I was very fortunate in my work life in that I had a job that provided me with challenge, satisfaction, and the reward of watching my students and younger colleagues blossom into responsible employees, employers, and community leaders. But my work also took up all my time. I didn’t even think of exploring a creative side – to see if there was one! And then our first grandchild came along. It’s amazing how you start to see the world through a different set of eyes when you have the luxury of watching a young child exploring her universe without the interfering stresses of parenthood and work. I suddenly had a reason to put on paper all the stories I had been idly composing in my head about my bird friends. And impending retirement gave me the gift of time.
Our house has some lovely big windows looking out on trees and the St. John River. We have several different types of bird feeders hanging right outside these windows. For years I have watched as a variety of birds spend the summer raising their young, feeding them, and teaching them to eat. It is a special treat to watch the adolescent birds getting confused about which feeder works best for them. Watching young chickadees trying to get food from a hummingbird feeder is always fun; shenanigans such as these have given me lots of food for thought.
When our first grandchild was 2 it suddenly hit me that writing stories for her about these birds would be lots of fun, and that I was about to have the time to do so. What I knew in advance was that in children’s books illustrations are important. So my first step was to take some drawing classes in an effort to meet this challenge. Subsequently armed with sufficient confidence that with lots of pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a big enough eraser I could eventually create modestly recognizable drawings, I chose an initial idea and got started.
Things I learned when testing my first effort, No More Worms For Supper, with my son (the Daddy) and my granddaughter at age 2 ½ :
- As with all creative efforts, keep your ego at the door. Just because you have put your heart and soul into your creation doesn’t mean that everyone else will notice all the details you thought about so long or worked on so hard. Your enjoyment on the journey is the reward.
- What you think is funny is more often taken as being serious by small children, although still entertaining for them. Your humour is acknowledged by the parent who gets to read the story over and over again!
- Parents seem to like their kids’ books to be as short as possible. Too many pages makes them edgy before they even start.
- There’s a whole world ahead in writing for a captive audience of grandchildren – plus of course friends’ grandchildren and anyone else looking for new children’s books.