BACK TO SCHOOL
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away (it really does feel like another galaxy), I was given a writing assignment in my eighth grade English class at All Saint’s Middle School in Spokane, Washington. I had no idea what to write about.
I still remember sitting at my school desk, next to my friend Pat, trying to think of ideas. He was scribbling away on his paper, I was staring into space. Then, I noticed a pencil on my desk. Ah ha! I could write about a pencil. What if everything it could draw became real? That seemed like a good start. What if anything that it erased was gone forever? That seemed really interesting. So, I created a story about magic drawings and misguided erasers.
Fast forward to today and that story has become my new picture book Arabella and the Magic Pencil. Of course, a lot happened in between. The journey from idea to publication literally took decades.
First, I wasn’t a writer. After eighth grade, I went on to high school, studied marketing in college, worked for technology companies, earned an MBA, got married and had a child. Although I wrote, it was mostly press releases and boring corporate documents.
Second, I didn’t know the first thing about writing picture books. We moved to Sydney, Australia and it was then that I decided to focus on writing for children. I became a member of a local (and fabulous) writers’ center, WriteNSW, where I joined a critique group and took workshops on creative writing.
Third, I didn’t understand the children’s publishing industry. I became a reviewer for the Children’s Book Council of Australia and read all types of kid lit which gave me a good understanding of what publishers were publishing.
Finally, I needed a story. Thinking through ideas, I remembered the magic pencil that I had written about so long ago and rewrote the story in a picture book format. After lots of revision – removing a character, making page turns more exciting and amping up the alliteration – I researched publishers and sent out my manuscript.
The result is my picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil, beautifully illustrated by debut Australian artist Shaney Hyde, published by the children’s book publisher, EK Books.
I sent the very first copy of Arabella and the Magic Pencil to my eighth grade teacher, Ms. Ribar (now Mrs. Kohls). She remembered me and was, as always, encouraging and supportive. And now, as I go back to schools to read the story that started in a classroom so many years ago, I will pay special attention to the students sitting in desks trying to think of something to write about and the teachers who inspire them every day.
About the author:
Stephanie Ward is the author of Arabella and the Magic Pencil, illustrated by Shaney Hyde, published by EK Books (September 2019). After many years in marketing, Stephanie now spends her time writing sweet, silly and sidesplitting stories for children. Find out more about Stephanie’s bookish activities at www.stephaniemward.com.
More about Arabella and the Magic Pencil:
Arabella is a beloved only child who has a picture perfect life until her brother, Avery, arrives. While she loves him, it’s sometimes hard to like him. She spends her days creating marvelous things with her magic pencil, and ignoring him. But when Avery spoils a perfectly proper tea party, Arabella erases him from her life. Oops! How can she get him back?