By Margaret Welwood
- I considered the trends, and my interest was piqued in the “We Need Diverse Books” movement. We have a disabled granddaughter, and I have a condition which can cause discomfort and disability. Marie, the main character in Marie and Mr. Bee, uses a wheelchair, and her forest friends show readers how I would like to be treated if I used one. Marie’s friends make accommodations for her disability without mentioning it; she helps them and they help her. And Marie lives a full and happy life (until an annoying and profoundly unbusy bee flies through an open door!).
I appreciate how author/reviewer Janet Sketchley phrases what I’ve tried to do:
Marie uses a wheelchair, but that’s not the focus of the story. In fact, it’s barely mentioned. I appreciated how the author, instead of calling attention to a disability, showed Marie as being the same as any other girl or boy: friendly, resourceful, capable of making mistakes but then capable of learning lessons and moving on.
I also ran the manuscript by a woman whose daughter uses a wheelchair. In this mom’s words, “Inclusion, where the disability is a non-issue, is a good thing!”
I’m also very interested in promoting children’s literacy, and Little Bunny’s Own Storybook, the tale of a library-loving rabbit, has proven popular with teachers and librarians as well as parents. Our little hero takes great pleasure in the stories he reads, and author/reviewer Kathleen Brown captures the essence of Little Bunny’s other benefits to young readers.
Author Margaret Welwood goes beyond story and pictures to facilitate the development of children’s word skills. Her use of rhyme helps young readers discover and pronounce new words. And because each word is used to develop Bunny’s story, children can become word detectives, figuring out the meaning of new words by using the story and pictures. . . .
What stands out most to me about Welwood’s new release, however, is her introduction to the idea of children writing their own books. By describing with words and also illustrating Bunny’s book-making process, the author gives readers a detailed how-to. They can see what materials Bunny uses, hear the story he makes up, and then imitate his process. Bunny smiles as he works, displays great “pride of authorship,” and delights at the reaction of his parents.
- I sought out like-minded authors and book bloggers on Facebook and other social media. Facebook proved the most beneficial for this exercise.
- I (sincerely) “liked” their posts, commented on them, and shared them.
- I asked for permission to send a free pdf, describing the story and, if approaching them on FB, attached a picture of the cover or one of the first pages. I didn’t usually ask for a review up front, but rather for permission to send the pdf for their “consideration for review.” I mentioned that the pdf was 24 pages, mostly pictures.
- If the person granted permission I sent the pdf, asking for a review “if you feel the story has merit.” I didn’t want to create a sense of obligation in those I contacted. The pdf was often attached to a former e-mail so there would be no surprises when it came. If it was going to someone I met on FB, I started by thanking them on FB for granting me permission to e-mail it.
- If the book wasn’t available for purchase when I sent the pdf, I followed up those who said they’d be willing to post a review, letting them know when the book was on Amazon. This e-mail was also attached to the thread, to remind recipients what they had committed to doing and to give them another chance to open the pdf.
- I thanked the reviewers privately unless I didn’t know who had posted the review. Yes, we’re told not to contact reviewers, but it was important to me to thank the people who’d taken the time to give their support.
I also thanked and/or tagged reviewers when sharing their comments on social media.
- People respond well to the personal touch, and seem to know when it’s genuine.
- This is a good way to find truly interested and supportive online friends.
- The illustrations helped the process by both attracting people and arousing their curiosity.
- Parents and caregivers of children with disabilities want these children seen as working and playing, loving and learning like everyone else.
- Not surprisingly, homeschooling parents are especially welcoming of a story that encourages children to write their own stories.
- There’s a lot of goodwill out there.
- It pays to listen to and learn from others. One kind editor advised me against the title Marie and Mr. Drone, and a FB poll proved him right. Almost everyone (including the children of a beekeeper!) thought of drones as machines, even when they were looking at the book cover. And Literary Strategist Tom Blubaughhas taught me much about online networking.
“Grandma, can you tell me a story?” This polite request from her granddaughter, soon echoed by her slightly younger grandson, helped to catapult Margaret from the world of adult non-fiction writing and editing right into Children’s Storyland. She now writes and reviews picture books for children, and edits both children’s picture books and adult non-fiction. Find out more about Margaret’s books at Grandmasbookshelf.net and her Amazon Author Page.