This week we get to introduce the world to Abby the Labby! Ashley K Voris’ early reader book about puppies and the quest to find a place to belong is officially live and available to purchase from our website (when the cog-monkeys at Amazon finish it’ll be available there too).
In honor of this auspicious occasion, we asked Ashley to come tell us a little about what it’s like to write your first children’s book.
Procrastination…how I love thee…
I was asked by Jules to write a blog post this week about what it was like to write a children’s book. I’m glad she gave me so much time to actually write this post. I mean, it’s not like she would spring it on me at 7pm Monday night and tell me she wants it before Tuesday afternoon or anything like that. (Squinty eyes). This is my first time doing a guest post anywhere so bear with me. I will try not to ramble.
I first had the idea for the Abby the Labby series a few years ago. My husband and I moved to Northern Virginia with our puppy, Abigail. We moseyed into the local pet supply store and there was a dog rescue holding an adoption event. I spoke to the volunteer and told her that one of my dreams is the have my very own animal sanctuary where dogs, cats, horses, pigs, sheep, and furry creatures of all kinds can be rehabilitated and put up for adoption. The volunteer introduced me to the concept of fostering. During my years of being involved in animal rescue, I found myself more in the educational role than anything else. I felt it was important to educate the entire family on the importance of dog care. For the adults, there are several resources, but there was nothing geared towards children. That was a bit of a problem in my eyes. So I planned a series, but I had no outlet. I didn’t know how to go about getting my story out there so it sat on the back burner for years.
Enter Golden Fleece Press.
When Kate and Jules were talking about putting together Golden Fleece, I happened to be sitting next to them. They were talking about possible children’s books and I mentioned my idea. Had I known I was pitching an actual real thing, I would have done it a bit better. They seemed to like the idea because the next thing I know, I have a submission date and was asked if I knew any illustrators. My response was golden.
I was sent the contract and I signed it. I jumped around my living room like an idiot, as one does when they sign their first publishing contract. I have always wanted to write this series and I have always wanted to be an author. Now I had the chance. This was going to be great! This was going to be awesome! There was only one teensy, tiny, infinitesimal problem.
I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies, Ms. Scarlet.
I was an advanced reader. My siblings are all advanced readers. I had no idea how to write a children’s book since I had never really been exposed to them. Once I realized that, I had a mild panic attack. By mild I mean I texted my editor, Jules, in a right state, freaking out because I had no clue what I was doing. None. Everything I have written has been adult themed and I don’t think parents would enjoy gratuitous sex and violence in a puppy book.
I had time. I signed my contract in July and my submission date wasn’t until November. I sat down and tried to write. I knew what I wanted to say, I just didn’t know how to say it. I wrote, I kid you not, seventeen different versions of book one. I hated all of them. Every single one ended up in the trash. Every. Single. One. I just couldn’t get the language. I either sounded too adult or like I was being a condescending wench. Even meeting with Jules at the local bookstore and looking at the different children’s books did nothing to calm my nerves. I had several moments of soul crushing self-doubt. What the heck was I thinking? I can’t write a children’s book! I mean, seriously? It should not be this hard. I was going to fail. I just knew it. I was a big dummy. If I couldn’t write a 700-word book in simple language, how was I supposed to write an actual novel in the future?
Then Kate said something that made everything fall into place for me and made me realize that I probably needed to be on medication for my anxiety. Not really, but it made me realize how needlessly difficult I was making things for myself. “You are over thinking it. Stop it. You write your story and we, the editors, will fix the language later. That is what editors are for. Write your story.”
So I did. And it came out great. I submitted it well before my turn in date. Jules edited right there in front of me (after she pried it from my shaking hands). It was my first time submitting anything to anyone. It was pretty terrifying. But I’m glad I took that leap. I felt like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusades when he has to “take a leap of faith” to get to the other side of the chasm and he’s freaking out because he can’t jump because he will fall to his death, but he needs to go on because the stupid greedy American guy who sided with the Nazis shot his father, the great Sean Connery, who is actually named Henry Jones, but I call him James Bond, and he closes his eyes and he steps down and, lo and behold!, there is a stone bridge connecting the two caves, but you can’t see it because it blends in with the Pit of Despair. So he goes across and then he tosses rocks on the Bridge of Death so ‘ere the other side the others can see without answering their questions three, which is stupid in my opinion because there are no railings and a slip on a tiny rock will cause you to fall to your doom. Doom, I tell you. Dooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom………
Oh. Sorry. Anyhow, the months progressed and my illustrator seemed to read my mind as to how I wanted the book to look. Her artwork is absolutely amazing and she really brought my story to life. I then had to go through the process of creating social media accounts and a website and all that fun stuff. Really it was fun. Especially my website. The launch date started to approach and the panic/excitement started to build again. Was the book going to be ready on time? Were people going to like my story? Where the heck were my proofs??!! But everything worked out fine and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
This has been an amazing experience for me. As a first-time author, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, everything I read stated that it is really hard to get a children’s book published because it is hard to break into the market. There are authors that have inspired me to write, create, and share my world. How could I ever compete with that? The answer is, I can’t, but, my story is still out there. If one child picks up my book and loves it, that is enough for me.
Thanks Ashley! We’re pretty fond of procrastination here, too.
You can find links to Ashley’s social media universe down below.
And come back Thursday, where I’ll talk about the consumer side of children’s books, and what it’s like trying to raise a reader.