The creation of a picture book for highly sensitive children
A couple of years ago, when I thought I’d try and write a children’s book that would help highly sensitive kids “feel more normal” (as one lovely reader put it), no one could have prepared me for the incredible amount of time and energy that would be required to pull it off. No one.
After two years however, as I hold my very first picture book in my hands—a beautiful book if I may say so myself—my heart fills with joy and a sense of accomplishment, even if sometimes it feels like it took much longer than it should have to reach the final stage. But then when I give it more thought, and count the number of times the story was edited and the number of people who were involved in the process, I wonder if this could’ve happened in less than two years.
I now look at this book and am confident we have something great. All Too Much for Oliver is not my creation alone. This book is the result of the efforts of many incredible ladies, all of whom are mothers of highly sensitive children.
I wrote my very first draft in 2013 on a Word document and printed it out so I could read it to my highly sensitive son, and I did that because I’d noticed how often he’d go to his books for inspiration, especially when things got rough. I was hoping I could help him feel a little stronger and give him the confidence he needed to go out into the world and enjoy it the way any child should. With just words on a paper though, I didn’t get my hopes up. I was sure he’d lose interest after the first sentence and walk away. Much to my surprise, not only did my son, at the age of four, sit in my lap and listen to the whole story, but he also asked me to read it again, and again.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. I’d never done any writing before, and it had never occurred to me to write for children. But when my son responded the way he did to the story of little Oliver, the light bulb in my head went off.
“Maybe I should turn this into a picture book,” I thought to myself. “If I find an illustrator to make the pictures, this shouldn’t be so hard.”
Turns out it is quite hard. My first task was to find an illustrator, but not just any illustrator. I needed someone who understood that this book wasn’t for everyone. This book had a very special purpose to serve, and if the pictures were wrong, it couldn’t do that. How lucky I was to have found Barbara Moxham, a talented woman who’s youngest was in my son’s class. She’d told me the first time we’d met that she was a graphic designer, and so I thought I’d ask her if she knew any illustrators for the story I’d written. How lucky I was that she totally understood the purpose of this story because she had a highly sensitive child of her own, and that she was also an illustrator. The first draft she sent me a few weeks later knocked me off my feet. She got it. She nailed it! Her illustrations completed my story, something that doesn’t always happen, especially when you’ve written a story that isn’t intended for the masses.
Once that was done, the stars worked their magic once again and led me to the wonderful Ruth Martin, an ingenious and highly experienced editor based in the UK who turned our words and pictures on paper into a beautifully polished children’s book. Ruth had sent me a message in response to my query, and told me she also had a highly sensitive child. I couldn’t have asked for more: an editor who could read and edit the story from the perspective of a mother of a highly sensitive child. Any other editor would have probably questioned the story, wondering why I would write about something that isn’t a problem for most, something so “mundane”. After all, most kids love the playground and the swimming pool and parties. Not Ruth though. Ruth, just like Barbara, got it. She gave us tips on wording, illustrations and layout, things that never would’ve occurred to us. She was patient throughout this entire process, and told us everything we needed to know to make the best possible book. Although we still haven’t met, Ruth holds a very special place in my heart.
The story was now edited and had beautiful pictures to go with the words, but I still needed to know if the book would be appealing to others. Needless to say, your friends and family will either find everything you do amazing, or won’t tell you the truth if they didn’t. I had to find people I didn’t know, preferably parents of highly sensitive children, to let me know what they really thought. Twelve amazing women from all over the world volunteered to read our book to their kids, and let us know what they and their children thought. We received invaluable feedback about the story, the illustrations, the title, and most importantly, about the discussions the book sparked. That was probably my favorite part of this long journey. Hearing things like “My daughter could really relate to Oliver” and “My son told me he felt the same way sometimes” made everything we’d done in the last two years worthwhile.
And that, my lovely readers, is the stuff that goes into the creation of a picture book for highly sensitive children. All Too Much for Oliver is a true group effort, a creation only made possible thanks to the contributions from people who understand what our highly sensitive children need.
When I received my first proof copy of the book, my son found it on the coffee table where I’d left it and read it. He walked into the room where I was sitting and said, “Mom, I love what you made. I love this book. I’m so proud of you.”
That, on second thought, was my favorite bit of this long journey.
All Too Much for Oliver will be released on Amazon, in paperback and for Kindle, by the end of this month. Stay tuned for exciting news! And if you’d like to join our launch team and help us spread the word after publications, please sign up here. There are lovely prizes to be won! Plus, your help would mean the world to us ♥
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