Maria Hoskins of Mayflower could not find the book she was looking for, so she wrote it herself.
A community outreach specialist for the federal government for 25 years, Hoskins found herself becoming a children’s author when she went looking for a book depicting a Christmas like the ones she used to enjoy as a child.
"I had a wonderful childhood," she said. "Going to grandma’s house, staying on the farm. I always heard the story of the real meaning of Christmas."
Hoskins grew up in a military family, so she and her sister and brother were moved from place to place as a child. She noted, however, that Mayflower was always home, because that was where her grandmother lived. That was where her family always spent Christmas.
"Christmas was wonderful," she said. "There was always a tree in what we called the middle room. We always had presents. But what stuck out in my mind was it was cold, there was snow on the ground. My uncle came in with a brown paper sack of candy, and we each got an apple, an orange and some pecans.
"Uncle Otis and Grandma always included the story — the real meaning of Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ. To hear that story combined with such a happy experience — as a child, it sticks with you."
Reminiscing about her warm, happy childhood memories of Christmas, Hoskins had hoped to find a story that felt like "The Night Before Christmas" but with a twist. Instead of a visit from Santa, she wanted the excitement to be about the birth of Jesus. Finding nothing like it, she decided to write the story, have it illustrated and give it to her mother for her birthday. However, in the process, an acquaintance convinced her to publish it. Thus was born "Christmas Night on the Farm."
Through some mutual friends, Hoskins met Lauren Crymes, who became the book’s illustrator. She listened to Hoskins’ childhood stories and tried to capture as many details as possible.
"It was a long collaborative process between me and Maria, but I’m glad to have been a part of it," Crymes said. "It was pretty awesome, because I’ve always loved reading and books, and Christmas is my favorite holiday. It was fun to do that so someone can have this book for Christmas, and maybe it will be their favorite Christmas book."
Hoskins said she was delighted with Crymes’ work.
"The first illustration she did was the cover, and the farm house looked just like my grandmother’s house," she said.
When Hoskins first saw the finished product, she said, "I was so excited. I didn’t know what to expect. When I saw it, I was like, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ I felt blessed I was able to get this story in print for others to share. Just to know that someone’s going to pick it up and they’re going to like it. It makes you very humble. I figure this was gifted to me so I can gift the experience."
Hoskins sees a future for herself as a children’s author. She has already written her second book.
"Christmas Night on the Farm" is already in several libraries and bookstores. Hoskins will hold a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at The Lighthouse Christian Book Store in Conway Commons shopping center and a story reading at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Faulkner County Library at 1900 Tyler St. in Conway.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)