Friday, May 11, 2018

ABC Book Update: I Can See the [L is for] Light at the End of the [T is for] Tunnel!

During the first few years of my marriage, before my baby boys started to arrive in quick succession, I worked almost every day as a substitute teacher at a public high school in southern Texas, while my husband went through Naval Aviator training and eventually earned his wings as a Navy fighter pilot.  Even way back then, I was dreaming of writing and publishing books.  But that was eons ago, in those prehistoric pre-Internet days when the idea of self-publishing was unheard of; so that meant it was necessary to find an actual mainstream publishing house willing to pay you for your work. (Not an easy task, as I would find out.)

My dearest dream, the one I rarely mentioned aloud because it seemed utterly unattainable--was to write a novel; but I was obviously not ready to tackle anything that huge at that time in my life.  Novels were very LONG, I thought; and what experiences had I had by the age of 22 or 23 that I could possibly write about?  No, the novel would have to wait, I decided.  I did, however, think that perhaps a children's book might be something I could manage.  I'd been dabbling in art my entire life, after all; and though I'd never had any professional instruction, I could draw and paint well enough to illustrate a children's book--at least that's what I thought.  And maybe I couldn't write the great American novel, but I could certainly write a simple children's story--couldn't I?  Children's books were short, right?  They didn't take a whole lot of talent to write, did they?  (I was young, as I said; there was SO MUCH I didn't know!)

So I tried a couple of ideas.  One of them involved a little girl called Bitty-Bit who wouldn't eat anything but chocolate chip cookies--and then lo and behold, she turned into one!   It was all about the importance of healthy eating, and although I think the idea was okay, the manuscript was too wordy for a children's book and the execution of the illustrations was, shall we say, a tad sub-par.
Not only do I still have the drawings I did, but I still have the rejection letters I received--as you can see!
And here's the shocker, readers: for my efforts, I promptly received a pair of very kind, typed-up rejection letters. (I wrote about these letters once before here at the blog, if you're interested in reading that old post.)  Then I tried a few more ideas, but never got very far (not far enough to even consider sending them off to a publisher, anyway).

I was blessed with five sons between 1983 and 1993, and those boys of mine kept me mighty busy.  I was a happy SAHM and really didn't think of writing any sort of book for a very long time.  The last of my efforts was an ABC Book, which I started in 1993 for my youngest son.  I got 10 pages completed before he learned to walk, but not too long after he became mobile, I couldn't seem to find much time to sit down at my drafting table anymore.

I did have an honest-to-goodness drafting table.  My ever-supportive husband surprised me with it at Christmas, during that year I was working on the ABC book, so that I would have my very own special place to do artwork.  He's just the best, as I've said many times here at the blog.  He has more faith in me than I've ever had in myself, and I don't know what I'd do without him.

Anyway, the amazing thing is that I actually got a novel written and published before I ever finished that ABC Book.  I began to write my first novel in 2007, just as my youngest son was about to start his freshman year of high school.  I was 49 by that time, with a little more life experience than I'd had as a baby-faced Navy wife in Texas, not to mention a greater understanding of how a work of fiction could actually be used as an evangelization tool.  God's timing was perfect, I believe, because I don't think I would have written the same sort of book before I'd raised my children.  Seeing how much the world had changed over the years, even since we'd welcomed our first son in 1983, and knowing how essential it was to teach our boys to swim against the ever-growing tide of secular humanism, made me determined to write a story that would inspire young people to fight the good fight in our fallen world.  Finding Grace was published in 2012.

It wasn't until the birth of my first grandchildren, twin granddaughters born in 2011, that I decided it was finally time to resurrect the ABC Book idea.  But the original illustrations were oversized, and I had hand-lettered them; so I pretty much started over from scratch and re-did a number of them on 8 and 1/2 by 11 cardstock, and I used Word for the text so it would look more polished.

For instance, here are a couple of the originals:
I really wanted to use that little guy in overalls again in the new book; he was inspired by a photo of my #2 son on his first birthday.  So I re-did him, painstakingly, and here is the result:
I was glad to get beyond having to copy old illustrations and just start on the new ones, because it's always harder trying to re-create something you like already (and don't want to have to do all over again!).

We had three weddings within a span of 11 months in 2013 and 2014, and then the grandchildren started to come rapid-fire; and even though that should have spurred me on to finish this project for them, I actually put the ABC Book on the back burner once again and let a few years go by without any progress.

I am happy to report that in 2018, I have finally found my groove with this ABC Book.  I have decided to re-use some old artwork wherever I can, in order to speed the process along.  I even used one of the drawings from Bitty-Bit, the Human Chocolate Chip Cookie (a Dodd, Mead, & Co. reject!) on one of the pages--for old times' sake.  And I've decided to stop being such a perfectionist and remember that more than anything else, this book is a labor of love for my grandchildren.   (Surely, the little eyes that are going to be looking at Grammy's artwork are not going to be as critical as those of the children's book editors at a big publishing house!)

A little over a year ago, we moved from a large Colonial "forever home" in NH to a smaller house in VA, in order to live closer to our grown married sons and their families.  We got rid of 26 years' worth of acquired stuff; we not only made countless trips to Goodwill, but also filled two dumpsters.  I came REALLY CLOSE to giving my drafting table to Goodwill, thinking there would be no place to set it up in the new house.  But I couldn't do it, for one reason and one reason only: it had been a gift from my hubby.

It's been leaning up against a wall in the storage area of our unfinished basement, unassembled; but just this morning I decided we needed to put it together and get it set up.  I started this ABC Book project way back in 1993 using it as my workspace, and I think it's only fitting that I finish it up here, too.  Better late (that's 25 years late!) than never, as they say.
I have a total of 48 illustrated pages planned for this book.  So far, I've completed 34 and I'm about 2/3 of the way finished with #35.  I'm still in the proverbial tunnel, but I can see the light at the end of it.  I really can.

And now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to get back to the old drawing board and finish the I pages up.  But I'll be back soon with more updates--I hope!


  1. Bitty-bit is ADORABLE and definitely would’ve been my favorite character as a kid! Those publishers really missed out. What a cute idea! And the picture w her belly and cheeks, too cute!

    1. That story about Bitty-Bit was semi-autobiographical...ha ha!

  2. So exciting! I can't wait to buy my copy .... Olivia loves to read!!