Jean Craighead George wrote the essence of her latest book, “Shadow: The Cougar of Flat Creek,” practically overnight.
Her nephew Charlie Craighead, a filmmaker and writer, was visiting his aunt at her home in New York when she asked him what she could to do help mountain lions.
“She didn’t want to just give money,” he said. “She wanted to participate somehow. So I said, ‘Write a story and we’ll figure out a way to make that somehow benefit cougars.’”
The suggestion was just a passing thought, Craighead said, and he didn’t think much more about it.
His aunt used to get up at “a ridiculous hour,” he said, sometimes as early as 5 a.m. She’d “turn on her radio and start rattling pots and pans and make sure nobody got to sleep in.
“I got up the night after I mentioned that idea and went downstairs,” he said. “She came up to me and said, ‘How does this sound?’ and she handed me the manuscript for ‘Shadow.’”
Quickly putting pen to paper, he said, wasn’t uncommon for Craighead George, an award-winning author of more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books. He remembered her as a “force” and a personal inspiration.
“She was a very fast and prolific writer once she jumped on things,” he said. “She always called herself the ‘Queen of the Rewrites.’ She didn’t hesitate to get the story down first and then work on it until it was right. But ‘Shadow’ is pretty much the way she wrote it that first draft.”
In 2012, Craighead George died just four days after completing the final draft of “Shadow.” She was 92 years old, and the children’s book was the last thing she worked on before she died.
In the book, her son, Twig George, is quoted as saying this is what his mother wanted.
“She used to say she wanted to die, ‘over the letter K,’ working to the end,” he wrote. “She did. She would be delighted that this book turned out so beautifully and her voice carries on.”
The book was published Nov. 1, illustrated by renowned wildlife artist John D. Dawson, with an introduction by primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist Jane Goodall.
A reading of the book will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Valley Bookstore.