Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Get ready because today we have a ….
And I could not be more honored to be the host of the book birthday of such a beautiful, needed, and important picture book by Amanda Davis, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport: 30,000 Stitches.
copyright Sally Wern Comport Angela Wood Photography
Discover the inspiring story of the American flag that flew over Ground Zero, traveled across all fifty states as it was repaired, and returned to New York as a restored symbol of unity.
In the days following September 11th, a 30-foot American flag hung torn and tattered at 90 West Street, across from Ground Zero. A few weeks later, the flag was taken down by a construction crew and tucked away in storage, where it stayed for nearly seven years.
The flag was brought out of storage in 2008 when the New York Says Thank You Foundation headed to Greensburg, Kansas, a town nearly destroyed by a tornado. NYSTY brought the flag with them, sparking a grassroots restoration effort that traveled over 120,000 miles across all fifty states, bringing together thousands of people, and helping America heal and rebuild . . . hand by hand, thread by thread, one stitch at a time.
This book is the story of that journey, a journey that ended at the opening of the National September 11 Museum, where the flag remains today. Along the way, the flag was restored using pieces of retired flags from every state—including a piece of the flag that Abraham Lincoln was laid on after he was shot at Ford’s Theater and threads from the original Star-Spangled Banner flag, which flew at Fort McHenry in the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. The pieces and threads were stitched in by military veterans, first responders, educators, students, community-service heroes, and family members of 9/11 victims, among others. At each stop, communities came together to remember, to heal, and to unite.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Amanda, thanks so much for joining us today, and happy happy book birthday!
Amanda: Hi, Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for having me on the blog and for celebrating the release of 30,000 STITCHES with me! Woohoo! I can’t believe the day is finally here!
Kaitlyn: Ahhh! Must be so exciting! Please share with us what you are doing to celebrate today.
Amanda: I’m starting off the day celebrating with friends at An Unlikey Bookstore virtual author event. I’ll be sharing a bit about myself, my work, and giving participants a behind the scenes look at 30,000 STITCHES including some of the real photos from it’s journey. Later, I plan to celebrate at home with my family. Hopefully eating some yummy cake and having our own little 30,000 STITCHES read aloud 🙂 Celebrations will continue on Thursday for another virtual event with GrubStreet Boston and Porter Square Books. I’ll be in conversation with fellow author Valerie Bolling and 30,000 STITCHES illustrator Sally Wern Comport. I can’t wait!! In case you missed my virtual celebration at The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, I chatted with members from the Flag Tour staff about their journey with the flag. You can watch the replay HERE!
The 30,000 Stitches Virtual Event and Blog Tour continues throughout the month. I feel spoiled that I get to celebrate with so many wonderful friends and creators along the way! Check out the full list of events and blog stops HERE!
Kaitlyn: That sounds like a fantastic day, especially time with wonderful people and cake! Yum! Can you share where your inspiration for this book came from?
Amanda: Sure! I’m a high school art teacher and always make it a point to teach about 9/11 each year. So, around the tenth remembrance of 9/11 I was searching for a lesson I could do with students. One that honored the lives lost but also focused on the hope and healing that came after. While browsing through some magazines, I came across a blurb about a torn and tattered American flag that flew over Ground Zero in the days after 9/11. The flag traveled across all fifty states to be fully restored-touching many hearts and many hands along the way. Later, it returned to New York on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 as a symbol of hope and unity. I knew I found my lesson. That year, students learned about the flag, and we created our own patchwork flag in remembrance. Years later, the story of the flag still lingered in my head, and I knew I needed to share it with more people. So, I decided to try my hand at crafting a manuscript for it. I have a background in journalism, so it was a delight getting to research and interview primary sources for the story. From the Ground Zero Superintendent to Flag Tour Staff, the people who I spoke to about the flag were incredible. I am honored to have spoken with such selfless, kind, and generous people whose dedication to helping America heal after 9/11 was inspiring. To this day, they continue to give back and be of service to others, which is truly exceptional. I feel so honored and humbled that I’m able to tell the story of the flag and make it accessible to children.
Kaitlyn: Wow! That’s amazing; truly a story you were meant to tell, and I love hearing about all the people you connected with. I can feel their kindness and generosity just jumping off the pages of your book. And this book is so special that cried reading it. Can you share why you wanted to share this story with kids?
Amanda: Aww! Thanks, Kaitlyn. I know it will bring up a lot of different emotions for different people. Despite the underlying difficult nature of the topic, I do hope readers of all ages leave the pages of that book feeling a sense of hope and strength. Knowing that we can overcome tragedy or hatred if we unite and come together.
As children’s book creators, we have an opportunity to empower children to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them. This is my philosophy as an art educator as well. This is a huge responsibility and a very important job. With nonfiction for kids, I love the idea that we can make little known topics accessible to children. I wrote 30,000 STITCHES with the hope that it will empower parents and educators to talk to children about difficult events in our history and current day society. We can’t shield children from all the bad in the world, but we can help them understand it and show them how to work through it. We can teach them how to cope…how to move forward…and how to unite. We can remind them of the bright spots within the darkness and of the good in humanity.
When I first wrote this story, I also never imagined that our world, and especially our country, would be in a similar place as it was after 9/11…torn, tattered, tired, and in need of healing. It has been a year fraught with many challenges. Despite this, I truly believe that there is still much more good in this world than bad. There are still people helping people. People loving people. And people striving for change. 30,000 STITCHES reminds us of the good of humanity. People came together to make the flag whole again and to help one another heal. Along the way, they shared their stories of pain, sorrow, suffering, and sacrifice. With each stitch, they helped heal the flag, while also helping heal each other’s hearts. Right now, I think everyone’s hearts (adults and children) could use some healing, and I hope that 30,000 STITCHES reminds people that there is power in our shared stories, there is power in unity and that if we reach out our hands, we can help heal our hearts.
Kaitlyn: That was such a beautiful response, and I completely agree. I have a piece of art that has a bright moon against a dark ocean backdrop and that’s exactly why I selected it: we can find the brightness amidst the darkness. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world and encouraging kids and adults alike. Can you share your 9/11 story? Ie. where you were when you got the news about 9/11 and how you felt/what you went through?
Amanda: I was in high school when 9/11 happened. I can remember being evacuated from the school, and being corralled onto one of the athletic fields. They had us wait there for a while until they determined it was safe to proceed back into the school. Many schools, businesses, etc. were nervous that there were other targets for attacks. I’m from Massachusetts and later learning that two of the planes that were involved in the attacks departed from Boston, hit home. We were eventually dismissed from school, and I remember going home and watching the horrific images of the attacks on television. It felt surreal. I think each of us who were alive on that day can remember exactly where we were and how we felt. As I’ve begun to share 30,000 STITCHES with friends and family, I’m reminded of this idea. People have begun sharing their own 9/11 stories with me-the people they knew who they lost or where they were on that day. We each have our own story and that’s truly what 30,000 STITCHES is all about.
It’s been almost twenty years since that day and now we’ve reached a generation of school-aged children who weren’t alive to witness the tragedy. With that in mind, I hope the story provides children with the opportunity to explore and navigate the events of 9/11 and the kindness and compassion that came after.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing this inspirational story, 30,000 Stitches, with the world. It’s so amazing that this beautiful idea of remembering, honoring, healing, and coming together was started because a flag was taken from one location to another, can you share where this spark came from? Ie. Why it was taken to the new location in the first place?
Amanda: Yes! It’s such an amazing feat! After the flag was taken down from Ground Zero, it was stored away for seven years in Ground Zero Superintendent, Charlie Vitchers, shed. Charlie began volunteering for the New York Says Thank You Foundation. Each year, on the anniversary of 9/11, volunteers from the Foundation travel across the country to help communities rebuild after their own disasters. In 2008, on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, volunteers planned a trip to Greensburg Kansas to help them rebuild their town after the destruction from a massive tornado. Before the visit, residents in Greensburg asked Charlie to bring a relic from the World Trade Center to place in the memorial park they planned to build (a connection and solidarity to the tragedy in New York). I remember in my interview with Charlie, he considered bringing a piece of steel from the Trade Center buildings but then he remembered the flag and decided he would bring that instead. The plan was to officially retire it in Greensburg. This meant having a ceremonial burning and burying the ashes in the park. Instead, when the flag got to Greensburg, residents from a local senior center saw it and decided to patch it back together with their own flags that were damaged in the tornado. Instead of burying it, it was brought back to life. Because the patchwork was not up to United States Flag Code, it was decided that the flag would go on tour to be fully restored-back to thirteen stripes and fifty stars. So, that’s exactly what it did! It was a BIG idea that took lots of coordination and teamwork, but it goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to with hard work and the help of others.
Kaitlyn: Wow wow wow! It’s mind-blowing that such a beautiful thing started to simply and almost didn’t happen, in fact! Just wow! Can you share the publication journey of this book?
Amanda: It was a long process! From the moment I read and taught about the true story of the flag in 2011, I was intrigued and knew it was a special story. It stuck with me and lingered in my head, but needed time to flourish. After visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in 2014, and being overcome with emotion at the artifacts and the stories, it was another reminder of the importance of telling this story.
Once I decided to write a children’s book on the topic of the National 9/11 Flag, I focused on three ‘r’’s: a lot of research, countless revisions, and creating a refrain that helped tie the narrative together. Once I had a polished draft, I sent the story off to agents and a few publishers-WorthyKids being one of them. I ended up getting an agent for the story and seven months after I sent the manuscript to WorthyKids, they emailed me with interest. I connected them with my agent, and the rest is history! It’s a snail mail submission success story, yay!
See below for the note I received from WorthyKids with interest.
Kaitlyn: What an amazing journey, and such wonderful people involved. Can you share about some of those people, your literary agent(s), and why you enjoy working with these agents?
Amanda: Sure! My literary agent for 30,000 STITCHES is Melissa Richeson of Storm Literary Agency. Melissa and I signed on solely for 30,000 STITCHES. At the time, she was not representing illustrators so she didn’t feel comfortable representing my whole body of work, which included some illustrated manuscripts. I loved working with Melissa on editing the story. She helped me tighten up the refrains and make the story more cohesive. I also love her positivity, and encouragement. She always looks on the bright side and has a very calm demeanor, which is much appreciated in this crazy business! It’s pretty amazing to have an advocate in your corner during negotiations, too! I’m now working with Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency who represents my whole body of work. It’s been a delight getting to know Jennifer and collaborating thus far. I love that she appreciates the depth in some of my more ‘difficult’ manuscripts and acknowledges that kids need stories that reflect a range of real-life emotions. She’s knowledgeable about the industry, timely, transparent, and I appreciate that she is open to me suggesting editors to send work to as well.
Kaitlyn: It sounds like you’ve found the best partners in this business. Can you share about another partner, your editor for this book, and why you enjoy working with this editor?
Amanda: My wonderful editor is Peggy Schaefer, who is the Associate Publisher at WorthyKids. It’s been a dream working with Peggy. She, too, is extremely knowledgeable and detail-oriented. The process was both collaborative and informative. It truly felt like teamwork. Since the beginning, I’ve been nervous about the weight of this topic and about getting the facts and details of the story correct. Peggy was great with easing these concerns. We worked together to make sure the facts and details of the story were accurate along the way. Since it was the first time I’ve been through this process, I had a lot of questions, too. Peggy was always there to answer my questions, help me understand the process, and was open to any suggestions I had. What more could you ask for? 🙂
Kaitlyn: That’s just the best! Having someone who sees your vision and is so helpful, too! Definitely can’t ask for more! Excet maybe an awesome marketing strategy. Speaking of with, did you have a publicist for this book? If so, can you share a bit about what it’s like to work with a publicist?
Amanda: Yes! I feel so fortunate to have a whole marketing team! They’ve been a delight to work with. They’ve taken me through timelines with what to expect, goals, targets, helped me with giveaways, created activities, and again, answered all my questions along the way (I tend to have a lot!), ha! The marketing side of things has been a learning experience, for sure, but I love to learn and the team at WorthyKids has helped me grow.
Kaitlyn: That sounds like a dream! Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Amanda: Definitely a fireside chat. I love having more intimate, in-depth, one-on-one conversations with people and think a cozy fire-side chat would be a perfect place to connect and learn more about one another.
Kaitlyn: Definitely! And it’s sounds like you’re great with those types of discussions after creating this book with all the wonderful people you met, too! Thanks so much again for joining us and sharing such wonderful insight today! I hope you enjoy your book birthday celebration!
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.
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Kaitlyn’s review of 30,000 Stitches
30,000 Stitches is one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read. This beautiful story captures the essence of the time after 9/11 when we all came together as a nation to heal and grow stronger. And the art is such a beautiful composition to emphasize this beautiful journey of how a glad inspired and united people. Please share this story with everyone in your life!
Would you like to win a copy of 30,000 Stitches? (US only please).
Here are all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added 30,000 Stitches to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of 30,000 Stitches
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for 30,000 Stitches at your library
- Quote Retweet Kaitlyn’s Tweet about this post and tag three friends!
Thank you all for supporting such a wonderful author and beautiful book!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
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