This exhibit will run through the month of July and can be viewed Monday- Friday, 10 am- 4 pm in the Reading Room.

This exhibit is curated by Reference Desk Coordinator Tanya Rose Lane and Graduate Student Intern Danielle Dumaine.

Archives to Host Pre-College Digital Media Course


2013-0052_gm030 Emzon Shung and Chron.Dis. Present, Box 1 Folder 1.

2013-0052_gm030 Emzon Shung and Chron.Dis. Present, Box 1 Folder 1. Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

This summer, Research Assistant of Digital Media & Design Clarissa Ceglio and Archivist Graham Stinnett will be co-teaching two courses on Digital Humanities and Archives. The courses are for junior’s in high school intended to provide them with early education in University tools and resources such as libraries, archives and digital instruction. The course will focus its primary source work on the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection at the Archives & Special Collections, where students will have a first hand experience with punk flyers, posters, stickers, pins and ephemera within the collection. Students will benefit from a behind the scenes experience with historical records and artifacts in an archives to prepare them for future research access in an academic setting. The archival experience will then be extended into the digital realm, where students will construct portals for digital content and description and analysis of primary resources on the web.  Students will learn about techniques for manipulating digital content and interface tools to build contextual digital media pages.  Providing students the opportunity to engage in archival resources at an early age promotes further investigation into historical documents as education and research continues at the University level and beyond.