The Man Who Never Gave Up: The Resilient Life of L. Frank Baum

May 20, 2016

 

 

Resilience: noun. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

 

L. Frank Baum knew about setbacks. In fact, he kept a journal titled "Record of Failure."

 

The man who could comfortably fill the pages in that journal ultimately emerged as one of the most famous authors of the modern era.

 

How did he recover from an amazing variety of failed ventures to bear a name that is instantly recognized? Recognized, that is, when anyone adds his name to this famous trio: Dorothy, Toto and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

 

These are the setbacks L. Frank Baum had to overcome: 

 

* Born on May 15, 1856, Baum struggled with heart problems throughout his childhood. 

 

* At age 12, he began attending a military academy. He struggled for two years to survive there, and was harshly punished...for daydreaming.

 

* Throughout his life, Baum loved the theater. He started out acting and writing plays, with mixed results.

 

* The theater Baum's father built for him burned down, destroying most of the scripts he'd written.

 

 L. Frank Baum's first published book

 

* His venture as a chicken breeder and farmer was not a success (although it did lead to his first book, apparently published without his knowledge when he was 30 years of age).

 

* He was an oil salesman, as well as a clerk in a dry goods store for a time, but the jobs did not last. 

 

* His own store, "Baum's Bazaar," went bankrupt when he gave out too much stock on credit to customers.

 

* A magazine he managed about decorating store windows was unsuccessful.

 

* He was an editor for a newspaper that failed.

 

But, as a child, Baum's father had given him a printing press.

 

It became a symbol of what Baum wanted to achieve, and he never let circumstances dictate how he would react. Encouraged by a supportive family, including his wife, Maud, and his mother-in-law, Baum did not give up. He held on to his dreams (and daydreams), refusing to let go of his deep appreciation of life and creativity. His sense of humor and fun also helped keep him going. Baum continued to try new ways of writing.

First came Mother Goose in Prose, with illustrations by an upcoming illustrator, Maxfield Parrish. L. Frank Baum was 41 years old.

 

The book was a moderate success.

 

He then brought out Father Goose, His Book. It became the best-selling children's book in 1899.

 

And then, on May 17, 1900, came The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. His mother-in-law had encouraged him to write down the stories he told to his four sons. It was good advice. The book turned into the best-selling children's book for two years.

 

Although he continued to experience rewards and setbacks concerning his health, both personal and financial, the Oz series of books turned the tide of his life.

 

He wanted to give the gift of stories that were entertaining, books that did not weigh down children's spirits with overwhelmingly heavy moral messages.

 

L. Frank Baum also wanted to fill his fantasy books with new types of characters. He wanted to get away from the usual trolls and other characters from European fairy tales.

 

 Dorothy Gale. The Scarecrow. The Tin Man. The Cowardly Lion. Princess Ozma. And all those Flying Monkeys.

 

 

In his goal to delight children (and all who are young at heart), L. Frank Baum could fill the pages of a new journal: The Record of Success.


 

 

"I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing--are likely to lead to the betterment of the world."

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Borromeo is the author of Mystery Shores, a novel for children ages 9-13 (and all young-in-heart mystery fans). On a quest to save her friend, Christie Edwards must uncover a dangerous secret. Join Christie as she fights for answers along the Pacific Northwest coast in 1893.

 

 

 

 

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In my stories, you'll find islands, mystery, friendship and danger. 

My novel, Mystery Shores, is set on a lighthouse island filled with secrets. 

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