Thursday, August 26, 2010

The trouble with children’s picture books is, if you do your job correctly the uneducated can’t help but think they must be easy to do. It’s that belief that contributes to their difficulty.

Only another author can understand the anguish involved when you share your prose with the world then wait to see if they like it. The nights you lay awake praying someone will buy it.

There’s a saying amongst publishers- writing it is the easy part. Amen! Because for every self-promoting success, there’s enough rejection to make you empathize with the tele-marketers that call during the dinner hour.

That arrow in your heart is compounded when the book you’ve written is personal like Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy.

So when Sue Glader, contacted me a few months ago about her soon-to-be published children’s picture book about cancer and asked me to take a look I couldn’t ignore her query. Her story echoed my own and  what author hasn't wet their pants the first time someone they didn't know recognized their book?

Her book is wonderful, and you don't need to be a cancer survivor-- or bald-- to appreciate it.

I’m happy to introduce my guest blogger, Sue Glader, author of the now-published children’s picture book, Nowhere Hair

Sue’s Blog:

She said cavalierly, “Oh, I’ve read that book. It’s great.” And I just about wet my pants.

Because “that book” was my book, and she wasn’t someone that I knew.

With that simple interchange, I realized that all the hard work of creating and producing a book, and yes, the experience of having cancer as a 33-year-old young mother had translated into something transformative. I realized that I had become an author.

Life is like that. You get dealt a crappy hand, and in the moment, you feel as if the world has conspired to bring you to your knees. You might even feel that way for a long time, actually. But eventually, at some point, you will come up for air and realize that yes, indeed, you can breathe. And when you can breathe, you begin to wonder if there is something that can come out of the shit show you have just endured.

It might be a new-found strength. Or an appreciation of things that make you laugh. It might be the love of time. Or a burning desire to Do Something with your life.

Because I am a writer, my Do Something turned into Nowhere Hair, a children’s book that helps explain a loved one’s cancer diagnosis to little kids. My son, Hans, was just a smidgen over one year old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I was spared having to explain all the craziness to him. But I did come in contact with lots of children in my days as a bald mother, and their stares and confusing glances told me that they didn’t understand. That they were scared.

The book that emerged is upbeat yet honest, as I wished to paint a cancer diagnosis as not the end of the world, but something that is approached with dignity and (hopefully) some style. Edith Buenen, a fashion illustrator from The Netherlands, is the primary reason the book has such a positive feel. Even in the pages that talk about the hardest things (“It makes me scared that she is sick. I want her well right now. She says, “Be patient, little one.” That seems so hard somehow.”), her pictures are lyrical and calming. Yes indeed, mommy is cranky sometimes and wiped out and on the couch. But she is still a mommy first and foremost, filled with love for children. The book explains that children can’t catch cancer, and didn’t cause it to happen. It ends with the universal message that what is inside of us matters far more than how we look on the outside.

Sue Greim Glader is a mother and author living in Mill Valley, California. Nowhere Hair is available from her website, at Join Nowhere Hair’s Beautifully Bald Initiative at Her blog, Poking Around Life, can be read at

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Surviving and Thriving—My summer of Nuclear Plants, Florida Gators and Guinea Pig Rats!

It seemed somewhat fitting that an interview I did for the University of Florida’s Florida Alumni Magazine was titled A New Chapter.

My son Jordan graduated this year. Now both of my children will be students at NC State University, and so begins a new phase of life for me. In between the pity parties I threw this summer because my children grew up too fast (my opinion--not theirs) I immersed myself writing, marketing, and conducting focus groups.

So here’s some of what has kept me busy:

Yep, I’m a Florida Gator (BSJ 81) and the editors of my alma mater commissioned freelance journalist Terry Godbey (BSJ 83) to write an article about me for UF’s Florida Alumni Magazine.  The photo was taken by UNC photographer Jim Sears at the local library in Holly Springs, NC.  Reghan, Olivia, and Deven Robtoy are pictured along with me and Tickles Tabitha.

My first job after college was doing public relations at a nuclear power plant that was under construction in South Texas called the South Texas Project.  One of my first assignments was to create an elementary school program on how nuclear power plants worked. 

It was a great first assignment because I knew zip about nuclear power plants, and before I could explain how they worked to other people I needed to understand it myself. 

I admit I didn't always find nuclear power the most interesting subject and thought there had to be a more creative and entertaining way to explain it to children. So several years ago I decided I would do a children's book about nuclear power plants. 

While the book is months away from publication it has kept me busy this summer--conducting focus groups, contacting industry experts,critiquing the illustrations and working on a marketing plant.

Here I am explaining How A Nuclear Plant Really Works (©Nutcracker Publishing) to a group of science camp students visiting Progress Energy's Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, NC.  They participated in one of Nutcracker Publishing's focus groups, or as I like to call them, Guinea Pig Parties!

We plan to produce character puppets to be used along with the book's school presentation.  For now, since the illustrations are still incomplete I recruited my daughter Tabitha, and her friend, James Upright to create simple puppets to help act out the book's storyline. It was a hit.  Students loved the puppet show.

At first glance, it might appear odd that I would want to tackle a children's book about nuclear power plants. After all, it's not a subject that evokes the warm fuzzies.  But neither did my children's book about cancer.  It's difficult for today's elementary students to believe but when I first published Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy there was no way I would of ever been invited to an elementary classroom to talk about cancer awareness.

I wouldn't say I like it, but I've gotten used to and am comfortable going against the odds, which  makes articles like the one by Florida Magazine  feel oh so sweet.
This summer, I relived what it took to establish Nutcracker Publishing Company and publish  Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy when I was asked to write a chapter for an e-book by the  publisher of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine on how I went from being a survivor to a thriver. The nausea, the rejection, the humiliation!

The book is scheduled to be released October 2010, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.