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Imhotep, the Original Genius of Geniuses

LexiAndImhotep-flat

In writing the Lexi Catt series about famous scientists who made significant contributions to the field of medicine, I had to make some tough choices.

For example, I thought about writing the story of Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray. But the trouble with that story was that the story ended with the discovery. Roentgen gave away the concept, which was generous of him, but he did not develop it himself. His story was short-lived. But it led me to Marie Curie who used the x-ray as a means of saving countless lives in World War I. Her story was rich in character and detail.

A similar choice occurred with the story of Lexi and Imhotep. I harbour some regrets in not telling his personal story. I made the choice to invent Imhotep’s descendant, and set my story during Ramses II reign, because there was so much more information available about that era, and Ramses II did encourage community health. There was almost no information available about Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty, which was when the original Imhotep lived. My regret was placated by writing Imhotep’s real story in the Pawscript of Lexi and Imhotep to the Rescue! Luckily, Imhotep wrote “books” on papyrus paper, and so passed on his medical knowledge. He also wrote books on philosophy. Has those books survived, I might have written about him directly. Imhotep was a dedicated physician. He saved the Queen’s life during childbirth, and that of her baby, who was the future Pharaoh Djoser. Unfortunately, his own wife and baby died in childbirth at the same time. (I did not feel that this fact was appropriate to include in a story for children.)

King Djoser experienced seven years of drought before he asked his physician and vizier Imhotep for advice. This story was most interesting but had little to do with the science of medicine. Imhotep was a practical man, but he also knew the value of faith and hope as they supported positive attitudes. So he first advised the King to appeal to the gods with offerings and ceremonies. Then, while the king attended to creating positive outlooks, Imhotep, being practical, created better storage facilities for food supplies, and improved the irrigation system. It is said that he invented the Shaduf, an irrigation tool which is still used today in parts of rural Egypt and Africa.

When King Djoser wanted a more imposing tomb for himself, he once more asked Imhotep for one that would last longer than the mud brick of the day. Imhotep invented the first stone building—the step pyramid—and he invented the tools and the method to build it.

Though one reference referred vaguely to Imhotep’s children, there was nothing in my sources to indicate how or where he lived, or what he thought. It’s a pity those papyrus books he wrote on philosophy were lost. I’m sure he was a remarkable man.

Meg

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Lexi Catt’s Meowmoirs – Tales of Heroic Scientists

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Marie Curie – the Woman I Most Admire

Marie-CurieThe woman I most admire was shy and suffered from depression. However, she was so determined and so full of empathy for the human race that she spent three entire years of her life shovelling heavy dirt to find an elusive element that she thought might benefit human kind. Marie never faultered in the face of hard work; In fact, she drove herself sometimes to complete breakdown. She never faultered in the face of danger either, as she spent another four years of her life in proximity to bombs and bullets to rescue soldiers from loss of limbs and even lives.

That woman was Marie Curie. She suffered the loss of a sister when she herself was seven, followed by the loss of her mother when she was eleven. The loss of her loving husband by a traumatic accident triggered profound depression, but she found the courage from within to continue with her life during which she founded atomic physics, promoted new ways to fight cancers, and personally took medical technology to the dangerous warfront of WWI to save soldiers from amputation and death.

The fact that Marie Curie overcame personal woes and personal danger to help others speaks to her inner morality. Even Albert Einstein, who sometimes found her irritating in her lack of flexibility, admired her when he said, “I have always admired Marie Curie. Not only did she do outstanding work in her lifetime … and help humanity greatly … she invested all her work with the highest moral quality.” Marie was a stubborn woman who insisted on what was right in every detail. For example, she imposed her conviction that the American check for gift money raised for her Radium Institute be made out to the institute, and not inaccurately to her. She kept her promises, such as the promise to her husband by personally taking her radium to safety when the German’s invaded France in WWI.

Intelligence, perseverance, integrity, and courage all combined in one feisty little woman. What a role model!

Meg

Read more about Marie Curie’s accomplishments in Lexi and Marie Curie Saving Lives in World War I.

History – Love it or Hate it!

When I was a kid “social studies” was divided into 3 parts – history, geography, and current events.

History was hateful because it focused largely on battles and wars, dates, and politics. It required a great amount of memory work – not one of my better skills.

Geography was limited to colouring maps, mostly of North America. Other than a few stories I read about children in other lands, I knew little about other countries.

Current Events amounted to listening to a classmate read a newspaper item one morning a week.

This boredom continued until my second year of university. A German professor, educated in England, taught a course in American history at the University of Alberta, Canada. This gave him unique insight, of course. But that wasn’t the fascination. His lectures were stories! Who doesn’t love a good story? Not only did every student, including me, stay awake and listen; we absorbed and we remembered.

This was when I realized that history is just millions and millions of fascinating stories linked together to show the trends, the follies, and the creative progress of man. In the days before TV, there was a radio program called “Grand Central Station,” that stated, “millions of people pass through Grand Central Station every year. This is the story of just one of them.”

Hopefully, in my historical stories, as related by a cat, I can interest a few children in the history of man.

Meg

Animal Stories

When I was a child I devoured the series of animal stories by Thornton W. Burgess. Some I received as gifts. Others I bought with saved coins and I borrowed some from the library. I have one left.

Abigail-SkunkSomeday I would write stories about animals too. I noted that Mr. Burgess did not write about exotic animals such as elephants and giraffes but about animals that he observed around his local area. One charming attribute of his stories is that though he focused on one animal’s story, the other animals have small parts in it which brings about a charming cohesiveness.

Now I have my series underway. So far, I have written about a squirrel, a bear (3 stories), a crow, a rabbit, and a skunk. I am hoping to include an owl, a raccoon, a coyote, a deer, a seagull, and perhaps a hummingbird. So I am about halfway.

Each animal is partly inspired by newspaper articles, and anecdotes but I also research the animals in order to achieve an authentic ‘tail’!

One of these stories I have published – Abigail Skunk’s Lessons for her Kits.

Imagine that!

Meg

Children’s Book Market

Write a children’s story if you have the imagination, but submit it only if you have courage and tenacity.

The children’s book market is so competitive today that if you investigate the situation you can’t help but be intimidated. A book for children is short compared to an adult novel. The plot is simpler. The descriptions are conveyed by pictures. So how hard can it be to write a children’s story? It’s not hard; it’s dead easy especially if you have a fertile imagination. Writing stories is not the problem. It’s getting them published that pulverizes your soul.

Just read “It’s a Bunny-Eat-Bunny World”, by Olga Litowinsky, to understand the problem. Her book would reduce the thousands of would-be children’s authors to a mere trickle if they all had the courage to read the whole book. I read it when it first appeared and then dropped it into my slush pile fast. However I kept writing because I just couldn’t quit.

Now I’ve read it again. I recommend it to any writer who wants to know the true picture of the publishing business. Now it’s made me determined. Now I have people urging me to get my work published. Now I must try again. Yes, I’ll make mistakes. So what? I only need one publisher. Wish me luck—-NOW.

It’s my job to have fun!

From the moment I embraced the skill of talking I became a teacher. My first pupils were ideal. Because they were dolls, they didn’t fidget or squirm, chew gum, throw spitballs or talk back. Occasionally one fell off a chair but I didn’t send them to the nurse I just replaced them on the chair and kept teaching.

In grade school, Grade Three, I became a tutor teaching boys to learn to read. In high school I tutored again teaching grammar.

Eventually I became a real teacher with my degree in education, but then family came along, so I taught my own.

And finally I found writing to be a perfect vehicle for teaching children one of the hardest subjects (and one I hated in school) – History!

Thus the Alexander Catts’ I and II came into being. They and their ‘meowmoirs’ help me show children “what it was like when” and the most famous people were just human beings who dealt with life like we do.

Alex (Alexander Catt I) met Ramses, Leonardo da Vinci, Columbus, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sam Steele, Queen Victoria, Eisenhower and Emily Carr, to name a few.

So far Lexi (Alexander Catt II) has met Ramses, Hippocrates and now Sir J. Lister. The goal is to make some of the highlights of the history of medicine not only understandable but interesting and hopefully entertaining.

The challenge is to make the gruesome palatable because the subject matter is often gross and we don’t want children to cry, or worse, throw up or develop fears about going to the doctor.

Even the study of health in Grade Four did that to me as a child and I write at the Grade Four level so I understand.

Looking back at the nineteenth century the chances of surviving childbirth, a broken leg, or simple operations were slim. Lister changed that by keeping his head and persevering against popular opinion by providing proof. He was a cool hero.

And my job is to depict all that – Fun!

Alex and Lexi – two new ‘purrsonalities’

Two new “purrsonalities” in  the world of children’s literature are Alex (Alexander Catt) and Lexi (Alexander Catt II). Alex, a black and white short-haired cat was born in a temple in ancient Egypt during Ramses II reign as pharaoh. He was a polite and dignified cat who lived each of his past eight lives to the fullest that his stomach could manage. Ever hungry, he sought out the best chefs of the day who usually cooked for discriminating people and thus Alex met and stayed with royalty, artists, inventors, explorers and the like.

Sometimes, his appetite for food led him into adventures and misadventures. He tried his best to avoid trouble, which meant avoiding dogs, water and the conflict of war, all of which he hated. His ‘meowmoirs’ cover ancient Egypt, ancient China, medieval times, the Renaissance, the Elizabethan Era, the revolutionary times, the Victorian Era, and the World War days of the twentieth century.  

Lexi, Alex’s son, was also a short-haired black and white cat but there the similarity ends because Lexi loves trouble and attracts it. As a safeguard, he usually lives with doctors, but relies on the twitch in his tail to warn him of trouble brewing. Pompous and a little abrasive Lexi irritates his adversaries, but usually he finishes his adventures by acquiring new and unlikely friends. Like his father, Lexi tries to take credit for inventions and new ideas that he witnesses by claiming that he inspired them. This kitty quirk is forgivable because he tells such a p(L)awsible “tail” and he’s such a lovable rascal.

Follow the ‘tails’ of both cats as they recall their historical adventures in their ‘meowmoirs’ for children of all ages.

I won’t grow up

I haven’t grown up yet, so I guess I never will. The neat thing is that everyone thinks I have, because I run a household, a burgeoning family, and have done my share of volunteering while holding my place in society in a dignified manner. No one guesses that I have an incongruous and irreverent sense of humor and a wild and playful imagination.

How do I preserve the external impression? By expressing my internal quirks of personality writing stories for children. Only  kids can appreciate a good fart when it’s essential.

And where do I collect my ideas? From all of you and you and maybe even YOU! So watch out when you tell your tales of woe; there might be an author with a sense of humor and a retentive memory listening.

This activity eases stress, too! It works for me!