When Collette was seven, she asked me to help her write a book. She selected a title: Ten Things That Interest Me. For the next ten weeks, she chose a different subject, and we conducted research. Topics such as cloud formations and volcanic eruptions made the list. I wrote narratives while she drew pictures. We stapled the final pages together, and shared the ‘book’ with family and friends.
When Collette turned eight, she informed me it was time to write a second story. This one involved two main characters and a cleaver plot twist. She wanted it bound with a ‘real’ cover--no more staples. She dictated the story to me, and drew the cover art. I appeased her by turning the project into a Shutterfly album.
Six months later, she announced that she wanted to write an actual book. “One like yours, Mimi. I want it on Amazon so people from all over the world can read it. And it needs to have lots of words and pictures.” I paused, wondering how to distract her from this ambitious goal. I explained the long and grueling road to publication. We made no decision that day, and I secretly hoped she would forget about the time-consuming project.
The following Wednesday, Collette hurried out of her classroom wearing an impish grin. “I have something to show you, Mimi!” She handed me a ‘Bad Kitty’ chapter book called Drawn To Trouble. The author explained how to write a children’s story in a fun and engaging way. “I bought it with my own money,” Collette said proudly. “And I’ve already read it.”
My jaw dropped. The fact she purchased and read the book didn’t surprise me. When Collette puts her mind to something, she makes it happen. The surprise came from the fact she could explain the difference between a protagonist and antagonist, discuss the three-act structure, and describe why conflict is critical to a successful story. “Now will you help me write a real book?” Collette tossed me a knowing smile.
After careful consideration, we decided to write about a turkey vulture who had crashed landed in my backyard. We brainstormed plot ideas, constructed spunky characters, and created a timeline.
My granddaughter thought a lot about the plot. “I want Muir Woods in the story. I don’t know where or how, but it’s important.” We immersed ourselves in articles and books about vultures, and we toured WildCare, a non-profit organization who healed our bird. Then, we cobbled together a first draft. I massaged the words, and returned a thirty-page typed manuscript to my young writing partner to review.
Collette circled words and phrases that didn’t work for her, and offered fresh ideas that improved the story. While we worked on the narrative, my husband searched for vultures to photograph in the wild. An artist used those images to create forty-three engaging illustrations. I hired a professional to edit and format the book.
In a few weeks, Collette and I will self-publish a children’s book called Vanessa’s Rotten Day. It will be sold on Amazon as a print and e-book. Anyone in the world can read the story.
Collette is imaginative, creative, and a hard worker. She has many interests, and I don’t know if she will become a professional writer when she grows up. What I do know is that I’ve become her biggest fan. If she ever needs my help to write another book, and she brings her desire, time, and energy to the table, I’ll simply say yes, and guide her down the writer’s road.
Photo credit: Kristy Treewater