When Sandra Kovacs Stein noticed that ravens were building a nest on the Purcellville water tower near her home, she began taking pictures of them.
Karen Schaufeld would watch eagles carry fish and other small creatures back to their nest on her property near Leesburg.
Cheryl Somers Aubin was moved by a newspaper story about a Callery pear tree that somehow survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and was buried under the rubble of New York’s twin towers.
During a celebration of local authors and food sources at the Cascades Library in Potomac Falls on June 18, the three women told of how the majesty and mystery of nature inspired them to write their books for children. They were among more than two dozen writers who participated in the first “Eat Local, Read Local” event, which helped kick off the library system’s summer reading program.
The authors read from their works, signed books and discussed writing and publishing with library patrons and with one another.
Children’s librarian Christine Leary said that the library has story hours frequently but that children are particularly impressed when authors read their own books.
“To have the actual writer of the book is so much more special,” she said. “Their eyes kind of open wide.”
This year, the Cascades Library’s authors fair was expanded to include local food providers, branch manager Elizabeth Gregg said. Dozens of tables were set up in a meeting room and the parking lot, at which authors displayed their books, and vendors sold desserts and other foods. Several local food trucks were parked nearby.
Stein, 76, read her book “Along the Trail,” based on walks with a friend on the Washington & Old Dominion trail near her Purcellville home. The interactive book prompted children in the audience to answer questions about things she photographed there.
Stein told about observing from her balcony as ravens built a nest. She saw the babies learn to fly and was watching when one rescued another from a rooftop.
“I took my pictures, and I wrote about each picture, and I had a book,” she said of “The Water Tower Ravens.”
Schaufeld, who lives north of Leesburg, said that watching an eagle’s nest on her property inspired her book “Larry and Bob,” a fable about an unlikely friendship between a fish and an eagle.
“I observed this massive nest, and the eagles flying in carrying fish in their mouths . . . and it just occurred to me, ‘What if . . . ?’ ” she said.
Scheduled for release in August, it’s the second children’s book for Schaufeld, 54, who is best known locally as the owner of Shoe’s Cup & Cork in Leesburg. She also founded the group 100 Women Strong and the school readiness program All Ages Read Together. Her first book, “The Lollipop Tree,” was published in 2013.
Aubin, 57, of Vienna, based “The Survivor Tree” on a brief newspaper article about a Callery pear tree that excavators found under the rubble of the World Trade Center about a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She told the story from the tree’s point of view, giving it feelings and a gender (female).
“Workers saw three green leaves sticking out of the ash and rubble, and they decided to save the tree,” Aubin said. “She had been 30 feet tall; she was reduced to eight feet.
“Every single limb was cut off, and most of her greenery. She was burnt and scarred. She was a mess.”
The tree was moved to a nursery, where it recovered and thrived before being returned to the grounds of the 9/11 Memorial, years later.
Aubin choked up a little as she read to a small group of children and reached the conclusion, with its message of strength and healing after a devastating tragedy.
“This book — the tree — is about hope,” she said later.