I don’t want so much to talk about the content of my story, but want to tell you how I came to tell this particular story and my process in writing it.
It’s a story that came to me from multiple avenues. At its basis it’s a story of a woman I met in Edinburgh about eight years ago. It is also a larger metaphor for those like her. It has definitely been influenced by my Christian faith as well – although, honestly I hope it never gets labeled a “Christian book” because that would keep so many people from reading it, and the woman’s whose story I am telling is not a Christian. And it is also a story about me and my life, as almost every story reflects something of the author as well.
However, I have worked hard to give this story it’s own life apart from me. While in grad school, most of my creative writing was just self-expression - a purging of hurt - a wrestling with myself, and it was all pretty awful when I look back now. I probably needed to do that first though to get it out of me so that I could be a surrogate to other stories. To be able to write things that will impact and inspire others and contribute to culture in a positive way - that is my true desire.
Before I began to truly work on my book, it was just an idea, and I thought about what medium would be best to convey this story. I largely thought about turning it into a short film about two sisters and their father. But then I saw “Rachel Getting Married” and realized my idea had already been executed, and it was way better than I could ever do it. Then I thought of a scene in the movie “Wit” where the main character’s former professor reads the children’s book, “The Runaway Bunny” and recognizes it as a metaphor for the soul and God. I have always loved illustrated children’s books, and even did a guided study in illustration as part of my master’s degree; so I decided to make this the way I would tell my story.
The manuscript itself has gone through many re-writes. After my second draft, I knew the story could be better, but I didn’t know how to make it better. Then I heard of, “Write! Vancouver,” a writer’s conference in Vancouver. The conference intrigued me because it was offering critiques as well as workshops. It was there that I was motivated to continue, but I was also given the tools, guidance, and courage I needed to be quite brutal with my manuscript and transform it into something new and better.
Writing and illustrating are difficult things to do well; I know it may look easy (and it’s sort of supposed to), but it’s not. Over the summer, I would take my story to the park. I had one paragraph printed on each page of paper, and I would take a paragraph at a time and totally rewrite it in most cases. I had to really get my word count down and think about what was essential to my story. I completely cut out one minor character and her story line. And I focused on showing not telling my audience what was going on. At the park, I would be happy if I made it through three pages in an hour, and after about that long my head was tired; there were little pink dots over each word because I had used my pen to count and recount each word to make sure I wasn’t over my 35 words/paragraph allowance I had given myself.
By the end of the summer the story was revised, and I was content with what I had. It was then time to move back to the illustrations, but more on that next time.
You can view past illustrations & follow me as I create new ones at: instagram.com/aftenlt