Lela Hartsaw knows what it feels like to hold a copy of your very own book in your hands. She’s authored two on history. But, she had never published one on her own history until now.

“I can only imagine Aunt Mabel sitting with a typewriter at her kitchen table, probably with a box of tissues right there with her,” she said from the library of the Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto. “I weep just reading it.”

The author waited 33 years to completed the family masterpiece. Remembering Lela and Charlie is a collection of letters typed by Lela’s great-aunt, Mabel Gates, around 1918. The letters describe what life was like living as a 13-year old newlywed with a husband who was just back from war. Living on a farm was a difficult lifestyle in the early 1900s.

The letters were passed down to Lela from family. Her mother, Brenda Bell, helped order the book and provided family photos. The letters themselves were reason enough to publish the family history but Lela felt something was missing.

“It was interesting when I realized that I lived with an illustrator,” she said with a smile.

“I was really excited,” said 13-year old Emily Hartsaw, a seventh-grade student at MSA. “It’s exciting and I’m definitely really proud that we have a book that’s going to be on shelves now and anyone can pick up and look at.”

Emily isn’t much for words but does a lot of her communicating through her artwork. She sketched 20 drawings that paired with great-aunt Mabel’s words. The collaborations meant four generations worked together to author family history.

“Couldn’t mess up the family book,” said Emily, as she thumbed through the pages, pointing to an old, early century style automobile etched in pencil. “This is one of my favorite ones. I had fun shading it.”

The book illustrations took all summer to complete. Remembering Lela and Charlie can be found on Amazon.