Chicken or the Egg

How could any mother put one of her children first?

In the time since I published my book, the question I most often hear is, “Are you going to write another?” My answer is immediate and honest, “Of course I am.” The second half of my response is admittedly crafted for social ease and so is both brief and inadequately simple, “After all I have two children. I need to write one for my son.”

Sometimes, mothers gasp. Admittedly, I have written a love story of a book dedicated to one child and not the other. There’s a reason for this, of course. It may have a little to do with Ella being my first born, but my transformation from designer into author involved more, just as the transformation from woman into mother involved more than pregnancy and birth.

Which is why, following one of the many insights gleaned from parenthood—learning to put myself first on occasion—my second book now in progress will be a novel.

But, my first book will always be uniquely special. The Ella Zoo is my favorite love story. Not the girl meets boy variety where over time two once unknowns become closer and closer until they are one. It is that story in reverse. How a woman finally meets the one she’s always known she would love but the child, who was once literally one with the woman, grows increasing independent until one day, she leaves home. The ideal motherhood is the immense joy of witnessing the creation of a successful adult. And it is the most miraculous love story of all time.

Now, after a few gasps, I’m ready to share a revised and much longer second half of my response. Briefly, although about Ella, The Ella Zoo is much more. It is about motherhood and so, while there will be a third book to dedicate eventually, my first book was always equally about my son and the attention he received that too often my beautiful, strong and fiercely independent daughter once did not, not as obviously.

Follow my blog as I share my parenthood story behind The Ella Zoo and my first borns.

Feeling Accomplished

I’ve been working on The Ella Zoo for 12 years. Granted, I really didn’t know it was going to be a book until 10 years ago. But still, it’s been a long, persistent path to get…to get to what? Near the end here, after the final poem was written, the illustrations complete, the book designed and then printed, I realized I wasn’t really sure what would mark the finish line. While there was real satisfaction in holding a printed book in my hand, it was my intent to share the book, to find its audience. Once produced and published, it was not time to pop the cork yet. A long road still lay ahead. The question was, at what point would I stop and celebrate my accomplishment.

That opportunity came on May 27 at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The Ella Zoo was selected as a finalist in 2 categories. Although I could receive my awards in the mail, I elected to drive to New York City and accept my medals in person at the gala reception. A road trip was the perfect way to commemorate this long journey and to arrive at a moment of celebration.

But, with only 2 weeks notice and all of our funds invested in starting a new business not to mention self-publishing and self-marketing my book, I could afford neither guest nor airfare. I would arrive solo. Still, I was more than willing to toast myself to the best of my ability.

Well, I needn’t have worried. The minute I stepped in the door, veteran author and previous award winner Christina Paul walked right up, clinked glasses with me and offered the warmest most sincere congratulations I could imagine from a stranger. She tucked me under her wing, recommended I grab a chair with a good view quickly if I didn’t want to spend the evening standing and offered to take photos for my social media and blog posts. Everyone was like that. It was a tribe of kindred spirits, ready to celebrate ourselves each other’s accomplishments.

I sought out some of the authors in my categories. I met Maria Knier author and illustrator of The Bezert and her husband. I was curious to find out more about their journey. Her website mentioned she had set the book down for many years before picking it up again and finally publishing. I also met Akiko Yabuki, author of Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend and had a chance to take a closer look at her book. I knew immediately, Ishi was ideal for my son and other children on the autism spectrum. She kindly inscribed the title page to my son and we exchanged books as gifts to each other.

I heard publishing war stories, tales of the advantages and trials of self-publishing, tips about twitter and so much more. Seldom have I attended a gala where I felt so warmly and enthusiastically received. The Awards Chairperson didn’t even blink an eye when, after she draped my medal around my neck, I leaned in an exclaimed, “selfie!” It was a fun night, a night to discover comrades who had also taken up the pen, a night to celebrate an independent path but I hardly found myself solo in this moment of accomplishment. We shared it, all of us.

Selfie with Marilyn Allen, Literary Agent and Catherine Goulet, Founder and Awards Chairperson

Selfie with Marilyn Allen, Literary Agent and Catherine Goulet, Founder and Awards Chairperson

At Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gala with other authors celebrating together!

At Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gala with other authors celebrating together!