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NEWFANE — When Sarah Woodard moved to Vermont, a small squirrel with a thin tail started hanging around her home.

Concerned her visitor was underfed, she started putting out peanuts, sunflower seeds, apples and grapes each week. She was careful not to feed the squirrel, whom she named “Fred,” everyday, to ensure her furry friend did not become too reliant on humans.

These lessons in kindness, friendship and boundaries inspired her newest book, “Fred’s New Friend,” now available by ordering from local bookstores and through Amazon.

“That’s really what it is — I’m having this boundary: ‘You need to stay wild. I’ll help you, but you need to stay a wild animal,” said Woodard, an author of more than 40 books for children.

Woodard has a very specific writing process, which involves leaving herself mentally — and spiritually — open for further inspiration. She is a certified shamanic practitioner, and said that in shamanism, this state of openness is called “hollow bone.” From there, she said she will receive a “whisper.” This could be the first line of the story, or the name of a character, and she must stop what she is doing and write.

She said her process has remained the same, while noting recent stories have been more personally inspired. For example, her book “Batya’s Lunch” was inspired by growing up the only Jewish child in her class.

Woodard got the idea to turn her visits from Fred the squirrel into a story after chatting with her editor about his careful feeding schedule.

“This year, he brought friends, so it became ‘The Flintstones,’” she said with a laugh. She has named the others Wilma, Betty and Bamm-Bamm.


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