Joy’s book is a change for me. She writes children’s books and her latest release is “Raccoon Tales.” Joy’s father-in-law past away last week after suffering a stroke. She may not be able to drop back by today, but is here now to talk about “time will tell.”
A woman asked, “What’s it like holding the children’s books you’ve written in your hands?”
“It’s really something!” I said.
“It must have been like ‘child’s play’.”
“Not exactly,” I said.
“Well there aren’t that many words,” she said.
I tried to change the subject, but she wasn’t going to let it go.
“How hard can it be?”
How could I tell her it took me ten years from start to finish with Raccoon Tales? Would she understand if I told her the word limit meant every word counted more and it was harder to write short than it is to write long? Fear and pride mingled in my heart. The book I had been so glad to share with her was now a bit of an embarrassment.
I swallowed my pride and tried.
Her eyebrows raised and she said, “You invested ten years of your life into this little story?”
The way I might have once had with words vanished as I replied, “Um, yes.”
“Really! Was it worth it?”
“Only time will tell.”
A rock in the bottom of my stomach rolled over. I wanted to defend my investment, but my energy had evaporated along with my enthusiasm. I left the conversation as politely as I could.
Later, snuggled up in my favorite chair and sipping a hot cup of coffee I remembered my first writing dream. It came before I could read. I stared at the words on the page of one of my storybooks, fascinated by the letters. I traced them on paper and taped my pages together certain one day I’d see my own words in books.
I had no idea how much work would be involved.
Raccoon Tales is based on a true-life adventure. My husband rescued and later released a litter of baby raccoons. I wanted to save the story for the kids in our lives and printed off photos we’d taken and let the words flow onto the pages.
We got a call that an uncle of mine was terminally ill and would like a visit from us. When he asked me what I was writing, I told him about the raccoon story. He said, “I’d sure like to read that one.”
I knew his time was short so on the way home I told Jon, I’m going to write that story as fast as I can.
I did and took my uncle that first raw copy. It was awful, but it brought him great joy. I wondered if others might enjoy it so I sent my niece a copy and she read it to her kids. They liked it too. My little story had potential.
I worked those words over dozens of times and then sent it to a professional editor. She wasn’t very encouraging although she liked the story fine – she wasn’t sure there was a market for it. Discouraged, I put it away and worked on two other stories that were dear to my heart as well. I often wondered if the raccoon book would ever really happen – maybe it was just a gift to my uncle and a writing exercise for me.
Unable to resist the story, I’d pull it out now and then to polish a word here and there. Polishing words can be like a light dusting or like cleaning silver with years’ worth of tarnish on it. This was far more of the latter. On days filled with writers doubt, I decided that even if no one else ever read it, I wanted their life story to be written with excellence.
Eventually I found the courage to share it with my writers group. They liked it and so did their kids. In time, I sent it to my favorite illustrator (Leslie Helen Colwin) and she loved it. Together we worked harder yet.
Not long ago, I had the privilege of talking about writing to a local group of 3rd graders. Their teacher invited me to read a portion of Raccoon Tales to the kids. They wanted to hear more, but our time together was over.
I left the room and kids were chattering as they got ready for lunch. “I want that book,” one little boy said. A little girl’s voice said, “I want to write a book like that.”
In that moment I knew time had told me the truth. Ten years in the making and Raccoon Tales was worth every bit of it.
What a wonderful story Joy and thanks for sharing it with us. It’s fun to learn what inspires an author to write. Let me say, I’m so sorry to hear of your father-in-law’s passing. Wishing you and your family peace and happy memories of your time with him.
A little background on Joy. She is an author, national speaker, and author coach. From the time she was a little girl, she wanted to write for children. She has three published children’s books, a novel, and a devotional. For more information on Joy, visit her website at: www.believe4kids.com
Have any of you written stories for family members? Have you ever considered writing children’s stories?