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the story behind the story

4 min read

This is the story of how the story of Twirl came to be.

Children's books have been a longtime love of mine. I love the stories, of course, and the cadence of the words. I love the subtle humor and wit in some and the ways others can speak right to an adult's heart. I especially adore the illustrations. As a young girl, I remember studying the artwork in my favorites, learning to draw by seeing how children's book illustrators drew, appreciating the different styles - from the scratchy lines in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to the whimsical details in The Jolly Postman.

I don't remember exactly when writing and illustrating a children's book became a dream of mine. I suppose it's just been lingering for as long as I can remember. I do know that I first started saying the dream out loud around 2015. But even then, I didn't know if it would really become reality. I was HUGELY intimidated by the idea. Who am I to write a children's story? And, especially, who am I to illustrate one?! So I never did much to pursue the dream.

After a season of personal growth and healing and pivoting in the work I was doing, an opportunity to write books came my way. In March of 2019, I signed a three-book contract. Included was a book for women, one for children, and a companion journal to go along with the first. Typically, before you sign a contract with a publisher, you write a proposal with a fairly specific idea and outline and sample chapters, or for children's books, you create a storyboard and have a rough story written. My book-writing experience is all upsidedown and we signed a contract before really knowing what any of the books were about. Both the publisher and I felt confident something good would develop and I quickly got to work.

Freely and Lightly was up first (it's the story of what God did in and to my heart during that season of personal growth). I spent the second half of 2019 writing the book and turned in my final manuscript at the end of the year. Editing and artwork took us into the first few months of 2020.

My second book, the children's story, was up next and due in early August 2020. I always knew I would call it Twirl, and I wanted it to be a story that would encourage my daughter in a gentle way to be who God created her to be ... and that was about all I had. I wasn't too worried about the deadline as I had months to finish it and I knew the story would come once I put my brain on it. My plan was to use the spring while the kids were at school to write and illustrate and surprise my publisher when I turned the whole thing in early.

Well, then the pandemic came along and the kids came home and everything changed and suddenly I found myself sitting around a fire with my girlfriends in June with a manuscript due in a few weeks and only the title and a couple of rough story ideas floating in my head. They were all a bit worried for me :) Together we brainstormed and they spoke such kind words of encouragement as I told them my plan: the kids and I were headed to my parents' house for the weekend and I was going to spend the entire four-hour drive in silence, praying for the Holy Spirit to give me a story and letting my brain have space to think while the kids listened to whatever they listened to on their headphones.

Three hours in and just as I prayed, a story suddenly began materializing in my imagination. I rolled it over in my mind, imagining the characters, letting this sweet story work itself out.

A little girl who loved to twirl came upon friendly animals who were doing their own twirling. What would happen when she tried to twirl like them?

That weekend, on my parent's front porch, I wrote out the first rough draft. I shared it with my Audrey (who was 10 at the time) and she loved it.

I didn't yet have a name for the little girl in the book until it suddenly clicked: Of course! Audrey girl loved to twirl.

This book was written for our daughters, mine and yours, and little girls everywhere. I imagine bedtimes with dimmed lights, freshly bathed and pajama-ed darlings twirling along with Audrey and Mr. Duck and Miss Butterfly and Little Bunny as the story is read aloud to them. They giggle and pick their favorite picture and memorize the little refrain. And hear truthful words spoken over them before they lay their heads to sleep: You are perfectly and wonderfully made.

I didn't know what the story would be and I love that it wasn't me who came up with it on my own. I am just the mouthpiece to declare what God has been reminding me over and over again. My daughter, I am so pleased with who I created you to be! Just be who you are! Tip that chin up, throw those arms back ... and twirl.

May it become a family favorite in your household and an encouragement to little (and grown) girls for years to come.