Children’s authors who love nonfiction, like me, face a unique set of challenges in finding, communicating, and shaping a story where you “can’t make stuff up.” I’ve learned a lot from all the nonfiction contributors to this series. But fiction has its challenges, too, and I’ve also gained insights from fiction writers who’ve shared their secrets. This week, author/illustrator Shanda McCloskey gives us a peek inside her process of creating DOLL-E 1.0, a totally fun fiction STEM/STEAM picture book.
When I set out to write DOLL-E 1.0 I had some beautiful themes/messages about what technology can’t replace that I was trying to write a story around. But, as I got to know my characters better as kids, I found that my “themes” were actually very grown-up thoughts.
It was tough to let go of my lovely (but didactic) ideas and remember how my mind worked when I was a kid. I needed kidbrain! I looked to my own children growing up today. I saw that my girls truly enjoyed their digital
play … but we modern parents know all too well that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It’s easy as parents to demonize cyber play, trying to protect our children. I am no different. But my thoughts on this did shift a bit as Doll-E 1.0 took shape.
As I wrote the story (and as different people responded to the book after it released), the heart of the story is clearly childhood. Modern childhood. And modern parenthood too. We are ALL living in and adjusting to this (tech infused) world that has never existed before!
We all have our own opinions about the infusion of technology in our culture, but this book was my attempt to look at it from a kid’s point of view! And when I did that, I noticed that there was no shortage of creativity … but imagination galore! My kids surprise me daily with their activities, solutions, inventions, creations, and stories, using “things” they find around them … their resources and their “things” are just different than mine were growing up.
To find the heart of my story, I had to put aside my parental pride and write a book for the modern kid. Literally!