Below is a loose transcript of my Library of Congress talk from four years ago in its most recent revised form (Balticon 2013 and 2014). The slides are mostly available on Facebook, but if you’d like them uploaded to this site please let me know.
Summers in Oz: L. Frank Baum and Macatawa, MI.
Thank you very much for inviting me here to meet and talk with you tonight. To begin: I grew up in a land of Oz. Or at least I spent summers there. [2. map]
My Oz was here in Macatawa [point at map], a small beach resort community near Holland, Michigan. [I’m wearing a Holland MI T-shirt.][3. slide of sat view] Here, L. Frank Baum had also spent his summers from 1899 until 1910.
For those of us who lived and vacationed in the Macatawa area, the connection to Baum and Oz has been important, generating stories, arguments, festivities, and magic. I’m going to discuss how that connection came about, its facts and fictions, and its continued meaning for those in the world creation biz.
[4. early view of beach] Macatawa Park opened as a resort in July 1898–originally just a half-mile row of cottages in the liminal space between woods and beach. Baum heard about Macatawa from friends at the Chicago Athletic Club. (Baum was a big joiner.) Ads appeared for the resort in the The Show Window magazine that Baum was publishing. [I recently heard from his great-grandson that Baum may have taken a day trip to Macatawa in 1898.]
[5. baum on backporch] In any case, in the summer of 1899, Baum and his family visited Macatawa for the first time. They crossed from Chicago to Holland in an overnight excursion steamer, which took about five hours and ran nightly during the summer. Baum had not yet achieved success as a writer, so he rented a cottage. He named that first cottage Hyperoodon rostratus, after the skeleton of a bottlenose whale he had seen at the Chicago’s World’s Fair. After the fair, the Baum family used “Hyperoodon rostratus” to describe all things strange and mysterious. For the Baums, there was something magical about Macatawa.
(This photo may be from that first summer in Macatawa, though the first draft of Oz was handwritten–Baum even memorialized the pencil–so he’s not writing it here.)
The natural setting of Macatawa may have inspired Baum in several general ways. The environment must have reminded him of his early life in central New York state, particularly after his later years in the stark Dakotas and the bustling city of Chicago.
Several times, balloonists have disappeared without a trace over Lake Michigan (think of how the Wizard came and went from Oz). Water spouts, the Lake Michigan equivalent of the twisters of the plains, are common, but are more safely observed than tornadoes, as at landfall they usually collapsed or if tornado like, they jump over the Macatawa beach area (at least according to local lore). The great lake, which Baum appropriately called a great inland sea, often has waves on the scale of ocean surf, and its waves have the same meditative effect as any seaside. Dense woods like the fairyland forest of Burzee were all around, even though the logging industry was having its way with Michigan’s lower peninsula. And hot sand dunes could easily bring to mind vast impassable sand deserts like those that surrounded Oz.
Overall, Baum’s style from Oz on would have a stronger mesh of location with story than his previous efforts.
In his Show Window magazine, Baum wrote a review of Macatawa, calling it the “the most original and wonderful place in all the world.” (Even though I agree, Baum did have a saleman’s knack for hyperbole.) He described “the great bluffs covered with dense forest” that rose above the beach (he seems to be describing both the hills and sand dunes of the area).
[6. cover of Wizard] As with treason, influence is a question of dates. Baum finished writing a draft of The Wizard of Oz in October 1899. So, leaving aside Macatawa’s influence on later Oz books, any influence on that first Oz story would’ve had to occur during the Baum’s short first summer stay.
[7. Baum’s books] By 1902, Baum was a successful writer, and instead of continuing to rent, he bought a cottage in Macatawa. [8. Father Goose cover] Father Goose: His Book was Baum’s big success before Oz, and its royalties provided the means for the purchase. [9. View of cottage.] So Baum named the cottage “The Sign of the Goose.” Around the same time, he suffered from a bout of Bell’s Palsy. His doctor encouraged him to do physical rather than mental work. Instead of writing, Baum built his own furniture with custom geese-shaped nail heads and decorated the entire cottage with goose motifs. [10. interior of cottage] A reporter noted: “Flocks of excited geese chase each other around the frescoing, and a large animated goose forever flaps its wings over the porch. A whole swarm of them in accommodating attitudes not as a rule assumed by geese constituted the furniture of the house, and others in colors that no decoy goose would ever dare assume do service as sugar bowls, andirons, and souvenir spoons.” He had a custom built stained glassed window featuring a goose.
[11. Baum reading] Baum would write on the porch facing the lake. (point out the goose sign). The cottage had a “fantastic air.”
It also had fantastic air for breathing. In a 1903 letter, Baum invited friends to his cottage for “a dose of ozone” (ozone meant “fresh and pure air” back then).
Ever the joiner, Baum joined the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club, headed the Macatawa Cottagers Association and helped organize the Regatta Week and other festivities.
In 1907, Baum published two tributes (?) to the summer community he loved. The less controversial was a poem under his own name in the Grand Rapids Sunday Herald. One couplet ran:
[animation 12. couplet] “Happy the boy or girl who knows
This land of rainbows.”
But he wasn’t talking about the Oz of the later film. The poem was entitled, “To Macatawa.”
In another nod to the “Ozziness” of Macawata, the poem also contained the following lines [13. lines]:
I beg to ask where else you’ll find
A summer haven that’s designed
So perfectly to charm mankind
And tone the liver, heart and mind?
That is, one’s brain, heart, and courage.
The other homage to Macatawa was more controversial: [14. Tamawaca cover] his short novel entitled Tamawaca Folks: A Summer Comedy. The anagram fooled no one. There’s even an error in the book where Tamawaca is called Macatawa! In Tamawaca Folks, he made fun of some of the Macatawans like he made fun of most everything else. Despite this, the town reveled in his mockery.
Baum helped organize the annual Venetian Evenings and Tamawaca Folks includes a colorful description of those events (which I drew on for my on story). “On this occasion the entire bay was enclosed with lines of gorgeous Japanese lanterns placed in artistic designs along the shore. The Yacht Club, the hotels at Iroquois Bay and Tamawaca and all the buildings facing the bay were elaborately decorated with bunting and lanterns, while the sail-boats anchored upon the mirror-like surface of the water displayed a like splendor. Bands played on the ferry-boats, bonfires on the neighboring heights glared and twinkled, many launches brilliant with colored lights moved slowly over the bay, while rockets and roman candles sent their spluttering displays into the dim sky overhead.”
As Baum concluded (again with slight hyperbole)
“It has been seriously asserted that Venice in its palmiest days has never been able to compete with Tamawaca on ‘Venetian Evening.’”
[15. The Baums] For one last tribute to Macatawa by Baum, I quote his introduction to Tamawaca Folks: “Tamawaca exists, and is as beautiful as I have described it. I chose it as the scene of my story because I … was fascinated by its incomparable charm. The middle West has no spot that can compete with it in loveliness.”
[16. Fairylogue] In nearby Grand Rapids, Frank Baum had the first trial showing of his so-called “Fairylogue and Radio-Plays.” (A “fairylogue” being like a travelogue, but the Radio-plays had nothing to do with radio.) This is an image of one of the slides from the Fairylogue –a true multimedia show, a combination of colored film and slides, live actors, and live orchestra, that was perhaps ahead of its time. It was certainly too expensive for his time. Ironically, this locally debuted production would accrue the lion’s share of the debt that would cost Baum the Macatawa cottage.
After the summer of 1910, face with protesting creditors, Baum had to sell his Chicago property and the cottage in Macatawa. Appropriately enough, the remaining nine years of his life would be in Hollywood, California.
[17. image of Baum’s boys]
Even after the sale of the cottage and their father’s death, the Baum sons continued to remember their summers in Macatawa fondly. In the summer of 1901, the second son, Robert, aged 15, met the 14-year-old Edna Ducker. They became close friends and eventually married. Their friendship may have inspired two of the character names in Ozma of Oz (one of the Oz sequels): Evrob and Evedna, children of the Queen of Ev.
Frank Joslyn Baum, his eldest son, remembered the excellent fishing, boating, and swimming. He also remembered the antics of his other brothers (and I unwittingly put something similar in my story–which shows how things haven’t changed). “One day Robert was detected sliding down the porch roof into the sand. His punishment was a spanking with a hairbrush. A few hours later Harry tried the forbidden stunt. He was caught, too, and the same punishment, even the same number of licks, was decreed. But in the meantime the hairbrush used to spank Robert had disappeared. Maud [their mother], in her strict, meticulously just way, decided the sentence could not be carried out unless she had the identical hairbrush. So Harry got off Scot free.”
Harry himself recalled “family gatherings around the dining table where fun, jokes, atrocious puns, and even learned discussions flowed fast and furiously. My three brothers and I were home from various schools and, when the family was together around one large table, Mother often said that there were five boys to gang together against her instead of four…. To settle the frequent points of dispute which arose, a small shelf was built in the dining room where a dictionary, a single-volumed encyclopedia, and an atlas were kept for quick convenient reference and decision. When Father made an especially far-fetched pun, we would all laugh uproariously and then reach out our hand to him for any loose change as a reward for laughing.”
[18. Bob] And Frank’s great-grandson, Robert A. Baum, Jr., and his wife Clare have put on educational shows dressed in character as the author and his wife Maud, and one of their shows focused on the Macatawa years.
[19. Baum with kids] Some of the Macatawan stories about Baum are relatively uncontroversial recollections that were passed down or recorded. Berenice Lowe of nearby Central Park remembered the author as the “goose man” who was a good customer of her florist father.[i] The poet and fellow cottager Eunice Tietjens recorded that Baum had “an imagination and vitality which constantly ran away with him. But he was a fascinating companion.
“He was never without a cigar in his mouth, but it was always unlit. His doctor had forbidden him to smoke, so he chewed up six cigars a day instead. There was one exception… Before he took his swim in the lake in the afternoon he would light a cigar and walk immediately into the water. He would solemnly wade out until the water was up to his neck and there walk parallel to the shore, moving his arms to give the impression that he was swimming. When a wave splashed on the cigar and put it out he at once came in and dressed.”
Macatawa residents recalled that Baum was frequently seen entertaining children at the “Sign of the Goose.” Kids could not resist his fascinating cottage and fanciful tales.
All of what I’ve said so far is the extent to which the Baum family and scholars would acknowledge a broad connection between Frank Baum’s work and Macatawa.
[20. Oz books] But there’s a more mythic set of local Baum lore that focuses on the influence of Macatawa on the first Oz book(and largely ignoring the other 13 Oz books that Baum wrote), combined with an odd conflation of the images from the 1939 film with those of the original story.
So now we turn to the more interesting but far less likely claims.
[21. Sign of the Goose] First, claims regarding Baum’s cottage. When I visited Macatawa again in the summer of 2003, I asked which cottage was Baum’s. I was given a few stories, and one older woman spoke with authority and pointed out a likely looking gray cottage.
None of those stories were true. The real “Sign of the Goose” had burned in 1927, then a few years later a winter storm accelerated the perennial erosion and washed the site into Lake Michigan, leading to this epitaph from Baum’s son: “Just as a tornado carried Dorothy and her cottage into the Land of Oz, so perhaps by fire and storm the cottage where several of the Oz stories were born found its safe haven in the same enchanted realm.” (My further fictional speculations about this destruction are likely to run a different direction entirely.)
[22. Hotel] Perhaps because of the absence of the actual cottage, one of the stories we were told as kids was that Baum stayed in the Hotel Macatawa (shown here), though we had confused ideas that existing large cottages might have been the long-gone hotel.
Now for the Oz sites. First, the yellow brick road. No, it’s not the gold standard. Please, let’s drop the Oz as allegory of populism theory. Short answer: Baum was a lifelong Republican whose only involvement with populism was through the one political issue that deeply concerned him and his family: women’s suffrage. So, after this, if you’d like to discuss the influence of early feminism on Oz, that would be more interesting.
But the Macatawa-centered theories aren’t much more likely than the political. [23. Crescent Walk] Wooded paths such as Crescent Walk (aka Lover’s Lane) are offered as yellow brick road candidates due to the supposed yellow cast of the wood. But Baum’s choice of brick color might have had a different local connection. [24. Veneklasen] Dutch towns, and towns settled by the Dutch in America, used yellow brick for buildings and even road paving. One biographer notes how the young Baum would have seen such yellow brick roads in Peekskill, New York on his way to military school. But he may have seen such brick again, during that summer of 1899, in the local structures built using Veneklasen company bricks.
Munchkinland was supposedly inspired by Macatawa’s quaint Victorian-era cottages gathered around squares (originally one called Perry’s Circle). My generation moved the likely square to the top of a wooded bluff on Maksaba Trail, which led down to our beach.
[25. Castle Park] A folly in nearby Castle Park (and not Chicago’s White City) was said to be the model for the Emerald City or the Witch’s castle, depending on whom you asked. [Look up, take off glasses] Full disclosure: I still resent Castle Park. The Macatawa Park cottagers played softball against the Castle Park team, and Castle Park usually won.
To quote a Castle Park resident, the so-called castle was once used “as a late summer/early fall gathering place for Wizard of Oz fanatics.” To explain, one of Baum’s sons, Harry, with his wife Brenda, [26. Brenda Baum] hosted the earliest International Wizard of Oz Club meetings in Indiana. When Harry died, Brenda became a hostess at the Castle Park folly hotel, and the conventions followed her there, reinforcing the association of Oz with the area until the hotel became a private residence again in 1985.
(I remember the excitement as a kid, wanting to see the spooky Castle, which I was told was haunted.)
Castle Park also claims that they used to have an actual road of yellow bricks (if you can trust those guys).
I’ll add my own speculations regarding the colors of Oz: perhaps the pervasive blue of Dutch Delft-ware in the area eventually suggested the blue color scheme of Munchkinland, and that the fields of red tulips in Holland would suggest fields of red poppies.
A former Holland Michigan bookstore owner has gathered some local Oz lore. The most amusing respondent reported that her father believed that his mother-in-law was the model for (wait for it) the Wicked Witch of the West! Apparently, his family took this story seriously.
But what’s the question that everyone really wants the answer to? [27. Dorothy] Who was Dorothy? Macatawa had not just one, but two claimants. Baum’s family generally insisted that he did not model his little girl on anyone in particular. Frank Joslyn Baum wrote that:
“[M]any rumors have circulated and some have been printed too, to the effect that my father, L. Frank Baum, had named “Dorothy” of the book after some particular child he knew. One such claim, made by a certain woman [here, the editor interpolates the name Dorothy Hall Martindale of Michigan] [in the Midwest], recently came to my attention. There is no truth in any of the stories. At the time he wrote The Wizard of Oz he did not know any girl or woman by the name of Dorothy. It was a name he selected because he liked the sound of it. … And he wanted very much to have a daughter of his own. … The name of “Dorothy” was [a] name he hoped to give to a daughter.” [ii]
Well, first, the younger Frank isn’t always the best source. His biography of his father has been criticized. He had fallen out with the rest of the family, and wasn’t able to consult with them about his father’s life. He shared his father’s gift for fabulizing–when he didn’t know something, he made it up (including his father’s supposed support for William Jennings Bryan that would cause such confusion).
Second, his quote as edited conflates two Dorothys–Dorothy Hall and Dorothy Martindale–and I’ll get to them shortly. Third, it’s obviously untrue that Baum didn’t know any girls or women named Dorothy. Among the several he knew, the biographies now point to a niece named Dorothy Louise Gage who died as an infant shortly before the Wizard was written.
But this identification of Baum’s niece hasn’t stopped others, including local Macatawans, from being assigned or claiming the role. Lewis Carroll’s Alice had Alice Liddell, Peter Pan and the Darlings had the Davies’ boys, so why shouldn’t there have been a real living Dorothy somewhere?
The Holland bookstore owner turned folklorist noted that “the longer I was in the store, the more people I met who sincerely believed that the main character, Dorothy, was a relative of theirs (it must have been a very large family).”
[28. Dorothy Hall] The best-known Dorothy of Macatawa was Dorothy Hall. Here’s a quote from the “Song of Macatawa,” a book of local history on our cottage shelf. “In her mind’s eye, when she ponders over her adventures during childhood days in Macatawa, Dorothy Hall is likely sitting on the front porch of a cottage on the lakefront, south of Griswold, in a spacious, goose-shaped rocker, with Frank Baum, a nearby neighbor, listening, as he sits beside her spinning story after story, with the same imagination that dreamed up another Dorothy.”
In a set of interviews in the late 1970s (when she about 80 years old), Dorothy Hall denied believing that she had inspired Dorothy Gale, herself pointing out the greatest problem–that she was born in 1897 and only two at the time of the first draft of Oz, and one in 1898 when one of Baum’s sons first remembered hearing Dorothy stories–so she was an unlikely inspiration.
But her Macatawa neighbors continued to believe. “Everybody’s convinced,” said the wife of the postmaster who ran the quaint old Macatawa post office. “She was always the Dorothy, the little girl Dorothy. That’s an absolute, known fact.” Burton McRoy Jr., Hall’s relative and guardian in later years, said that Hall was “a child at heart. We all accepted the stories. We believed.”
In later interviews in the 1980s, when she was about 90, Hall seemed to succumb to the wishes of those around her, and advocated the case that she was indeed the particular inspiration for Dorothy.
Hall did have a real connection with Baum, who seems to have watched her for her parents from time to time. Hall remembered many details of the Sign of the Goose, and also confirmed that Baum had said that if he’d had a daughter, he would have named her Dorothy.
[29. old and young hall] It appears that, when young, Dorothy Hall may have looked like some people’s vision of Dorothy Gale.
The other Dorothy claimant, Dorothy Martindale, has a different problem with her case. Her son said that Baum met Martindale one summer when he found her picking flowers from his garden. Quote: “She would go next door and pick flowers from his flower bed and one day he discovered her and they became friends.”[iii] [30. Sign of the Goose.] Can anyone guess what Hall’s supporters say is the problem with this story? That’s right–they say no flower garden at the Sign of the Goose. As Dorothy Hall pointed out, “He had a sandlot.” I know from family experience that it’s difficult to have a garden immediately on the beach in Macatawa.
Well, there are further complications. A biography of Baum quotes a contemporary interview with him in Macatawa. “I found… Mr. Frank Baum, hovering over the beautiful flower bed which graces the front yard of his pretty cottage.” (From descriptions, the front is the side facing away from the beach.)
Dorothy Hall had few other words for this rival contender, denying that she even remembered there being another Dorothy in the community. For popularizing her claim, Hall had the advantage of living three decades longer than her rival. Martindale passed away in 1965. And Dorothy Hall passed away in 1996, at the age of 98.
[31. Baum Paradox] In fairness to the Dorothys and all the Macatawa Oz lore masters, Baum contributed to these contentions. When he told Oz stories to Dorothy Hall (and probably Dorothy Martindale) in the years after the first book (when Hall grew old enough to hear such tales), he would tell the tales in the second person, saying “you” instead of Dorothy.
“You were in the house; you were drowsy. And then the winds came up and shook the house, and your house was lifted off the ground and it went right through the air. And when you came down, you were in Oz.”[iv] Kinda weird hearing it that way, isn’t it?
This actually made the stories more into role play, and Dorothy Hall recalled feeling as though it were her feet that skipped along the yellow brick road. She said, “Bit by bit, he would tell me the various stories of Oz, as if I was there. And I thought I was. I believed it, and I do still, which is ridiculous. I know better now, but I can’t say I don’t believe it.”
Everyone who was a kid in Macatawa understands a little of this feeling.
[32. Ozma cover] Baum did something similar in his books, dedicating Ozma of Oz, which he wrote in Macatawa in 1906, to all his readers, but “especially to the Dorothys.”
 A final bit of Dorothy lore: in putting together the photos for the recently published 1899: L. Frank Baum’s Macatawa Park MI, William Bollman found a series of shots of a young girl whom he believes could have served as a visual model for Dorothy for Baum.  Notice what may have been a blue and white checked gingham dress, and the monkey, with the cap and apparently free rein of the area.  The sun hat isn’t like Denslow’s bonnet, but the shoes are like Dorothy’s pre-silver slipper footwear.   And here’s a clearer shot of a checked dress. [But if Bollman wants to argue that this girl was a visual inspiration beyond the checked gingham dress and old leather shoes verbally described in the book, an important question may be when did Denslow the artist first visit Baum in Macatawa? We know he was there later to work on the Oz musical, and we know that Denslow was working and socializing with Baum prior to 1899, and I believe I’ve seen one source that says he may have visited Macatawa early with Baum, but I haven’t had the time to clear this up yet.]
Macatawa had enchanted Baum, and Baum in turn enchanted its landscape. A fragment of an unpublished Oz book begins with description of Ozma’s lake that probably would have enchanted Lake Michigan itself for us.
Macatawa hasn’t been the only place to lay claim to being an Oz. Most everywhere Baum lived tries to connect itself with the Oz stories. And even places Baum never got near but sound like Oz assert a connection. Australian soldiers sang “We’re off to the see the Wizard” in the deserts of North Africa as they chased after Rommel during World War II.
But what Baum did with the Dorothys, and the community of Macatawa, he did with America as a whole. Baum knew how to sell his stories to his audience. He told modern Americans that the Oz stories were especially for and about them. The locations were inspired by the sights he had seen, and Oz originally appeared to be an undiscovered part of America. Dorothy was a quintessentially American girl–rural poor, yet presenting herself as the equal of anyone. (In this way) we all grew up in a land of Oz.
In the study of folklore and mythology, it’s important to drop the idea or distinction of a valid original tale versus invalid imitations. So I’m not that interested in coming to a resolution of what did or did not inspire Baum in his writing of Oz. I’m more interested in the process of how stories beget stories, not just in fictional worlds, but in our own backyards.
[animation 38. Coroner] 49 and 50 years after the Oz film, Macatawa and Holland imported the surviving Munchkin actors to sign autographs, including the actor who played the coroner, Meinhardt Raabe.
As coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her.
And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.
My little sister attended the celebration. [39. Kendalyn] Her daughter, my niece, was already Oz crazy at age 2 and ½.
Under the principle that when local legend becomes fact, teach the legend. a Holland high school teacher used to teach his class about the area’s connection to the Wizard of Oz. Later that teacher became mayor, and continued to advocate the legend.
Picking up on L. Frank Baum’s Holland connection and Wizard of Oz theme, a Washington lobbyist recently urged Holland area business and community leaders to get on the “green brick road” to sustainability, energy efficiency and green jobs.
 Just this past year, Holland businesses have commissioned two new murals with Oz themes, and an International Oz Club convention again met in the Macatawa area.
So, we reach my own childhood in Macatawa and Oz. [41. Doyle cottage] We had the same urban legends and ghost stories as other summer residences, but another layer of Oz stories on top of those. Stories were passed down from older kids to younger ones, and from the young summer sitters. This meant little concern for the truth of any tale, with no internet fact-checking.
We created our own associations with Oz. A dark house at the top of Maksaba Trail largely hidden by woods became the witch’s castle (even when we knew the family that lived there). We also conflated that large house with the old Macatawa Hotel. Every winding road up those wooded hills struck us as a yellow brick road.
Our landscape was enchanted.
One summer, a local girl put together a production of the Wizard of Oz with all the other cottage kids. [42. me on horse] At 5 or 6 years old, “I was the Mayor of Munchkin City.” I’m pretty sure the reason we were performing Oz was Baum’s connection to Macatawa.
As kids, we were interested in questions of the differences between book and film, and their local inspiration. We would debate the local legends, and sing “Off to See the Wizard,” and skip badly down the street.
Macatawa also had its own store of magic not tied to any particular mythos, so applicable to all. The dangerous roads made winding paths up steep forested bluffs, an ancient concrete stairway curved up through the woods to the top of the hill. Hidden in the forest, a giant old water tower lay burst and rusted, its escaped water had cut a path to it. Thunderstorms and perfect sunsets both could be seen to the west over the great inland sea.
[43. cover] So why did I decide to write a fictional story about Baum and Macatawa?
Preparing for Clarion, the six week science fiction writing workshop that coincidently was held in my home town of East Lansing, Michigan, I was looking for new story ideas, and I thought I might connect my memories of Macatawa and its Oz folklore with Oz’s creator.
I took time out from writing and critiquing to research Baum’s life at the Library of Michigan, which had a copy of the very rare (and not yet digitized) Tamawaca Folks.
Friends of my family had given me as a child what I believe is a first edition of the sequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz.
So, I wrote a story, “The Wizard of Macatawa.” The story takes place in the years 1899 and 1979. I nudged both dates. Yes, Baum’s was in Macatawa in 1899, but he wasn’t as settled there as he would be in later years. But 1899 was crucially prior to the completion of The Wizard of Oz and was a year with end-of-century millennial expectations. So I had to stretch things regarding the Baums’ presence in Macatawa that summer. Their situation is more like 1907. My Frank Baum is a big part of Macatawa life, the Regatta Week and Venetian Evening are in full swing, and the Baums are living in the Sign of the Goose. And there’s a little girl named Dorothy who listens with other children on Baum’s porch to his stories of Oz, but I gave this Dorothy the more local name of Vandermay instead of Hall, Martindale, Gage, or Gale. My Baum has finished a draft of his Oz story, but it’s a very different story from the final version.
I perhaps make Baum more of the man behind the curtain, emphasizing his own childlike aspects and his hatred of seeing kids hurt.
The things I didn’t change were his interest in theosophy, his love for his wife and sons, his joy at telling stories to all the children in the neighborhood, and his instinct for showmanship.
For the late 1970s part of my story, I moved the Oz festival in Macatawa with the Munchkin actors ten years earlier. I also decided early on that the 1970s child protagonist would not be me (as that would be boring), but someone else (who is a surprise that I leave for you to discover). I admit that, after the story was published, I had a vision of being pursued by angry Munchkins with sharp farm tools and torches, but even serious Oz fans have seemed to enjoy it. In 2008, “The Wizard of Macatawa” received the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award.
I’ve recently completed a novel-length extension of my short story. It goes on to other parts of Baum’s life and writing, but has also deepened my exploration of his connection to my childhood summer home.
As a concluding thought, I note that fantasy writers are losing the real life examples of distinct and magical places, as things become homogenized. To create his distinctly American fantasies, Baum had upstate NY, the Dakotas, Chicago, southern California, and Macatawa, and his brief unpleasant travel through Kansas–when these were very distinct places, each contributing a different part of the geography of Oz and his other writings
[44. new cottage] Now, when I return to Macatawa, the quaint Queen Anne style cottages have been remodeled or replaced with broad windowed summer homes that look the same as those in Malibu or any number of other waterfronts across the country [maybe not this one]. The beautiful dunes have been decapitated for development or beach sand.
The loss of distinct settings has noticeably affected the quality of modern fantasy writing–critics and authors have both remarked on it.
So the question I’ll leave you with is: can today’s fantasy writers still help information-savvy children become enchanted with their own small corner of the world? Can children still grow up in their own land of Oz?
After thoughts and notes:
[45. Acknowldgements] My acknowledgments.
I have some copies of my collection, “The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories” on sale here for a bargain price of $10–but wait, there’s more. If you buy a print copy, the publisher (Paper Golem Press) will also send you the e-version if you send him a photo of yourself with the book. And I’ll throw in a copy of last year’s Writers of the Future with your purchase. If you like, you can listen to me read “The Wizard of Macatawa” story for free at www.tomdoylewriter.com [46. site]. There’s also on online pdf version, but it’s not the easiest to read.
[Baum’s work came relatively early in the history of publishing for a children’s market. Now, it sometimes seems like the only thriving market is publishing for children, and even that is continually undermined by all the new toys of our age.
Today, we’re used to the infiltration of our real world by fictional ones. 221B Baker Street, Platform 9 and 3/4s, the entirety of Middle Earth or Narnia in New Zeeland.]
[i] Grand Rapids Press, Jan. 8, 1978.
[ii] The Annotated Wizard of Oz, p. 12.
[iii] Grand Rapids Press, 1989.
[iv] The Grand Rapids Press, Feb. 24, 1988.