Every week my blog will be featuring 1) the tiny, real-life seed from which one of my stories unfolded and 2) a writing tip that helped the seed grow into a finished book.
The Seed: "Help! Help!" I heard the cry and raced into the living room. My four-year-old's foot was stuck in the pocket at the back of the sofa. Was the child about to be swallowed whole?
The Book: Leanna Builds a Genie Trap ( Annick Press 1986)
The Writing Tip: Remember last week when I talked about jumping right into the action? This moment of panic definitely filled the bill in that regard. But this time I was trying to write a picture book for younger kids and if I started in such a dramatic way the story would be too frightening. I didn't want to give little kids nightmares!
I began wandering around the house, gathering up all the small things that get lost in a home with busy children. They were friendly, familiar objects...a good place to start. I added my mysterious blue tin box (it just felt like it belonged). But it wasn't until I came across my kids' favorite rope (used for forts, climbing, and traps!) that I knew I really had a story.
Those familiar objects became the start. The trapped foot became the crises. It was another lesson learned -- a story seed needs to be looked at from all directions in order to figure out where it might best be used.
I also learned a valuable lesson about rough drafts. An editor asked me to rework the ending of the story. I wrote six possible last pages, chose the one I liked best and tossed the others away. The next morning before I mailed the envelope, however, I happened to pass the waste basket. Looking down into the crumpled pieces of paper, I spotted an ending that I rather liked after all....
Yes - the "discarded" ending is the one the editor liked the best. Save those rough drafts!
p.s. The illustrations for the book were done by Catharine O'Neill. I love them but I haven't been able to find her contact information to ask permission to use them here. Catharine, if you are out there, please e-mail me so I can replace this photo with your cover art!
My photograph above makes me shake my head. I try so hard to come up with good visual images but they always end up "uninspired". I am SO grateful for the wonderful, amazing visual artists who illustrate my books!
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