Saturday, February 8, 2020

My Favorite Story...

My favorite story to tell today is how my story Keep Calm And Carry On, Children came to be...

It was inspired by my almost 99-year-old grandfather (April is coming up quickly) in England. About ten years ago he and Nanny started talking about their lives during Word War II. They captivated me. I couldn’t learn enough about the period and the hardships the civilians went through.
My grandfather’s parents took in two little girls during Operation Pied Piper, when over 800,000 children and women were evacuated from the cities and south coast of England because of the threat of an invasion.  Can you imagine putting your children on a train going north but knowing exactly where they were going to end up and when they did get to their destination, they would be taken off the train to be paraded down the streets for people to pick them. Imagine how scary that would be and what if you had a little sister? Would it be possible to stay together? The image of these two little girls was more than I could stand. I had to write a story for them.

Every trip,  Nanny  and Grandad would feed me more information…take me to museums and forts, introduce me to friends that were part of their generation (The Greatest Generation). I took notes, I studied everything. I ordered train maps from that period. I bought replica documents at museums. I took hundreds and hundreds of photographs. I road a train from the north of England to the South of England. I visited the town that Joyce and Gina and their friends up in, Leek. I connected with people in Leek. I did all the normal things you do for research.
I wrote down notes on everything. I did character sheets for each character. I made sure each character had his or her own voice and behaviors. There are five bulletin boards in my office and an easel. I covered them with word lists and British phrases. I created scene boards of everything the characters might have seen in each environment: London during the Blitz, the train ride to Leek, the countryside and village of Leek. Those were then broken down further for individual scenes. Yes, my office is very full! But as I finished with each section of the manuscript, I would put away that information. (I didn’t throw it away. It’s safely tucked away in boxes and an art portfolio.) Once I knew what would be in the scenes, I wrote down scene notes for the entire book. Then I fleshed out each scene until I had a complete first draft. A second draft... A third draft...
I had several trusted critique partners that helped me along the way! I joined online critique groups and in person critique groups. I took the opportunity to do paid critiques with industry professionals.  I went to workshops and conferences. I revised. I edited. I read out loud. I highlighted verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs, "be" verbs, emotions and senses. I revised more. I queried often and widely. I got a bit with an agent and did an R and R, but it was a no, so I went back and did more editing and revising. Then I got an email from Black Rose Writing. In May or June I started the editorial process with them. And life became a great big blur for me until a box arrived a week before my trip to England...

(My happiest moment of 2019…giving Grandad a copy of the book he inspired.)

 Life is still a blur. There is so much to do after your book comes out. I had no idea what happened after your manuscript was accepted. I know there is still much to do. I love that my publisher reminds me this is a marathon not a sprint. Later this month I'm going to a workshop that deals with After The Publication. (Thanks SCBWI!)

I truly appreciate every single review or rating I've been blessed with.  My heart has been filled on several occasions by people who either were evacuees, married to evacuees or are from Leek, England.



  1. Thanks for sharing the interesting story of your book from beginning to end and beyond. It’s always interesting to know how an author got an idea and ran with it until crossing the finish line. It’s so cool you were able to present your Grandad with a copy of the book he and your Nana inspired. He must be very proud of you.:)

  2. What a wonderful story! Love seeing the video.

  3. I love the backstory of your book. How fascinating! It's beautiful that you gave your granddad a copy.

  4. That's such an interesting story, congrats to you and hooray for such wonderful inspiration!

  5. Wow, Sharon! I didn't realize how personal this story was to your family tree. Makes it even more amazing. I'm so thankful you've told this story so it can be read by kids, but also that it might influence them in a positive way. The book really should be in school history classes. <3