Sometimes, collaborating on a story is easy; sometimes it’s unbearably difficult, even impossible. And sometimes, it’s magical. My current collaboration is a perfect example. And because such magical opportunities are rare, I’m stepping away from my usual sort of post to talk about it.
It began when two, lovely and perpetually young, great-grandmothers enlisted my aid in the development of a children’s storybook. The tale, “Hopper and Amos,” is an adventure featuring a baby bird and an intensely curious cat. The story itself is simple and reality-based: an event which unfolded in the garden of the author’s home. The book is intended for children lucky enough to have parents or grandparents who will read it to them.
The author, Ceil Ramsey, and the illustrator, Joanne Davis, are long-time friends who, fortunately for me, both reside fairly close by. They told me they had a story and some watercolor artwork to go with it, but they weren’t sure how to put it all together in a finished form. “Will you help us?” they asked.
Despite being knee-deep in writing another textbook, teaching in three different venues, editing and/or proof-reading for a dozen other writers, and helping my bride to get our house ready to sell so we can move in the fall, I agreed.
And why not? It isn’t like I was busy or anything. Geez.
Ceil sent me the text of the story which, by itself, isn’t terribly moving. I’m a good 65 years older than the target audience, so it shouldn’t have moved me. Then I saw the preliminary illustrations Joanne had done. I quickly realized what a wonderful match the two were, and how they so perfectly complimented each other. A simple story coupled with simple artwork became more than the sum of the parts.
It needed a text font to seal the partnership and a layout to emphasize the theme. The font had to be unusual enough to stimulate and satisfy the reader, and it had to guide the non-reader’s search for the illustrations that made the story click. I took a stab at it with a fanciful font and did a nearly full layout, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that I hadn’t gone overboard.
Fortunately, they liked the results, and after tinkering with some of the details, we were ready to move on. Ceil modified some of the wording, while Joanne revamped some of her watercolors. I revised the layout, pulled a cover together, and we ordered proof copies.
We’ve still got some things to do before we’re completely happy with the final product, but we’re very close. We’ve hit upon a number of marketing ideas we’re eager to test, but we don’t want to jump the gun.
This post could be considered our opening promotional salvo, but I’m really sharing it to brag about my great good fortune in connecting with Ceil and Joanne.
We are eager to find review-writing first readers. If you have a child or grandchild, or know one who isn’t reading yet, this might be a great chance to entertain them and assist a pair of wonderful and talented great-grandmothers in their first commercial publishing effort. If you’d like to help, please reply and let me know.