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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Picture Books! and A Novel in the Works

 Once upon a time, there was a woman in her early thirties who had given up on being a writer. And on ambition -- because her ambition, when she'd had one, was all about writing.

As a child, she'd known she was born to be a writer, and specifically a novelist. At the age of ten, she a novel, in two hundred penciled pages, called The Biography of My Dragon (plus a little about me). The protagonist was named after her brother (using his middle name), and the manuscript would have provided fertile ground for years of psychoanalysis. After that came another, abandoned novel; years of free verse poetry; and a few unimaginative short stories. Sometime in college, she gave up on creative writing -- or so she thought. She became a lawyer, but not an ambitious one, ignoring the brass rings others might grab for.

In her thirties, she met a very interesting fellow, dated him, broke up with him, dated him some more, moved in with him, said goodbye as he went looking for a job elsewhere, followed him elsewhere, and married him. They wanted a family, and after some months succeeded in beginning that project.

So there she was, on a porch in a semirural patch of south central Indiana, pregnant and contemplative. She looked around at her yard full of oak trees, and thought about the tiny being taking shape inside her. And she wrote a short manuscript, something like a poem but not quite a poem, and called it Mommy Calls Me Acorn. She decided it could be the text of a picture book.

Over the next several years, she wrote other picture books. She even found an agent to handle them, though the agent didn't usually represent picture book authors. The agent never found a publisher -- and that, the woman thought, was that.

The daughter she was carrying was born, and grew from baby to child to teenager. In her junior year of high school, that daughter took part in something called National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). The daughter did so again the next year, and this time the woman followed her daughter's lead. The woman finished a rough draft of a science fiction novel in thirty days, and spent the next year revising it, editing it, and researching agents and publishers. But by the time she'd done that research, she had learned about self-publishing and decided it made more sense for her than the traditional route.

Over the next few years, the woman, now an author, remembered her picture book manuscripts from time to time. But from what she could tell, it wasn't yet feasible to self-publish a picture book, using the same methods she used for her novels, and have the quality a picture book and its audience deserved.

Fast-forward to the beginning of 2021. Self-publishing has matured. Self-publishing a picture book has become feasible. And I'm finally publishing those picture books. Finally!

I'm not good, at least not good enough, at drawing or painting, so I've been having great fun looking through illustrator portfolios. I've found two illustrators I want to use for two different books, books that require different styles. One of those illustrators is already working on the first book, and the other is waiting for me to finish tweaking the manuscript for the second.

That doesn't mean I'm done writing novels. I'm currently revising and editing the third book in my Cowbird Creek historical romance series. But I'm not sure whether I'll take part in NaNoWriMo again this November. After all, I've published one or more novels a year since 2011, as well as two short stories. I've come back to where I always felt, deep down, I was meant to be. I'm a writer. I don't have to prove it on any sort of schedule.

I'll start another novel when I have an idea I'm excited to write -- and I expect that to happen. In the meantime, I'll make sure Mamie and Jake get their Cowbird Creek love story. And I'll happily and eagerly await the illustrations for my picture books.