I don’t know how it is for you, but I haven’t physically been a child for many years. Writing Little Shepherd required me to think like a five-year-old boy. Just in case you’re wondering, I’ve never been a boy.
Luckily, fear and anxiety is something I am familiar with. I could go over my long list of phobias, but that would be boring. Suffice to say, imagining how frightened and anxious Obed would get at the thought of leaving his flock of sheep alone when he could hear wolves howling in the distance, isn’t a stretch. I won’t go into my backyard at night for fear I might disturb one of our many wild creatures enjoying a late snack.
What challenged me was how to present the story to a young audience so they could relate to Obed, while giving them an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.
In order to do that, Obed’s father got added into the story. Father is full of wisdom; he understands Obed’s fears and he knows something Obed doesn’t. He doesn’t share what he knows with Obed, but Father’s sense of security provides Obed with what he needs to decide to join the others on the journey. Certainly his father wouldn’t mislead him. Children expect their parents to guide them. Obed is no different.
Next I needed to bring in that sense of awe Obed felt when meeting the Holy Family. It’s like the animals expected the shepherds, and then when Obed finds everything is just as the angel had told them, he’s not sure what to make of it, but he feels reassured. His anxiety over his sheep, however, is still there.
Most important, when Little Shepherd ends, Obed reflects on what has happened that night, and especially on what he discovers when he returns to his flock. Children need to decipher things for themselves. They are individuals who may end up seeing things differently than we do. It’s what makes us all so special.
Since this is a children’s picture book, the need not to over-describe everything and to allow the artwork to visually share that part of the story is important. It’s the one area where I feel I could have done better.
See, that perfectionist is never happy.
I hope that one of your first drafts becomes that first book you are proud of. It’s an amazing journey. With practice and perseverance, you can find out how amazing it is too!
Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.
Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married.