Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Story Seeds / Writing Tips #15 - Different Wavelengths

The Seed: It seemed the most natural thing in the world to me - a child and his stuffed bear changing places. What child wouldn't want to see a favourite toy come alive for a day?  And as for the child temporarily changing places and becoming a toy - what a perfect way to experience the everyday world  from a different  point of view.
(c) Ruth Ohi 2013

The Story: Yancy and Bear  (illustrations by Ruth Ohi, Annick Press, 1996)
It's Raining, Yancy and Bear  (illustrations by Ruth Ohi, Annick Press, 1998)

The Writing Tip:  Sometimes writers become painfully aware that not everyone is on the same wave length as they might be.
     The book had only been out a few months when I happened to be speaking casually with two sales reps for the publishing company. They asked what my next book was about and I told them it was a sequel to Yancy and Bear.  That's when the look on their faces froze.  They didn't say anything further but clearly something was amiss.
     I got the explanation from the publisher.  The reps hadn't been able to sell the books. Book store owners/buyers (adults, every one of them of course!) had been completely mystified by the concept of a boy and his stuffed bear changing places. They just didn't "get it." The sequel would do even less well.
    What does a writer do in this kind of situation? I can tell you what I didn't do.  I didn't argue the merits of the book. I believed in the story ... I still do!  But I also believe that readers - children and adults - have every right to decide for themselves. And I  know that books, like children, have lives of their own.  You do the best you can while they are under your care but sooner or later you have to wish them well, watch them head out the door and see where they end up. 
       Happily, the book was being carried in libraries. Parents began to tell me that their two-year-old had discovered Yancy and Bear and insisted on having it read to them over and over.  Other parents shared stories of how their own small children had always pretended to change places with their stuffies.  And then, during school visits, students in grades one and two began telling me they'd read (and listened to!) Yancy and Bear on their class computers.
       This was early days for books in electronic format and it took me a bit of time to track down what the students were talking about.  But - yes! There it was in living colour, accessible through an internet site. It had been photographed in a manner that made full use of the delightful little vignettes with which Ruth Ohi had so lovingly illustrated the book and there was a feeling of gentle animation that went well with the nature of the story. Even today, it's alive and well and still being enjoyed through electronic format.
      The book had taken unexpected pathways but it had indeed made its own way in the world. Sometimes you just have to keep faith and enjoy what might come your way! 


(c) All Rights Reserved. All blog text(except comments by others) copyright Hazel Hutchins.

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