The Author is In

child's hands coloring

Cover page of “The Fairies and Ballerinas”

It’s been nearly 10 months since my kids went to school, slept over a friend’s house (let alone went into a friend’s house), stayed with a babysitter or grandparents, and lived in pre-covid normalcy. That also means it’s been 10 months of no childcare and a glaring lack of productivity in my own work. Since March, my writing practice and research agenda has taken an abrupt backseat to managing the daily flaming hellscape of remote learning for my two elementary school kids while also teaching full-time. This is fine.

Back in the early days of lockdown, my daughter began watching Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, two weeks of daily drawing and writing activities that inspired her, a kindergartener whose first year of “real” school was cut short, to begin making books. If Mo Willems, an award-winning illustrator and author, can do it, why can’t she?

They started out as fairly simple titles.

book covers on purple and yellow construction paper, handwritten by a child,

Left: The Girl Who Liked To Color; Right: The Turtle Who Went Everywhere

Then, she conquered more complex plot lines. Pete the Cat, a beloved children’s book character, finds a puppy and must make the heart-wrenching decision to keep it or give it away.

Left page is a drawing of a dog in a box with the text "He opened the package. There was a puppy inside." The right page is a hand petting a dog  with the text "Pete made sure it was a good puppy"

Pages from “Pete the Cat finds a Puppy”

She ventured into some non-fiction territory.

cover page handwritten by a child; interior page is filled with blue paint

Left: cover of Fruits and Vegetables; Right: Potato stamp in blue

table full of paints and art supplies

The author’s studio. One day I’ll get my kitchen table back.

Even though she hadn’t attended school or even seen kids other than her brother for months, her books tackled some serious playground drama. In The Bully!, the protagonist must stand up to a mean girl. Can she help The Bully become a friend?

cover drawn by a child and a drawing of three girls

Left: cover of The Bully!; Right: The Bully not being very cool.

With the help of an online speech to text generator, she discovered she could write her books much more quickly. I should take a moment here to talk about her type choices since this is Alphabettes. Look, I did my best to maintain some semblance of neutrality but I would be lying if I didn’t gently steer her away from the dark side of the font menu.

child at a laptop change the color of sentences

The author learns she can make the letters ANY COLOR SHE WANTS?!

Fast forward to this fall and she’s now a full blown first grader. Suddenly, she types and maneuvers Google Slides like a pro. One day, she decided to write a book using some random story generator found on an educational game site. A blissful, quiet hour later, she emerged to show me her work.

two pages of text written by a child in conversational language; one page is about horses, the other is about artists

Selected pages from “A Book About Herself.” The author was not pleased that her 😻 was replaced by the dreaded missing character symbol. The phonetic spelling reminds me that English is such a shitshow language.

2020 has been devastating in many ways but these small moments of creativity (and not productivity) made it bearable. I certainly didn’t write as much I’d wished this year but it’s some consolation knowing that my daughter did. Here’s hoping 2021 is filled with more friends and family, more in-person school, more research, and of course, more homemade books.

Bette(r) Days celebrates the things that did not suck in 2020. Each day in December, we’ll be posting about the highlights of our collective garbage fire of a year, type-related or not.

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