Books for Little Kids

Some years ago I wrote a story for a little kid’s picture book. I had two things in mind. I wanted to invent a new word. And I wanted the book to have a bitter-sweet theme. The inventing a new word was just a bit of creativity, a fun thing. The bitter-sweet edge was because not all children experience life as sweetness and light, love and kindness. Not even in a loving and caring family. I wanted to say something about that somehow.

The story is still sitting on my computer. It’s been waiting for something. I didn’t know what until recently.

A friend listened as I told the story some years ago. She is a very creative person and I trusted her judgement. I described each picture lightly and put in the text. The new word kept her engaged as she tried to figure out what it really meant – the story is not really clear in that and the reader has to sort out the ambiguity. But when I got to the end she erupted with anger. “That’s a sad story!” It was not a good response, it shut me down. And there I left the matter.

And I left the story. Until finding myself at an illustrator’s workshop at the recent CYA Later writer’s conference. The leader of the workshop had lots of little kid’s books, his own and other author/illustrator’s work. And guess what? There were books there with bitter-sweet themes, sad stories, not all sweetness and light, not all happy endings.

So I am on the up with this story. It needs work yet. But it’s not dead.

The conference had an illustrator’s competition. The first and second place winners were both extraordinary work. I loved them both. I looked at the first place entry and thought, “This style of art would be perfect for my story.” There was no name of the illustrator given so I resolved to find out who it was, but every time I ran into the organisers I forgot completely. At the end of the day I helped get things packed up and then a bunch of us went out to dinner. Imagine twenty people down both sides of a long table. My publisher was directly opposite and he greeted the woman next to me with, “Well, don’t just sit there. Show us the certificates.” And out came her certificates for taking first and second place in the picture book illustrator competition.

Sometimes things just fall into place. We talked about her work, and we talked about my story. So it’s back in the land of the living and with a bit of tidying up it’s going to start the rounds of submission to publishers.

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