Violet and Ruby
“How come the bookstore doesn’t have books written by kids?” my daughter wanted to know after we passed a display of signed copies of the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
In retrospect I could have just told her that only professional writers get to be in bookstores, the same way only professional firefighters get to drive the fire trucks. But instead I gave her a brief history of traditional publishing.
“Well, it’s not so easy to publish a book,” I began. Then I listed all the droves of people involved with publishing a book who aren’t directly involved with the writing of said book.
“Then an agent—that’s a person who helps you get your book printed by the companies who print books—talks to a bunch of people. Some say, ‘No, thank you. We already have books about that.’ But maybe one will say, ‘I love that story!’ That person is an editor. And then maybe they’ll look at the book and say, ‘But we think you need to change that one part at the end.’ And then there’s another person who calls up the bookstores and says, ‘Hey! I’ve got this book that I think is really great! Want to have it in your store?’ It takes a lot of work.”
“But you’re publishing a book,” she said. “Why can’t little kids self-publish?”
And that’s how we found ourselves at a cafe two days later. I typed while Chiara dictated one of her stories. From time to time I’d ask a question such as “How can a wheelbarrow fit in a backpack?” and she’d clarify. (“It folds up, of course!”) Or I’d say, how old is Violet? How do we know? But for the most part, I just typed what she told me to type. Occasionally she’d ask me to read back to her what she’d written. Sometimes she’d even correct my dictation. (“That’s not a period there. I want it to sound really fast.”)
I kept waiting for her to lose interest. But each day she’d say, “Can we work on my book today?” Sometimes she’d even decide to revise. “I don’t think that chapter title tells you what’s going on anymore. I wrote about something else. Can I change it?”
She drew pictures for each chapter. I scanned them into the computer. We invented an imprint, uploaded some files and viola! Books were printed, shipped, and even featured in the window of our favorite bookstore.