CEDAR FALLS - The secret to writing about Amelia Bedelia, said the author of the beloved children's stories, is to always carry a notebook.
Herman Parish visited the University of Northern Iowa to promote the latest book in the series, "Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School." The book, a departure from previous adventures because it depicts the literal-minded cleaning lady as a child, will be released in June.
In 1995, Parish continued the tradition started by his aunt, Peggy Parish, who published the first story in 1963.
Parish said his previous career in advertising, in which he dreamed up \new campaigns for established brands, helped prepare him for his literary career.
"I was used to working with people who wanted their brand freshened up, not reinvented," he said.
To put his own spin on the series, Parish started carrying around a notebook to write down phrases with funny double entendres. Early on, he remembers walking into a diner and overhearing a burly trucker say, "Give me a piece of pie, and step on it."
Parish also recounted his aunt's inspirations for Amelia Bedelia.
Parish said his aunt based the lead character on a French colonial maid in Cameroon, who served in a house owned by Mr. and Mrs. Rogers (in the book, the owners' name is also Rogers.) He said he even heard stories of the real-life Rogers asking the maid to sweep around the room, only to find the areas closest to the walls swept.
Parish said the book's original illustrator likely drew inspiration for the ever-present purse on Amelia Bedelia's arm from Peggy Parish herself. He showed several pictures of his aunt, all with a purse hanging from her forearm.
Parish said he's proud of the legacy of his aunts' characters. When Peggy Parish died suddenly in 1988, for years he received fan mail from young people confessing how much they loved reading them.
"They would say, 'Dear Ms. Parish, I hate to read but you are changing my opinion,'" he said.
Contact Jens Manuel Krogstad at (319) 291-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.