How I Wrote and Published a Children’s Book With My Mother-In-Law

The Walk Cover

As any parent knows, bedtime is one of the sweetest times you can spend with your child, but it can also be difficult to get kids to settle down and fall asleep without any drama. I learned this first-hand putting my son, Mason, to bed every evening. After he takes his bath, puts on his pajamas, brushes his teeth, and kisses Mommy goodnight, we retreat to his bedroom where we almost invariably read three books. However, we’ve gone through long periods when, even after I made my reading voice as soothing as possible, he was still having a hard time calming down. So I started telling him a story about a boy named Mason who lives in a big house with his Mommy and Daddy and his two dogs, Muffin and Lloyd, and who one day decides to go for a walk in the woods. It started out short and halting, but as Mason was going through a growth spurt, a time when he tends to be particularly restless, the story grew and the wording became more refined as I repeated it night after night. And it worked. Something about the rhythm of the narrative seemed to settle him down. His eyes would grow heavy, he’d turn over on his side, and his breathing would become regular. I’d whisper the story for another minute or two, just to make sure he was asleep, and then creep slowly and deliberately out of the room.

After I had been putting Mason to sleep like this every night for months, my wife, Ginny, finally heard the story and suggested that I get someone to paint illustrations to go along with the words. Ginny’s mother, Susan Edwards, is an extremely talented artist, so she was the obvious choice. A few days later, I mentioned it to Susan, who asked me to send her the story, which I did. I had no idea if she would be inspired enough by the narrative to make a whole series of paintings, and I got back to work writing my dissertation (which eventually evolved into my forthcoming book, How Does It Feel?: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Philosophy of Rock and Roll). A few months later, Ginny’s parents came to visit and Susan brought with her twenty-two beautifully rendered watercolor paintings that somehow perfectly expressed what I had imagined, while also being surprising, bringing a depth and subtle humor to my words. I was extremely happy with the result, and we immediately determined that we should share the book with others.

At first, we considered sending the book to literary agents, but after doing a lot of research on the publishing industry and talking with a number of writers, agents, and editors we knew, we decided to publish independently. We felt that we could appeal directly to friends and friends-of-friends, building an audience organically based on the high quality of our work and the intrinsic value it has for others. Our motivation in writing this book has not been primarily to make money, though of course that would be nice, but to share the beautiful thing we’ve created.

People seem to be loving The Walk so far, and we’re gratified to know that it’s being enjoyed by a growing number of children, and that the story is helping parents get their kids to fall sleep.



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8 responses to “How I Wrote and Published a Children’s Book With My Mother-In-Law

  1. Susan

    Well said Grant! Let’s do another one on Mason helping renovate his new house.

  2. Great idea! Let’s do it.

  3. Susan illustrated a coloring book for children visiting St. Thomas many years ago when we first met. She is one of the most educated, experienced and versatile artists I know. Susan paints while transversing Europe by foot, she paints colorful portraits of the characters she meets in people and animals. Her work and spiritual life is so developed, Susan can express a mood or feeling in watercolor with dashing bright free strokes against easy washes. Her gift and ease of interpretation elicits a comfortable response, illustrates the minds image at the same time leaving plenty of space for the imagination. Grant is an educated musician with his doctorate in English. The story is a sensitive narrative that brings full circle reality to dream state and back to reality. It is this sequence Grant rythmacally weaves that allows a young persons mind to ease as they cope with the unknown and sometimes fear filled transition to the state of sleep.
    In the publishing world it is advised the author and illustrator do not meet.
    My experience underscores this truth. However when you have a
    professional writer and artist in the same family, loving the same child, neither separation nor collaboration is necessary, it simply bloomed like flowers in a field.

  4. Since you’ve already seen the book, you can just log in or set up an Amazon account and post the review.

  5. Pingback: Fierce with Age Digest: July Beliefnet Edition | Fierce With Age

  6. Pingback: Our Children’s Book Went Viral Two Years After We Published It | Rock and Roll Philosopher

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