Deciding on my next post-novel project wasn’t easy. I had about a dozen concepts that ran the gamut from horror to self-help. Some I was able to put aside quickly as I realized that my fledgling abilities may not have been up to the task. I had a full time job and a handicapped wife that was pregnant with our first child. Finding time to write was not going to be easy, so any thoughts of writing the next War and Peace were out.

In preparation for our first child, my wife and I had been buying picture books everywhere we went, from book stores to tag sales. When we got home, we would read them to each other, excited just thinking about reading them to our baby in a few months. It was after reading a used book we had found at a garage sale, Too Many Hopkins, that I knew my next project would be a picture book.

Finding the right subject matter was easy. I strongly believe my wife was a Christmas elf in a former life. It only made sense that I try my hand at writing a Christmas story. Armed only with my having read a few dozen picture books over the past few weeks, I sat behind my word processor and hit the keys. Imagine my surprise when I learned that writing something that would only take up about 6 or 7 typed pages would take me a month to complete! I went through characters and concepts like a tornado, tossing them aside as I tried to find the right mix.

When all was said and done, I let my wife read it for the first time. I have to admit, I was nervous. I had written it for her, and if she didn’t like it, it was back to the drawing board. I was confident she would give me her honest assessment. She can be a tough editor and critic. I think I’m still exhaling from that moment when she looked up with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.

Not being well versed in the publishing side of picture books, I didn’t know where to turn. I was an avid reader of Writer’s Digest at the time and saw they had a writing contest for picture books. I decided to give it a try and sent it in, sans pictures. And that was that. I wrote it, my wife loved it and it was entered in a contest. I was satisfied, content that I had, at the very least, completed what I had set out to do.

I hit the ceiling months later when I received notice that it had received Honorable Mention for its category. My book and my name would be listed in an upcoming issue and they sent me a nifty little certificate. My first writing award!

Well now, it was time to get cracking to make it a complete picture book. So, I asked my friend Mike who is an artist to read it and start drawing. In my mind, the only way to sell a picture book was to present a complete picture book to prospective publishers. I’ve since learned that’s not the case, but hey, what did I know? When Mike produced the drawing below, I was sure we were on our way to success. Now it was on to phase two!

* art by Michael Chella

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