Liza Rose

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Writing for picture books

Some time ago, I posted about the poem that my son and I wrote together. I started to recite it two days ago out of curiosity, and found to both my delight and horror, he was word perfect, despite having really heard it only three times when we originally came up with it. He obviously liked it and it must have resonated, but I don't really see it making it into the annals of history as one of the best loved Children's Poems.

It got me to thinking - I know what the publishers are looking for, but what are the kids looking for in a book? I took a tour through his bookshelf, which admittedly I have stocked in the main and found three books by Nick Bland, three by Sandra Boynton, and three Octonauts books by meomi. Generally he has one or two books each by a large number of other authors, none of which are as dogeared and well loved as these nine. Is it that he recognizes the pattern or common elements that run through these books, is it that I read them to him in a more enthusiastic manner or is it that the publishers have a good handle on what is needed?

I have always been a great believer that any children's programming and reading that appeals to adults will provide both a better level of education, and an encouragement to parents to share their child's interest (thus promoting that education as a positive experience). On the other hand I am also a great believer that reading is just fun too and want to instill that of books and reading in my son, a task that is more difficult every day in this age of TV.

Also, what ages like picture books? And when is a picture book not a picture book! Good job I'm taking that course. When I consider the three authors named above, their styles are completely different, their vocabulary equally so, and yet for different reasons, my son loves each one of them.

Still, I am going to take a fresh look at my current project "Ant in My Wellies" (from which this blog gets its name) and am thinking a gutting and rewrite is in order. I want to produce a book that not only a publisher likes, but that becomes a favoured dogeared book by at least one child out there!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Muses and Amusings

Its been a hectic few weeks here at "keyboard headquarters", including exciting hospital visits, planned and unplanned, meltdowns, rows (some mine and some not), fireworks (literally for Canada day, and also something to do with something that no one is sure about, not even the Harbourfront Centre!) and various other life events.

Not least of which is a celebratory milestone - I managed to move my son to his own bed. Coincidentally, a writing group that I belong to, lead by the excellent and remarkable Robin Tuthill posted a particularly relevant daily writing prompt:

"Think about sleep – sleep patterns, sleepless nights, sleeping in the day, sleeping outside, sleeping alone, sleeping with someone, no sleep, sleeping on trips. Now write about sleep"
The exercise is intended to be "immediate" as in you write what ever comes into your head for the next 10 minutes or so....

My response was somewhat prophetic.... I repeat it here for your consideration....

You would think that I was a glutton for punishment. That my sleep deprivation was self inflicted. And you might be right. But let me explain.

Most people who have a baby let it sleep in their room for ...oh I don't know maybe 3 to 6 months. Then there are those of us who allow it to go on longer, until the baby is a toddler and can climb out of their crib. At that point, normally the toddler gets a room of their own. Of course in some cultures this is not the case, and indeed in some parts of the world its not possible, the entire family lives, sleeps and eats in a one room. In my case, it was a one bedroom, but there were physical restrictions, so it continued. My son, at 18 months got to stay in the room. Of course with the side off the cot, he was often to be found tucked up beside me in the morning.

When we moved to a larger place, just to get the extra bedroom, it was too late. He was two and a half with all that entails, and it just didn't seem like the right time to move him.. He does have a bed of his own, and is happy to use it for afternoon naps, but come nightfall, I invariable find him in my bed.

Let me just say at this point that the written authorities on parenting are wrong when it comes to sleep. There is no "60 minute sleep solution", and "cry it out" just wakes him up further and gives me a migraine. My parenting skills may seem strange to you, but the reality is they are just like everyone elses. Part inspiration, part perspiration and 90% flying by the seat of the pants. When I lie awake next to his still form at night, my thoughts range from "he will grown out of this" to "is this inappropriate". He is only a child and should be allowed his childhood, and the innocence that comes with it; however, my knowledge level in this area is too little to be useful but enough to be dangerous - what if he develops some kind of mother complex..., what if he never learns to sleep on his own....

Night after night the same thoughts run through my head, as I cuddle him close and smell his hair. His favorite position is to lie on top of my arm. He has had a growth spurt and so this has changed from lying with his head in the crook of my shoulder. At 2 am my sleep is interrupted when he rotates to cuddle up behind me again.

I worry that I will never get a good nights sleep again since I wake at his every movement, partly in fear that he might roll the wrong way and land head first on the hard wooden floor. He has done this twice so far.

When I start to drift off to sleep the realization comes that it is not him that needs me, but that I have become accustomed to his presence. What will I do when he is ready to be a big boy and sleep on his own. When his feet land in my face again, I think that I will in fact be ok and that perhaps he should move to that other bed sooner rather than later. I return to the fear that it will never happen.

Such thoughts saturate my dreams, arriving at work having forgotten something important because my eyes were closed, glued together, I'm blinded by tiredness. I toss and turn and wake again when a small hand slaps my face.

Last night he turned over and as usual I reached out to soothe him. He pushed my arm away, grunted and rolled off to "his" pillow. The separation gaped, and yet, I rolled the opposite way and dropped off to sleep. Waking I found that I felt refreshed. He didn't stir when I rose to make a coffee.

I think we will be ok.

So. Now he has decided to move. After several nap times in his new bed he has decided that it is more comfortable. Unfortunately, he has decided that mummy should move with him.... lying on the narrow edge of a twin bed for an hour while he settles is not my idea of fun. Of course I wouldn't lie there there if it were not for the fact that he has a large handful of my hair wrapped in his fingers. On the upside, I do manage to escape, and baring a short interval in the middle of the night he sleeps through, with one visit to retrieve me (for five minutes before he resettles) and at the end of the night to cuddle up in the morning.  Now I just lie awake all night wondering if he will fall out of bed! But to have my own bed back is like winning the lottery ...hmmm.... now we just have to tackle that potty! Eeeek!