Becoming the Enchantress is Becoming an Enchanting Picture Book
In October of 2016, I wrote a children’s book. Here’s the pitch:
"As most inventions, Becoming the Enchantress, was born of necessity. I needed to explain a transgender parent to an eight-year-old boy and, loving books, searched for a children's story to share. I found none that would work. Although plenty of books exist for children who identify with gender nontraditionally, I found none that address a transgender parent. So being a writer, I drafted my own story. And the boy said, "Hey, maybe the Wizard is like dad." It worked.
"Through mystical imagery wrapped in a Halloween story, Becoming the Enchantress explores themes of self-perception, longing, and self-actualization. My hope is that this book may be a vehicle for other parents to address the complex issue of transgender to younger children who may connect with its universal themes of familial love, happiness, and imagining possibilities."
Certainly I’m not the only person in need of this book, so I want to get it out in the world. I submitted to several publishers that accept submissions without agents over the years. There aren’t many. Perceiving myself as likely a “one-hit wonder” in the world of children’s books, I declined going through the process of finding an agent. After consistent no responses, it seemed self-publishing might be the way to go. So I started a Children’s Book Workshop with a few writer friends who provided helpful feedback that made the story even better. One also suggested a publisher, Loving Healing Press (LHP). In early October, LHP sent me a contract to publish Becoming the Enchantress (subtitle pending).
LHP: “Redefining what is possible for healing mind and spirit” is a publishing company with heart, promoting books that elevate and reframe challenges in the human experience, spotlight difficult themes, and offer uplifting messages. I suggest you check them out. LHP has titles dealing with mental health issues for both adults and children, and a series designed to uplift children with special needs and their siblings, an important collection, as well as much more.
The Publisher at LHP, Victor Volkman, is a principled, dedicated, smart, straight-shooter. He was spot-on with suggested edits to my manuscript, catching one grammatical error that some of my smartest writer friends missed, and having engaged in some debate, I trust both knowing where he stands and being heard. This meaningful, direct dialogue provides great reassurance when embarking on this new and somewhat daunting process.
At this time LHP only publishes books that already have an illustrator. Having thought through self-publishing before submitting to LHP, I had a couple of illustrators in mind. One was my Daughter, Coley, who has been drawing for years and beautifully captures expressions on the faces of her characters. After much discussion and thought, she decided to take on the project!
Coley always astounds me on a variety of levels, in expected and unexpected ways. She’s a creative, expansive, empathetic thinker and artist, articulate beyond her years with a wonderful balance of humor and sensitivity, both of which are evidenced in her art. The idea of collaborating on a book with her was the sweetest process this Mom could imagine. So imagine my surprise to find that it’s more rewarding than I even imagined.
I wanted to publish Becoming the Enchantress primarily for that Mom or Dad out there that I don’t know, but know needs an entry point for discussing transgender with their child. I thought of it basically as a public service announcement. But Coley’s about one-third of the way into illustrating the book and I’m realizing that the book is becoming so much more!
I did not much like reading as a child, until fourth grade when I got a wonderfully spoopy chapter book about haunted houses. Prior to that, I had access to many books, some in my home, at the school library, and I regularly visited Lynn Public Library where I’d check-out books that I’d never return in time, a tradition I’ve continued into adulthood. I typically chose books by their cover. If the inside art held up, I’d look through. Sometimes the pictures would inspire me to read the text, as in The Big Orange Spot, by Daniel Pinkwater. Remember that one? Wow, did I love those themes of individuality and originality presented in those bright, imaginative pictures! But not as much as I loved, my favorite picture book, Corduroy, by Don Freeman. As a little girl, I could stare at illustrations of that adorable bear for hours, appreciating his adventures, longing, and hope. I related with Lisa, the girl in the story, and her faith in the life of plushies. As my daughter sends me illustrations to submit for publisher review, I’m reminded of my love for picture books. I imagine were I a little girl who got my hands on Becoming the Enchantress, I may or may not read the text, but I would stare at these pictures, so cute, sweet, imaginative, wistful, and hopeful, and they would provide comfort and a springboard for my own daydreams. Suddenly this children’s story is much more than a public service announcement. While it still feels important in that way, it begins to also feel important as a possible friend to a lonely child somewhere, and as a work of art.
In short, I’ve fallen in love with this book that was initially drafted out of a sense of necessity and obligation. I’m in love with the illustrations and grow excited to see how the next two-thirds will be imagined. I’ll share a sneak peak from early drafts of illustrations. Since then, the color pallet has changed, but Coley’s art consistently remains true to capturing each individual character’s personality, while portraying subtleties of feeling, and attending to background details that make the illustrations whimsical and enchanting. Becoming the Enchantress will be out in 2021.