I am so excited! Last week my first children’s picture book arrived at my front, no, actually it was at my back basement door via a FedEx truck. I don’t know what it is about this little book that makes it so special to me. Maybe it’s because I wrote it for my granddaughter, Emma. Or, it might be because it is a Christmas story, or maybe it’s because an old friend from way back when illustrated it.
Since writing this story a few years ago there have been times when I thought I would never find an illustrator. I talked with several artists that I knew asking them if they’d read my story, The Manger Mouse and consider doing the illustrations. One was a tattoo artist who does beautiful work. I even sat down several times and tried to pencil the image of a mouse myself. I found out really quick that I’d better stick to words instead of trying to draw images.
I asked my very own sister, Gail if she’d try. When we were growing up Gail would sketch the most beautiful scenes. Unfortunately she stopped drawing. A busy life stole her talent. She didn’t have time, or take the time to hone her craft. A few weeks passed after giving her the story and I asked her how the drawing was going. She answered,“ I can’t draw anymore.” I really don’t know if you can lose a gift like that, but I guess the old saying must apply. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Wouldn’t that have been so cool, sisters creating a picture book together? Maybe someday my sister and I will try again.
Back in October of 2010 I heard that an old classmates mother had passed away. Debbie Wall and I used to spend the night with one another in elementary school and stomp around in the creek below my house. Of course I would go and pay my respects to her, and her family after the passing of her mother.
At the funeral home Debbie and I were talking about old times and where life had taken us. Debbie now lived in Richmond, Virginia and was an artist. She did portraits of animals and sketches of old barns and such. Debbie offered to email me some of her work.
In a few days I got an email from her and attached were some pictures that she had drawn. I fell in love with the warmth of her sketches. The scenes were alive with color and feeling. At that time I wasn’t seriously considering trying to get The Manger Mouse published. I hadn’t even submitted it to a publisher. So I didn’t really think about asking Debbie about doing the illustrations.
Fast-forward almost two years. I submit The Manger Mouse to my publisher and they love the story and want to publish it. They tell me they will even supply the illustrator. Problem solved. Not. I didn’t want a stranger drawing the pictures for Emma’s Christmas story. I wanted someone I knew.
After being let down once again by yet another “want to be illustrator” I became frustrated and decided to just forget it. It wasn’t meant for this little story to be told to the world. Then images of Debbie’s rustic barns started floating through my mind. I think, what the heck. What can it hurt? I’ll give this thing one more chance. So I email Debbie and ask her if she’d consider the job. We began talking and I send her a copy of The Manger Mouse. Pretty soon we were discussing deadlines, book dimensions, and sketch width and depth. That was over a year ago.
The Manger Mouse has been a labor of love, determination and mutual respect, author to illustrator, and illustrator to author. There were times this past year when I thought, Why am I doing this? Debbie and I are both in over our heads. Yes, I can write a pretty good story, and no doubt Debbie can draw beautiful pictures, but, neither one of us knew one thing about the mechanics of how to create a children’s picture book.
Not knowing the meaning of the words, “give up” we trudge forward. After Debbie’s many hours of research and sending tons of emails back and forth to the design department at our publishing house, Ambassador International we finally were ready to submit the story, and illustrations to the publisher. Debbie even broke her shoulder about half way through drawing the illustrations. The Devil worked really hard to stop the presses on this little book.
I truly believe that any two other women would have thrown in the towel. But God had a plan in mind when he brought two like-minded kids together back in grade school. He knew that forty years later these old buddies would meet again and deliver a book to the world that would glorify Him. Two old friends with a streak of stubbornness were the pair to get this job done. To God be the glory, and to His Son, Jesus I dedicate the release of this story and art.
This Saturday, September 28th Debbie is traveling down from her home in Richmond, Virginia and will join me at the Pumpkin Festival in our hometown of Elkin, N.C. Together we’ll be signing copies of The Manger Mouse. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty special that two old friends who hadn’t seen each other in three decades reunite to publish a book together.
Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.