My journey to writing for children has been long, bumpy and full of twists and turns. Along the way I have been a little like Bear from A Visitor for Bear written by Bonnie Becker. The summary on the book jacket reads: "Bear is quite sure he doesn't like visitors. He even has a sign. So when a mouse taps on his door one day, Bear tells him to leave. But when Bear goes to the cupboard to get a bowl -- there is mouse! Small and gray and bright-eyed!"
I don't think I've been quite as grumpy as Bear (though my children might argue that point), but like him, I have pushed away a persistent visitor for years. The first time this visitor (fittingly, in the form of a mouse) arrived, I was in fifth grade. Steven Kellogg gave a presentation at my elementary school. I sat in awe as he talked about writing picture books and drew characters from his stories.
It was a revelation that real, live, actual people wrote books (kind of like I thought teachers lived in school, not realizing that they had families & homes of their own). Mr. Kellogg helped plant that first seed. I started writing about, and even sketching, my own characters and worlds for them. But that dream began to fade -- initially because I began to doubt my ability to illustrate (and didn't quite grasp the concept that you could, indeed, be a writer and not an illustrator); later because I began to doubt my ability to write.
Still, like Mouse, that little visitor managed to squeeze in again. As I got older my desire to read for pleasure waned as my required school reading increased. But when I babysat (which became a much preferred, and very steady, source of income), one of my favorite things to do was read picture books. I started to appreciate this genre in a new way. I admired the creativity of these authors and illustrators and marveled at their ability to connect with their audience. But I denied any thought that I could create such wonderful pieces of art.
Of course that job involved children. And children like to read what? You guessed it! That persistent visitor was at it again!
Even though all my jobs and graduate school studies involved children, they didn't always involve books. So I gave myself "permission" to purchase a picture book once a year. Starting way back in my college sophomore year, I gave my boyfriend a picture book for Christmas. I chose it because it's theme was meaningful to us. The next year, I chose a new one, and so on. I eventually married that boy, and, needless to say, he has quite a collection.
Then came our first child.Trips to the book store! Story Time at the library! And another "excuse" to purchase a picture book for her every Christmas. I could usually find a book that had some significance, but as I added to my family and continued to carry on the tradition, I sometimes found myself wishing there was a book about . . . . but, no. Those bright eyes looked longingly at me again, but I pushed the visitor out. Besides, I was way too busy doing what I loved (and still do!) -- being a mom -- to think about writing any of these ideas down.
Heather is a busy wife and mom of five rambunctious children and one lovable pup They all provide lots of distractions, but oodles of inspiration. Sometimes the pictures and ideas in her head turn into her own children's stories, but she always makes time to read other people's books. Sometimes she reviews them here.