"Dollies" have long inspired Imelda Dickinson of Superior.
They've inspired her to stitch wardrobes that match their personalities to give away, and they've inspired her to tell her stories in poetry and prose.
Her own dollies reflect her long-ago desire to be a ballerina.
And most recently, dollies inspired the 87-year-old to become a first-time published author with the release of "Personolly Yours."
"It's a collection of 44 stories that I started writing 25 years ago," Dickinson said. "I would dress up a doll for a story I wanted to tell. The first one was Emily Dickinson. My father was related to her," a cousin.
The stories cover topics such as love, family, forgiveness, tragedy, the Great Lakes, adoption, animals, holidays, laughter, music, America and the sky.
"The stories are 99 percent true," Dickinson said.
Dickinson said her inspiration came from family and life experiences.
"All my brothers had a doll," Dickinson said. "My brother (Frank) was a captain on the ore boats and so he always had her in the crow's nest — so it talks about the Great Lakes."
Dickinson said she never imagined her brother Frank, a "manly-man" would ever want a doll, but no one dared mention it as the doll looked out from the crow's nest.
"It talks about music because my mother was raised in a very musical family. She could play eight instruments and she didn't know how to read a note."
Dickinson said her brothers and sisters were all very musical.
"I wanted to learn, but I wouldn't carry a dead chicken to the nun's house, so I didn't get my lessons," she said.
Dickinson was a reluctant author because the stories are very personal, she said.
"I give the dollies to family, and later friends; then my daughter Molly said I should publish," Dickinson said. "I said I really don't know if I should. This is very personal to have my words out there for everyone to read. The stories are very personal. She said 'all the more reason.'"
When she decided to publish, Dickinson said getting published wasn't easy. Publishers either wanted a lot of money to self-publish or they wanted her to get an agent. She finally decided to self-publish with Amazon.
"I was glad I decided to publish," Dickinson said. "I didn't have the reservations I thought I would have. Everyone who has a family can relate to this book; that's why I'm glad I decided to publish."
She said that reviews are starting to come in and she's pleased people like the book.
"If you like long poetry ... similar to Emily Dickinson style, you will love this book," Brad Saint George wrote in a review on amazon.com. "Imelda spent decades giving away custom, unique dolls to her friends and family. Each doll tells a story, some sad, some happy, but all interesting and well told."
Dickinson said she's even considering starting a second book, "Personolly Yours Too" and has 13 people lined up who would like their stories told.
"Everyone has a story," Dickinson said.
"You don't really have to grow up reading my book," Dickinson said.
In addition to Amazon, she said she has a few copies on consignment at Zenith Bookstore, 308 N. Central Entrance, Duluth. But to get copies of the books with images of the dolls, contact her through her website at imeldadickinson.com. Those are the only books that come with images of her customized dolls, Dickinson said.