Do you know what’s even more rewarding than publishing your first book? Helping others publish their first book.
I’ve now written and published 21 of them myself, and it’s still very much a thrill each and every time. But the heart-rumbling thrill larger than all my publications combined was when I published the first book I wrote together with my two sons.
My sons were 8- and 10-years-old. One day, after we’d finished reading a pretty boring children’s book, my 8-year-old said to me, “We can do better than that.” And just like that, we got started!
Each day, they told me their story. I wrote it down and read it back to them at night. I knew we were onto something when one night one of my sons asked...
“Then what happened?”
I said, “Well, I don’t know, it’s your story. You’re the author; you’re the one creating it.”
It was almost as if an actual lightbulb turned on above his head and it just hit him that he was a creator, he was a storyteller, and what was previously only in his mind was now on a page.
Soon, that story, The Secret of Kite Hill wasn’t only on a page in his bedroom but it was on the shelves for the rest of the planet to read. Their story. From silly ideas about our dog getting lost in a cave in our local city park to “I am an author.”
I got to know my kids during that time in a way I had never previously experienced. Their self-confidence grew by the day, their trust in our relationship solidified, and their imaginations ran wild.
Helping families write stories together
One day, I was at a party and a stranger asked me what I was up to, and as I told him about the process of writing a story with my sons, he hung on my every word as if I was doing something magical. He finally asked, “You know what you’re doing, don’t you?” I hesitated. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this. “You’re creating authors out of kids. Do you realize how many adults, myself included, have wanted to write a book? Yet here you are empowering these kids to do something, and you’re making it so easy, and you’re also getting to know your kids in a way you never thought possible before.”
Five years later and we’re helping moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas write books together with young people.
Kids have an unmatched ability to imagine. They have the stories. They have (believe it or not) the patience to get their message out. They just need someone to slow down and listen. They need someone to ask what are possibly the most powerful words we can ask kids: “Then what happened?”
Then close your mouth, open your ears, and relish in their delicious imaginations.
Why the Reedsy Book Editor is the tool for us
When it came to the actual process of recording your kids’ story, my suggestion is simple: I have one favorite tool in particular where kids can easily jot down questions, scribble thoughts, transform paragraphs into chapters, and even build out sections if they so desire.
It’s a site that’s easy to use, user-friendly, pleasing to look at, and yet powerful: the Reedsy Book Editor.
The Reedsy Book Editor is a free tool that doesn’t require a learning curve, and it’s a great place to write and even format a book.
Usually, once the story is written, parents will then come back to me and ask if I know of a book cover designer or editor to turn the story into a finished product. Once again, I point them back to Reedsy.
“You mean it’s all in the same place where I’m writing my book?” they might ask. And “Yes!” is my answer.
With Reedsy, you also don’t get stuck with converting files into bookstore-friendly formats. If you want a book cover design that goes beyond Lewis’s sunflower drawing, you can find a children’s book cover designer in a matter of clicks.
I’d love to know how many 6-year-olds log into Reedsy on a regular basis and are writing about the mean sunflower in the garden. How many 17-year-old girls write about the “Drama” at their high school right there in Reedsy? What about the mom who’s helping her 10-year-old son write about his nut allergy and has a thought, “Wait a minute, I could also write my own book in here…”
We’re transforming regular kids into authors. Authors write. Authors read. Authors create and let it out and share their voice with the world.
I see writing as an exhaust pipe, an outlet valve that lets off steam. Writing allows our jumbled ideas to leave the jungle of our minds and roam free in the open meadows of our hearts.
Allowing children to take their stories into their own hands
One of my main goals is to encourage my kids to finish what they start. I tell them, “This is probably going to be the worst book you ever write.” They usually look at me bewildered but I follow up with, “It’s also the first book you’ve ever written, and each book will be better than the last, but you have to write that first one to get to that second one.”
I want them to have that sense of accomplishment — not just “I’m working on it” but “I did it!” Because my secret dream is not just that one book. My world-altering fantasy is that the kids who write one book will write a book every single year.
Imagine the book your daughter writes at 10 compared to 13. She’s practically a different person. Sure, we have photo albums and video, but these little books are a “time capsule” of that year when they had those thoughts and these stories.
My 17-year-old nieces wrote their books with their own Reedsy accounts. When they were done, they downloaded the files and then uploaded them to the online bookstore all by themselves, as well. They are empowered to write more books and know just where to go to keep the momentum flowing.
At a dinner with friends in Switzerland, I showed my friend’s 17-year-old daughter the book my niece wrote. As she read the book description, tears flowed from her eyes and she asked, “How did your niece write that book just for me?” Giving kids the ability to tell their own stories is incredibly powerful.
With the help of Reedsy, we’re creating young authors. I’m not sure I know of more powerful words to change the world than “Young Author.”
Except for, of course, “Then what happened?”
If you’d like to join us and “write a (short!) book with your kids in a month,” check out SPARK Campfire — and because you’re a Reedsy fan, use the code “REEDSY50” for a 50% discount!