One Step At a Time
The other day Michael reminded me I had taken a children's book writing course right after high school. A correspondence course they were called back then. I had crafted a little thing about Benny the Bunny but then got discouraged and never finished. Here I am, 30 years later thinking, "You know, I really love kids' books and I know a huge amount about the genre. I bet I could create something fun and exciting for adults and kids alike.
At first, it was overwhelming, where to start? I had a photo of one of our cats wearing a panda bear hat. The idea of I LOVE CATS was born. I wrote a simple, repetitive and, I thought, VERY clever script and went online to find non-copyrighted photos. I designed it using Shutterfly, had a very expensive prototype printed, and sent it to my grandson. It was met with rave reviews, especially when he turned the page and saw HIS cat. GASP! You can imagine the joy and wonder of that moment. I then made a second copy for a neighbor boy using photos of his cats. His mother gave me the ultimate compliment, "So many books Hank owns are boring, but I love reading I LOVE CATS." Perfect! Goal accomplished.
I went on to write a story about a Preying Mantis, prompted by the unlikely image of one sitting on a friend's beer growler. The friend said, "That mantis moved in on a Monday. Sounds like a kid's book to me, Alice." Well, why not?!
I got bogged down and discouraged by the question of illustrations. The book was in MY mind, very specifically. I sat down to storyboard it and knew exactly what each illustration on each page would look like but... had no ability to bring about that vision with my talents. Do I hire an illustrator with money I don't have? Do I spend huge amounts of time and effort finding an agent and a publisher and hand over to the "professionals" little three pages of type that hold my heart and my creative ambitions? Hmmmmm
Do you know what I did? Nothing, I watered my plants and I visited with my kids and I made dinner with my husband and I kept journaling and I planning my blog. I kept talking to whomever I met about writing and publishing and a business plan and the heart and courage it took to just create with all that is in you. So where does that leave me?
I walked past the BULLOCKS GROCERY store sign last week and there was a tiny little brown wren making a nest in the B. My heart filled with joy at the wonder of it so I went home and wrote a story. A story I now share with you. It doesn't have illustrations - yet. It is not in book form - yet. I don't know where it will go from here - yet. What I do know is, it came from a place of happiness deep within me, spilled out on the paper, and became its own thing. So I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do and I am not going to worry about what comes next. As a wonderful friend said to me, "Baby Steps, Alice. Baby Steps." Enjoy
The Special Day
“Mama?” said Charles as his mother clutched his tiny hand in hers. “Mama, there is a bird in the B.”
“Hush Charles. Now don’t let go of my hand; there is a lot of traffic today.”
Charles and his mother crossed the busy street as all the cars came to a stop. Charles’ mother had a lot of things on her mind. Today was his 4th birthday and she wanted it to be special.
Charles held tight to his mother’s hand but slowed his feet and tipped his head back to look at the huge letters on the side of the grocery store. “Mama? Look! There is a bird in the B!”
“Come along Charles,” said his mother impatiently. “I don’t know what you are saying.” She tucked him in the grocery cart, took the birthday shopping list out of her purse, and began to move quickly up and down the aisles.
“Mama?” said Charles.
“Yes Charles?” said his mother, placing a brightly colored #4 candle and some rainbow party streamers in the cart.
“Do you think the bird lives in the B?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about Charles. Birds live in nests. Now what kind of ice cream would you like, chocolate or strawberry?”
“Vanilla,” said Charles as his mother put chocolate ice cream in the cart.
Charles swung his feet back and forth while his mother tried to remember exactly how many children she had invited to his party.
“Mama?” said Charles. “Mama!” Charles said, just a little louder, because it didn’t seem like she was listening. “Do you think the bird has babies in the B?”
“You are not making any sense Charles. Now please be quiet. I have a lot of things planned for your special day.” said his mother.
Charles tried very hard to be quiet as they waited for all his birthday things to be put into his mother's shopping bag. But when they left the store and his mother pushed the crosswalk button, he said, “Mama? I really want to see the bird in the B. I want to see if it has babies.”
Charles’ mother didn’t answer. She had Charles firmly by one hand, her groceries tightly in the other, and was thinking about how much time it was going to take to bake his cake and put up all the party decorations.
“Mama!” said Charles, and he began to cry.
Mama put down the bag of groceries and wrapped her arms around Charles. “Oh Charles, why are you crying?”
“I want to see if the bird lives in the B, Mama. I want to see if it has babies.” Charles pointed up at the huge B in the BULLOCKS grocery store sign. “Up there.” he snuffled. “I saw it go in the B.” Mama gazed up at the huge metal, blue and white letters. Tucked into the highest hole of the B was a messy bundle of sticks and straw.
“Oh Charles!”, said Mama. “I am so sorry! Now I understand.” She took Charles by the hand once again and leading him to a nearby bench underneath the shade of a big tree, she put the groceries down next to her, took Charles onto her lap, and put her arms around him.
“Now watch Mama,” said Charles, his eyes shining with excitement. Sure enough, Charles and Mama only had to wait for a moment until they saw the tiniest brown wren swoop down from the sky, perch on the edge of the B, and then disappear. From where they were sitting they could hear the faint cries of baby birds calling for their breakfast.
Charles let out a sigh of contentment and Mama kissed the top of his head. “The bird does live in the B Mama, and it has babies too.”
“Mama?”, said Charles as they were making their way home.
“Yes Charles?”, said Mama, paying very close attention.
“Mama? I think today is already a very special day.”
“I do too Charles.”, said Mama, and she gave his hand a little squeeze.