I hated reading as a child. There, I said it.
I don’t regularly admit this to anyone, but admission is the first step to recovery. And believe it or not, my objection to reading made me who I am today…an aspiring children’s book writer. We prefer the term “Pre-Published” to unpublished, as we know that it is just a matter of time.
The problem was not that I detested books or stories. Quite the opposite. In fact, I loved having stories read to me. I loved looking at books, touching, feeling, studying the pictures, making up my own stories. My problem? I was an incredibly SLOW reader and, as a result, had very low comprehension. It’s awfully embarrassing to watch the star reading group, “The Bullfrogs”, read LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE in first grade, while I’m in the “Plankton” reading group flipping through ABC books. Okay, we weren’t actually called the “Plankton” group, but you get the picture.
I spent a lot of free time as a young kid writing and illustrating my own books, sitting at my little orange toy box that I had set up as a desk. Why? Because I loved stories, but was bored out of my mind with the books I was given. It was rare to find a book at my reading level that interested me. My poor parents had to sit through twelve thousand readings of THE STUPIDS STEP OUT (By Harry Allard and James Marshall) because it is the only book I checked out on ‘Library Fridays’ for an entire year!
Humor…humor I tell you, is what I craved! Good, funny stories that weren’t too complicated, but not dumbed-down either. And they were rare. Slow, dull, not kid-friendly drivel is what they fed us through elementary school. I considered dropping out of the 5th Grade when we had to read five chapters of JOHNNY TREMAIN each night. It’s true!
As a recovering “slow reader”, I spent my adult years trying to prove my intelligence to the world. After all, I wasn’t stupid, just “different” and “slow” compared to my fellow students…Of course, all I heard was “DUMB”. I worked my tail off in high school, went to UCLA and then on to medical school…because the smartest people in the world become doctors, right? Okay, passed my medical boards…great, I proved I’m smart, but I hated my work.
What I really wanted was to help those “High-Low” children like me…you know, high interest/low ability (that’s what they call them now). So I became a first grade teacher in an impoverished rural New England school. Initially, I wrote stories for my students out of need. We had a very limited reading library for beginning readers, and zero budget for new books. While writing everything from alphabet books to chapter books, I fell in love with writing again. What my students especially appreciated was creating humorous stories together.
On hiatus now from teaching to write full-time, I have found my niche and “my people”. Children’s book writers are the happiest, most generous, open minded and fun people in the world. I am honored to be among them.
My goal is to write wildly entertaining, funny, kid-friendly books with Newbery-worthy prose. But the road to publication isn’t easy. It’s kind of like a churro…long and bumpy, but sweet. And though I love the process, it can be frustrating…which is what this Blog is all about. Thanks to my writing buddies, Jay and Robin, for being the “sweet” part of my churro!