I never knew I had a kid’s book in me.
I’ve always been drawn to visual storytelling, but in a different way. I wrote funny greeting cards for 22 years and a syndicated comic strip for almost 14. Its storylines were brief little snippets of life, and it showcased my current role as a working mom.
But a while back I had a conversation with a cartoonist friend who writes bestselling middle grade novels. He thought I could do it, too. I mulled it over for a while, and then I said to myself (working from home, I do this a lot), “Why not?”
So I started writing Emmie. I did it without an outline or a clear idea of what the story would entail. This is weird because goes against my type A nature. I’m not sure how, but eventually it gelled.
Don’t get me wrong. It was hard and I often struggled with plot and character development. But I quickly grew to love long-form storytelling and its catharsis. It brought my 13-year-old self back to the surface. Not that I really wanted to see her again, but there she was.
Like Emmie, I, too, was a shy and introverted kid who would rather communicate with a pencil and sketchbook. It gave me the tiny bit of approval that I desperately sought from my peers. It made me stand out when I couldn’t otherwise. It also gave me reprieve from a boring and sometimes hostile world…especially since my inner world was so much more exciting and (surprise!) things would go my way.
Growing up, I took every art course I could: private lessons, school classes, summer programs, and then eventually, a college major in illustration. But the one thing that always seemed to be missing was the actual “storytelling.” Eventually, I realized that cartooning combined the three things I loved: art, humor, and stories. And that’s how I knew I wanted to become a cartoonist.
Through cartooning, I found I had a “voice” of my own. And oddly enough, this solitary profession helped me build confidence and overcome my shyness. And now…well, just try to stop me from talking (to other people, I mean, not just to myself).
Emmie — and subsequently my other books — grew from my natural penchant for visual storytelling. Like cartooning, creating Emmie was an outlet and a way to connect with others. But it’s personal in a way that nothing else is. It’s a rediscovery of an inner child who still needed to be heard.
Thankfully, she has a lot to say.