In doing research on Betty K. Erwin (thank you Lord -sometimes- for the internet) I found that her papers were in the children’s lit. collection at the University of Southern Mississipi. I emailed the librarians in charge of the de Grummond Collection and was able to get copies of many of the papers for my research. This was just a few years ago and they are still available if you want to see them. You do have to pay for copies and shipping, but it’s not expensive.
One of the most exciting things was the discovery of a sequel Erwin had written to Go to the Room of the Eyes. The manuscript is called The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator. This sounded like a very weird title to me and so I got copies of the two working manuscripts and read them.
The two manuscripts were an exciting story that happened to the Evans children. Erwin was definitely into magic and sci-fi and many of her books focus on this in the plot. So I should not have been surprised when she wove this into the plot of this book. Although, I was because it was not in the plot of Go to the Room of the Eyes.
In the manuscripts Jody (one of the younger siblings) orders a “Psychic Investigator” from a magazine. It’s like a large pocket watch-like device that is supposed to amp up the emotions in a room that have happened there in the past, or any emotion in the vicinity. The other children think Jody got scammed, but when they realize it works they start to worry. Jody and Dinky decide to test it. The children walk around the yard with it, start crying and then decide to dig where they felt sad. They find a broken doll from the early 1900s that had been given a funeral. They also find the happy room, a servant’s room by the ballroom that belonged to their friend Lizzie O’Leary, the maid for the first family. Lizzie is a happy spirit and her room with the psychic investigator in it makes them happy. The story takes a turn when their house is robbed and houses are being burned in their neighborhood by an arsonist. The younger children decide to use the psychic investigator to find the culprits and Dinky ends up trapped in a haunted vacant house. It’s quite exciting!
One of the things I like to do is write. And I am definitely an amateur. This blog helps me practice and get better and so does looking at the inner labors of other writers. Seeing and studying Erwin’s manuscript has helped me tremendously in the area of writing conversation. Erwin is very good and I have learned so much more than I could have anywhere online or in the writer’s books!
The biggest way is to copy. Now I am not doing it to publish it or to make money and I won’t. That is wrong and illegal. But I have been happily typing up and combining the two manuscripts into Word in my off times for a couple of years. Then I will have a file with the book I can read and not two manuscripts! (If you are Erwin’s descendants reading this I will happily give it to you if you think you want to publish it- I’d love to see it on the shelf!) I am indebted to this author for many things and now for helping me to write better!
One of my very favorite parts of the manuscript gives me all the feels. In it Jody can’t sleep, so he goes to his little sister Dinky’s room (Dinky is the baby). Mom has started working outside the home and the kids are struggling a bit with this change even though they are all in school now. Dinky has a little plug-in stove in her room (probably an Easy-Bake oven) and is baking “hoggy” and reading to Fred her gingerbread man stuffed animal that played such an important role in the first book. Hoggy is a mish-mash of things mixed together and baked, then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. She and Jody end up sharing the hoggy and talking. It is a lovely scene and I wonder if it was based on real events (I hope it was). The children in her books remind me so much of children from my childhood and my own children!
I even imagined myself as Dinky baking hoggy and reading to my stuffed animal, Tigger! I just loved this part of the book so very much!
The best part of Go to the Room of the Eyes being such a big part of my life is that it inspired me to write my own book. Way back when I thought my dream of having a Victorian house would never come true I wrote The Secret of Sterling House so I could at least live vicariously through my dream in a book. I wrote the book I wanted to read and I what I wanted for my life. It was wonderful. Living in a dream land with no leaking pipes, mortgage statements or real house worries was fun! I put a treasure hunt in this book much the same way Erwin did in hers, but I did it my way and it has made me very happy.
I am also working on a sequel to The Secret of Sterling House, but it won’t be anything like The Happy Room and the Psychic Investigator! I hope you enjoyed this series and my stories and have found some book touchstones in your life. If you have I would love to know what they are! Please leave the titles in the comments!
With love and books come true for you from Kansas Street,