WINNETKA – Lynn Sanders’ very first writing award sits framed over her desk. She earned it in second grade at a South Side elementary school for writing a poem about Chicago.
The Winnetka resident hasn’t stopped writing since. And she continues to win awards for her writing.
On September 15, the Illinois Conservation Foundation (ICF) announced that Sanders was selected as its 2017 Conservation Author of the Year for her children’s book, Dancing with Tex: The Remarkable Friendship to Save the Whooping Cranes. In the book, Sanders tells the inspiring true story of ornithologist Dr. George Archibald’s efforts to successfully breed an endangered whooping crane named Tex.
“I feel very strongly that the world needs more positivity. I am motivated to get out more positive stories that educate and inspire,” Sanders told DailyNorthShore.
Sanders first heard the story of Tex and Dr. Archibald in 1995 when she was hired by Amoco to co-produce a video of the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, an organization Dr. Archibald had co-founded.
Off camera, Dr. Archibald told Sanders the story of how he had befriended a rare whooping crane named Tex who had been imprinted as a baby chick by a zookeeper to believe humans were her real family.
Whooping cranes perform a mating dance before laying eggs, and so Dr. Archibald danced with Tex for six years until she finally laid a fertile egg. Tex’s baby eventually had her own baby chicks, boosting a population of endangered birds on the verge of extinction.
Sanders never forgot such an inspiring story of how one man’s perseverance make a difference. She was determined to write a children’s book, never mind that over the years she had primarily focused on commercial writing for companies. Sanders took courses, networked and joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
But Sanders also experienced some set backs. In 2004, three people close to Sanders, including her mother, died in one year. “It shook me up and I realized that our time on Earth is limited. I decided I wanted to write about something that made a difference,” she said.
And so Sanders began shifting her writing to focus on organizations that focus on environmental issues, healthcare and education. She also continued to work on writing George and Tex’s story. Sanders ultimately decided to self-publish the book, after the traditional publisher she had signed a book contract with ran out of money.
Sanders raised money through online crowd funding to hire an illustrator, and she persevered through setbacks to find the perfect artist to illustrate her book. She even pushed on when her son suffered a stroke. “The only happy thing I could do was to focus on the story,” she said.
Sanders acknowledges that nearly 20 years to publish the book was a long haul, but she believes her own story runs parallel to the book’s story. “My achievement is symbolic. I want youth and adults to never give up on their dreams,” she said. Just like Dr. Archibald — who persevered with an idea that many were skeptical of — Sanders held on to her dream.
“Everything comes from the inside out and you have to believe in yourself to see results. You have to put in your time,” Sanders said.
Dancing with Tex: The Remarkable Friendship to Save the Whooping Cranes is available online and locally at The Book Stall in Winnetka, Wild Birds in Glenview and the gift shop at The Botanic Gardens in Glencoe.