MARQUETTE - Former Marquette resident Mara MacKay is hoping to share "Haylee's Treasure" with children across Michigan.
She has a Kickstarter page to support that book - a work of historical fiction that promotes hands-on experiential learning to supplement Michigan education standards inside and outside the classroom.
"Haylee's Treasure" is the first in what MacKay hopes will be a series called History CPR - Cultivate, Preserve, Read. The objective? To bring history back to life for youngsters.
Former Marquette resident Mara MacKay has a Kickstarter page going to raise funds for her book, “Haylee’s Treasure,” the first in what MacKay hopes will be a series called History CPR — Cultivate, Preserve, Read. (Mara MacKay photo)
The cover of “Haylee’s Treasure,” a book set in Munsing, that encourages children to take an interest in local history.
The idea for History CPR actually can be traced back to MacKay's grandmother, an artist who was a founding member of a lakeside art community in Minnesota. She encouraged artists to display their work back in the days before art galleries became trendy.
"She instilled a love for art and artists in me," MacKay said in an email interview. "I would spend time watching her paint, while I would write poems about her paintings. When she passed away, I didn't grieve her loss for 10 years.
"In 2004, I opened a box of random items that she had left for me," MacKay said. "Inside was a Munising bowl. I started to research the bowl and began working on the outline for a children's story. In 2005, my three children and I moved to K.I. Sawyer where I continued to work on the book. I lived in the Marquette area from 2005-2008. My husband, Mark, and I would like to return and live there again someday."
In addition to MacKay's writing, "Haylee's Treasure" includes illustrations by Stephanie Bajema of Marquette and natural features and fine art as central motifs. The book is set in Munising, with Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore a large part of the story.
MacKay decided to seek help through the Kickstarter program online.
"After investing my own money developing the book, I determined that 'conventional' publishing firms were probably not going to see the value of a craft guild and children's book combination. I felt strongly that self-publishing would be the best way to move forward," she said. "So I took the suggestion of a close friend who sent a link for the Kickstarter website, hoping that through Kickstarter, we might be able to set a solid foundation for History CPR to build on."
Through Kickstarter - which helps projects secure funding online - MacKay hopes to print "Hayley's Treasure"; launch History CPR's artist-in-the schools program bringing discussions, reading, writing and learning through books, history, art and nature to kids; promote History CPR artists; trademark the name History CPR; begin development of the next book in the series; meet with children in the Detroit area to research a story set there; and explore other new locations, cultivating historical artifacts in communities that wish to preserve local history through children's literature.
MacKay has long-term goals for History CPR as well.
"Over the next 10 years, I want kids to identify places and historical artifacts that they find interesting," she said. "Then, through the book series and the craft guild, I'd like to bring children into the creative space with artists and writers to explore and their discoveries.
Michigan offers a wide variety of historical and natural features, both educational and important in understanding our state, and kids love to share their thoughts about old things, like Munising bowls, and the stories that go with them.
"From the tip of the Keweenaw down to Detroit, Michigan has a number of historical sites, artifacts and natural features that are alluring, magical and significant," MacKay said. "Long-term, I'd like to see children sharing their community and culture, all across the United States, with other children. Through the History CPR book series and craft guild, I would like artists, from other states to visit Michigan, and Michigan artists to reciprocate by visiting other states, sharing their craft as well as the history and the natural areas Michigan.
In addition to Kickstarter donations, people can get involved in other ways, MacKay said.
"History CPR promotes learning through discussion and experience. History CPR wants families to have discussions at the dinner table about their own family heirlooms or historical artifacts," MacKay said. "Notice around your house with your child any vintage items that you have or that were handed-down, where did they come from? What are the historical or natural places that you cherish? Visit a History CPR destination, such as Munising, and encourage your child to 'Write to Haylee' about a place or an artifact that has value to them or to their community. Send your child's ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org."
When "Hayley's Treasure" is published, MacKay hoes to return to Marquette to share the books with children who have helped her create it.
"The pride I imagine seeing in the eyes of children who live in a History CPR community and share the excitement of telling their stories - this is something that I dream of seeing and sharing with others."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.