I love to write. I’ve loved it since my grade six teacher noticed I was good at it and entered my work into a competition for young writers. I used those writing skills to get through my toughest teenage years and then I specialised at university and went into a career as a corporate writer.
It’s been great except that, after more than 15 years in the corporate world, I found myself itching to do something where I could escape the pessimism and be as creative as I liked. I needed to ‘grow’ something.
So I started to write a children’s story in my spare time, just to reconnect with the type of writing that captured my imagination before I started doing it for a living.
I’ve read a lot of children’s stories – as a child, working as a nanny, and then to my own children – so I’d noticed a few things I could work with:
- Words can paint pictures, play games with your imagination, and delight you as they roll off your tongue. Inventing words should not be left only to corporate executives and politicians trying to hide meanings.
- If I like a story, I’ll read it with a huge grin (or tears in my eyes) and my kids end up liking that book more than others. Grown ups need to love children’s stories to make it more fun for kids!
- Alphabets in stories are excellent (and so is alliteration) – both factors helped my kids to develop their speech and spelling.
- As a parent, I came to believe that all of the best children’s stories are the ones that end with a sleep theme – anything that encourages a busy child to go to sleep is helpful!
- Grandparents are Gods to most small children and they will do almost anything for their grandkids. Yet they still get depicted too frequently as pastel-coloured, cardigan-wearing characters stuck in the corner. I don’t know many baby-boomer grandparents that fit this description at all, so that idea doesn’t ring true for my kids. Grandparents are gold, and knowing that gave me my focus.
I spent almost 18 months writing, editing and rewriting a pair of stories and when I was done I decided I had something worth sharing, so I sent them off to some publishers to see whether anyone else could see the potential that I saw.
I knew what I had written wasn’t go to fit the mould of what is put out by most traditional publishers, but I also knew that had an important market to capture: baby-boomer grandparents.
In 2015, it kicked off and it was time to commit: I had to decide, did I believe that these stories could become children’s books?
First, Little Steps Publishing said they wanted to partner-publish with me.
Second, I dropped out of working life to play an active role in developing the books and their distribution (I really wanted to have a hand in everything so I could learn as I went along).
Third, I convinced Brisbane artist, David Clare, to wade into the world of illustration and bring his amazing art to my stories.
Fourth, I recruited a cast of grandparents to be the faces of my alphabet full of characters.
Finally, I went through the personal transition to learn patience and trust – because books take time, lots and lots of time – and you can’t do it on your own.
Along the way I have found out that it takes a huge investment of time and energy to bring a book to life. There have been moments of great self-doubt and a sense of looming failure that I’ve had to learn to sit beside and ignore as much as I could, because it would cripple this project if I let it in.
To make it worse – almost everyone I’ve talked to about this along the way has had some warning or negative spin to put on it – which made it quite lonely at times.
I’ve wanted to run back to a safe corporate job almost every day. That has been one of the biggest fights of all – to park my ego off to the side and be brave enough to see this through.
But I’ve been brave, and now it’s here.
After more than three years of nurturing, my first story, Superstar Grandmas, has arrived as a beautiful picture book (with the second book, Mega-rad Grandads, due early in 2017).
In those three years, this book challenged me in more ways than I knew possible but it has already had an important impact on the people around me, with an army of gorgeous seniors from my community getting to ‘star’ in a book. Each page has a backstory of it’s own (bringing new friendships and learning from the real people who became the characters) and that is a gift in itself.
Little girls live inside every grown woman. And for the shy little girl inside me who sat in the library dreaming of writing a book, now that dream is real.
Superstar Grandmas is available online in paperback for distribution anywhere in the world : www.andreagallagher.com.au
You can also see more and support it on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SuperstarGrandmas/