Sunday, February 10, 2008

Necessity Breeds Invention

I mentioned before that I originally wrote THE YUCKIEST, DROOLIEST, STINKIEST, BEST VALENTINE'S DAY EVER for my daughter's second grade class. Well, here's how it happened: I was one of the moms in charge of the class party that year, and since I love books, I volunteered to find the perfect Valentine's Day picture book to read to the class. I figured that was way easier than figuring out the craft, games, or food. I'd zip into the book store and zip out, my job complete.

Alas, it was not that easy!

I went to the library and my local book store, and I spent quite some time reading all the books on the Valentine's Day display. I found a lot of lovey dovey books, a lot of sweet, tender books, and a lot of lesson books (sending a mean valentine is wrong, kids!). But I didn't find any books that would appeal to a class of sophisticated second graders. With a son and daughter in second grade, I knew almost all these kids well. They weren't about to fall for anything lovey dovey or sweet. And they certainly didn't want anything that would teach them a lesson. So I decided to write my own story, filled with adventure and humor, and with no lesson in sight.

The original title was "The Great Valentine Escape," and in it, Leon chases his valentine onto an airplane, over an ocean, and up a mountain, which turns out to be a volcano. In the end, the valentine jumps into the bubbling lava below (I kid you not) and Leon magically returns home.

It was a crazy story. But it was fun. And the kids were captivated all the way though. (More proof that kids enjoying a story is not reason enough to think it should be published.) They laughed and gasped at all the right parts. I knew I was on to something, even if I still had work to do.

And boy, did I have work to do! Over the next four years, every single thing about the story changed (except for Leon and the Valentine). But now I have a book that will someday be on a Valentine's Day display in book stores around the country. And some random parents or teachers might choose it to read to their class on Valentine's Day. How cool is that?

Sending love out to Faith and Mrs. Phillips' second grade class from 2003!!

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