Spotlight on Writing

How I Wrote a Picture Book – The True Story of Nonnie and I

Xist Publishing, 2014
Xist Publishing, 2014

When I sat down to write Nonnie and I, it was called Nia and I. (I had used a baby name book to help me decide on an African orientated name, I changed the name later to Nonnie after a publisher was interested, but already had a book with that name).

I was intrigued seeing how animals interact with children and in turn how child react to animals. Essentially this is how my picture book started in 2005. Children’s play is always so free and imaginative and I had witnessed this over my years as a nanny. I also saw how new experiences were not always a welcoming part of childhood. I took the love children often have for animals and made it BIG. I had seen a documentary on giraffe adoption in Africa and how people could get close to them much like horses.

The idea sparked. How about a girl and her pet giraffe? The story had originally been more about an adoption, family, and caring for a pet, but that didn’t provide a deep story arc. I later realized school was a pretty traumatic change in a child’s life after seeing children grip onto their parents for dear life when being dropped at day-care or school. (I’ve worked in both settings). I’d also seen it happen to me with the three children I was a nanny for. (Screaming when I left, grabbing hold when I tried to put them on the floor in play group, fearful to nap because I hadn’t been there the last time they woke up).

I put the two together and created a story. The first of a dozen drafts moved from the adoption focus to a friendship focus, but was too much on both sides of the story. I trimmed and trimmed, removing beloved sentences, added new depth. (A big credit goes out to Dawn Young for telling me the giraffe seems like a piece of play ground equipment and not an animal. Also the biggest credit goes to (as mentioned before) Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books) After a failed 44 submissions (I had five OH SO CLOSE ALMOST CONTRACTS) I took a total of two months of reading (Writing Picture Books) and editing to get the manuscript into the format (more trimming and editing) I submitted to my now publisher (Xist Publishing).
Nonnie and I means a lot to me for a number of reasons, but what I hope most, and the reason I wrote it was to provide children with the comfort of a story that shows them they are not alone with their feelings.