Thank you, Debra, for inviting me to write a guest post. I’m not a mystery/thriller writer, although the writing I do can be very thrilling when it comes together. I’m a children’s book writer; mostly picture books with an occasional chapter book or middle grade novel (ages 8-12) thrown in. I can hear some of you thinking: that’s not too difficult, just make up a cute little tale, add a few illustrations and there you go. Au contraire.
Writers of adult fiction (that’s age-related, not erotica-related) know that a good story must be well plotted. The story arc not only needs a beginning, climax, and resolution, it also needs conflict and tension, maybe some humor, and the stakes must keep getting higher for the main character in order to drive the story forward and the reader turning pages (or in the case of an e-reader, flicking pages!)
All that is present in a picture book or chapter book as well. However, a picture book, is only about 500-750 words. While the adult author set the scene, hinted at a problem, and introduced the main character in chapter one, the children’s author has done all that plus created conflict, added tension, resolved the problem, and completed the whole book. Doesn’t sound so easy now, does it!
I admit writing a picture book first draft IS simpler than a novel. But drafts two through six or eight or ten require a great deal of nuance. Picture books must appeal to little kids; their level of comprehension, world of experience, and certainly their sense of humor. It also needs to appeal to the “gatekeepers” of picture books, the parents, the media specialists, and the teachers. And if you want kids to read your book over and over and maybe (hopefully) pass it on to their children one day, it must appeal to older kids and contain themes that will withstand the test of time. Oh yeah, it can’t sound like it’s teaching something or feel like there’s a lesson/moral to the story because kids will get bored and put the book down. I repeat, not so easy to craft.
I guess it’s apparent that children’s book authors need to be passionate about writing their stories since they can be challenging. For me, there’s an extra challenge. I’m visually impaired and in the process of potentially losing all my sight from a hereditary disease.
I wasn’t having a lot of difficulty seeing the computer screen when I began writing six years ago (I could still read a font in 10 point). Now it’s 16 or 18 point, depending on the font. The good news is, even as my sight gets worse, I can continue to write with the help of special software and/or assistive technology devices. Smartphones especially the iPhone 4gS, have voice-to-text and text-to-voice capability. There are several magnification software programs available, as well as voice-to-text and text-to-voice software programs. So while I might not see the written page, I can still write it and hear it. Most writers will admit it’s helpful to have someone else read your words aloud; my reader will just sound a bit mechanical!
For me, vision loss is certainly an inconvenience, but not the end of the world. It isn’t crippling me, killing me, or affecting my brain. It’s just one of life’s challenges. It has provided some humorous circumstances and a few embarrassing moments. But as I see it, that’s just fodder for the memoir I plan to write when I get my guide dog! (I want to name him “Seymour.”)
Gail Handler is a retired elementary school teacher. She has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education from University of Michigan and an additional Master’s in Counseling from Georgia StateUniversity. In addition to writing children’s books, she is a Board Member of the Georgiachapter of The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a co-leader of the chapter’s support group, and active in fundraising for research to discover treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases. To learn more about her and her journey through writing and vision loss, check out her blog: www.writefromthesoulvisualeyes.blogspot.com or her WIP (website in progress!) www.gailhandler.com