Saturday, March 13, 2010

Guest Blogger, Joy Dekok

Please join me in welcoming author Joy Dekok as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress as part of her blog tour.
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:

Have any of you written stories for family members? Have you ever considered writing children’s stories?


  1. Mason - Thanks so much for hosting Joy.

    Joy - I truly admire what you do. To me, anyone who interests children in reading is award-worthy. It's that simple. Thanks for introducing young people to the joy of reading through what you do. And thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Great story. I'll have to see if our school library has a copy of that one! So sorry to hear of your loss, Joy.

  3. Joy, you're definitely a gifted writer. Loved the story you told here.

    Very sorry to hear about your father-in-law.

    Straight From Hel

  4. What an interesting perspective on writing - I never thought about the fact that in writing a childrens' book, and a small book at that, every word counts so much more. I love the story of how this book came together.

    I'm very sorry about your loss, Joy.

  5. Sounds wonderful! I raised two owls, two litters of ;possums, several robins, several squirrels and other animals. I love well-written animal stories, as I am sure yours is.

    I also understand about books taking a long time--I have one book entered in the Amazon-Penguin young adult contest that just moved up to the next round that took me TWENTY years to write.

    If someone says anything disparaging about how long it takes, my guess is that they've never tried it.

  6. And yes, so sorry to hear of yourloss!

  7. That is a wonderful story. Love the sound of the book and the cover is very cool, too. Best of luck on the remainder of your tour!

    Marvin D Wilson

  8. Hi everyone, thanks for stopping by. Reading Joy's story I'm amazed at how some people seem not to understand all the time and hard work that goes into writing. To me a children's book would be harder in some respects because you're limited on the words and the depth of your story.

  9. Thanks, Mason, for having Joy on your blog today.

    Joy, so sorry for the loss of your father-in-law. May your fondest memories help you and your family through this difficult time.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it's very inspirational. Best wishes with Raccoon Tales!

  10. Thank you for the fantastic opportunity to be on the blog! And to all of you - thank you for your generous comments and condolences. I am comforted by each of you.

    Thank you again!
    Joy DeKok


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.