Guess the Plot
1. A 1200 page expository on historical Native American beadwork. No illustrations, but comes with a small pouch of beads.
2. Chipeta's beading is in great demand, as each bead can grant a single wish to someone pure of heart. When a greedy lord inherits a tapestry with her beading, no one cares--until they realize "pure of heart" includes pure greed.
3. Chipeta volunteers to create a prayer shawl to save the country of Miggiglegigle. Unfortunately, each bead costs the soul of a noble, voluntarily given. Jack decides the nobles don't need to know what they're volunteering for, and a dictatorship would make people happier anyway. Also, unicorn pearls.
4. Dr. Amber Garcia believes the exquisite Ute beadwork piece in the box of junk jewelry is actually the work of Chipeta, the famous Ute woman. But how will she convince the head of the department to spend the money on the box, and restore the gorgeous piece?
5. Native American Chipeta once rode in the president's private railroad car, and was photographed by Matthew Brady, but instead of letting fame go to her head she always clung to the old ways, like making stuff with beads. This is her incredible story.
Most Americans are not familiar with her name, but Chipeta is a beloved figure in Colorado [history], where [she] was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985. In the late 1800's, she was a true partner with her husband, Chief Ouray, and the only woman allowed to sit on the Ute council. She shared her husband's desire for peace, and travelled with him to Washington D.C. in 1880. CJ Brafford, director of the Ute Indian Museum, says "Her greatest strength was her gentleness."
[Chipeta was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.] Her story is important because she puts a human face on the enormous changes that faced the Native Americans during the whites' push west. In her lifetime she tanned hides with animal brains, and later had her portrait taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady. She was nearly lynched to shouts of "Kill the red devils!" and later cheered by crowds as she waved from an automobile in a parade. She saved her band's women and children, protected the captives of the Meeker Massacre, and rode in President Taft's private railroad car, [and had her portrait taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady]. Through all the changes around her, she held on to the old ways through her skilled beadwork. [That's like saying, Though she ruled the British Empire for 63 years, survived several assassination attempts, and hosted the first Wimbledon tennis championship, Queen Victoria is best remembered for her prolific knitting.]
I'm encouraged by the 2015 publication of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Roberston [Robertson] and David Shannon (Harry N. Abrams). That PB is 48 pages long, and shows there is an interest in Native American subject matter. There are no picture books about Chipeta, and the museums I visited said they'd be happy to carry one. "Chipeta, Queen of the Utes" by Becker and Smith, and "Searching for Chipeta" by Krudwig are for older readers. Mine [Chipeta's Beading] is for elementary students, grades 2-5.
Why am I the one to write her story? My author friend Nancy Flood and I talked about this at the SCBWI non-fiction summit in Boulder. Nancy feels we are fortunate to have the time to research and write, and that since we are able to share stories of Native Americans, we should, always hoping that our books will inspire Native children to write their own books. I've lived most of my life in western Colorado. I soak in the hot springs where Chipeta soaked and ride through the same aspen groves where she rode. We both loved children I feel a kinship with her. and When I visited her grave, I found a white feather on the path. One translation of her name is "white singing bird." [This is a clear sign that Chipeta has chosen me to tell her story.]
[I am an SCBWI member. My hope is that my book will inspire Native children to write their own books. I've enclosed an outline of the book and the first five pages.]
Does Chipeta sound more like Chippewa or Chiquita or Gepetto? I hate reading a whole book and finding out I've been pronouncing the MC's name wrong in my head.
I see no reason this project wouldn't find a publisher. If you've already written the book, you need to say so and include some sample pages. If you're waiting for a publisher to okay the project, I still recommend getting started so you can include sample pages. Maybe the entire book will be finished by the time someone gets back to you.
I'm sure Chipeta's beadwork was important to her, but I don't see how it rates being in the title or even in the query. Even though she was a prolific knitter, Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography isn't titled Eleanor Roosevelt's Knitting.
I wasn't certain until the end of the query that this is supposed to be a biography and not historical fiction.
It might help to group the information better (note EE's adjustments). Try to demonstrate you have the writing ability needed to convey the story to the age range you mentioned.
If the beading is important for cultural reasons, it might help to include a sentence or two explaining how/why.
I hope you find a publisher. Good Luck.
With picture books, you simply send the complete manuscript, is my understanding, rather than a query. Take a look at this:
I don't know if it's different with non-fiction, but I can't see why it would be.
It is actually pronounced like Chiquita, but you wouldn't know that. I live near Chipita Park which was named after her. (Alternate spelling.) There is an Ouray, CO as well.
There's a whole room in my local library with books of interest to Colorado readers, along with some Native American artifacts on display. This sounds like it would fit in quite nicely.
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