July 17, 2019

Birth Stories for Books, I LOVE MY DRAGON (and other dragon books), by Jodi Moore

Make way for Dragons! And make way for another installment of Birth Stories for Books.

I Love My Dragon by Jodi Moore and Howard McWilliam
Today’s guest is Jodi Moore, author of a heap of dragon books, including her latest, a board book entitled, I LOVE MY DRAGON (illustrated by Howard McWilliam, Flashlight Press, 2019).

Fun Fact: Jodi's publisher, Flashlight Press played a role in my path to first publication. As I've shared before, David Michael Slater was the author who helped me connect with my first publisher, Abdo Publishing Group. The reason I first came to know David's work was because of his book, The Ring Bear, which was published by Flashlight Press! Cool beans, huh?

Well, let's get back to dragons, and hear directly from Jodi:

On Inviting Dragons to “Move In”
by Jodi Moore

My lifelong passion for stories began on my mother’s lap.

Like many parents, my mom worked outside the home when I was a toddler. Each night, she’d bring home a different book for us to share. It was only natural that I would learn to associate books with love.

Jodi Moore with her Mom
As soon as I could hold a crayon, I began crafting my own. First, in pictures, then, as I learned to write, with words. As a child, I’d spend hours creating characters and adventures. And as a teen and young adult, I’d draft stories to help me make sense of the world.

I read everything I could get my hands on. “Library” was my favorite day of the week.

When our two sons were born, my husband Larry and I couldn’t wait to fill their shelves with books. (Truth? We enrolled them in book clubs before they were born.) Reading bedtime stories became the time to relax our bodies and ignite our imaginations.

It also reignited my passion for writing stories. I began to read books on craft, attend conferences and write manuscripts. I submitted some of them.

I got rejected.

When I look back on them, I realize they were “positive” rejections, what we call “champagne” rejections, highlighting I had talent, but that my particular story was “not right” for them. Some asked for more.

But I only saw the “no.” And because I felt rejected, I became dejected.

I stopped writing picture books.

However, I did keep writing for trade journals and magazines. And I immersed myself in raising our boys. How I loved encouraging our sweet sons to live their dreams! “Dad and I believe in you,” we’d tell them. “Don’t let yourselves get discouraged. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Then, as children do, they grew up. They left for college.

Empty nest hit hard.

“It’s time to do what you’re meant to do now,” my husband said. “Write those picture books.”

My mind flooded with memories of rejection. “I can’t…it’s too hard.”

“Really?” Our boys challenged me. “Have you been lying to us all these years?” (Don’t you love it when your kids parrot your own words back to you?)

So, my husband and I made a deal. I would commit the next four years to writing. Serious writing. Like “I’m going to work to get a story published” writing.

I became more active in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), attending conferences. I joined a critique group. I connected with other writerly people (who, in every sense of the word, became family.)

That first Labor Day was admittedly tough. Larry and I visited the beach for the first time (since the boys had been born) without them. But my hubby, being my third child, brought the sand toys anyway and began building a castle. Several toddlers in the vicinity decided he needed “help.” One little guy stuck a strand of seaweed in the mouth of the castle. Larry said, “That looks like a dragon’s tail. Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in.”

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
The heavens opened, and the angels sang…and the idea for When A Dragon Moves In was conceived.

When I submitted the manuscript to various editors, I was asked, “Is the dragon real or imaginary?”

“I’d like the readers to decide,” I answered.

Rejections followed.

Until I sent the story to Flashlight Press.

I won’t deny that my brilliant editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, asked that same question. However, when I expressed my desire for the reader to decide, she was intrigued rather than negative. “But…how do we draw a character that may or may not be there?”

Hmm. That did pose a challenge.

We researched for a year, looking at the way other books handled “imaginary” friends. I worried each subsequent email would bring the ultimate rejection.

But, I’m thrilled to say, it didn’t. Shari shared my vision. And when she presented the project to brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, he took it to heights I’d never imagined! His artwork not only dazzles, amuses and pulls on the heartstrings, it offers a dual explanation for every action on each page, truly allowing the reader to decide for themselves.

In 2011, our two young men graduated from college and When A Dragon Moves In (my debut picture book) was released into the world. I’m thrilled to say that readers loved the idea that they could decide for themselves…and debated passionately for their position!

by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam
Many asked if there would be a follow up, and in 2015, we welcomed When A Dragon Moves In Again (a humorous, yet emotional take on sibling rivalry, where a baby “moves in” to the family and charms the dragon away from our boy.)
by Jodi Moore & Howard McWilliam

Later this summer, I’m excited to report I Love My Dragon, a board book for the youngest dragon enthusiasts, will wing its way into the book world…and hopefully into your hearts! It’s available for preorder now, through your favorite book seller.

Here’s the thing. They say it only takes one “yes,” one person who embraces your vision and is willing to take that chance. I’d like to extend that a bit.

You see, while writing is a solitary act, publishing a book is not. It takes the support of book professionals and sellers. Of critique partners and writer buddies. Of librarians and teachers. Of readers.

And even before that first word, it takes the support (emotionally and often financially) of beloved family. I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband and our boys. Without extended family members. Without my mom and dad.

Sadly, my mom battled both mental illness and alcoholism, and passed away before she ever held one of my books. This past December, I lost my beloved father, whose strength and love held our family together when everything seemed to fall apart.

The dedication on I Love My Dragon reads: 

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page. 

Because I shall forever associate books with love. And with them. 

Jodi Moore with her Dad

Oh, Jodi, you have me in a heap of dragon tears. What a beautiful dedication, and what a beautiful birth story. I, too, was lucky enough to have heaps of books put into my hands as a child, and I too, equate books with love. (And my nest is only half empty, and even THAT is hitting hard!) 

Thank you for vividly sharing with us the importance of surrounding ourselves with "writerly people" and being persistent in the face of disappointment...and for reminding us that that sometimes the best advice is to listen to the advice we've been handing out to others for years.

Jodi Moore is author of the award winning WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN, WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN, I LOVE MY DRAGON and GOOD NEWS NELSON. She writes both picture books and novels, hoping to challenge and inspire her readers by opening new worlds and encouraging unique ways of thinking. Jodi is the proud, (admittedly) neurotic mother of two talented young men and never ceases to be amazed at how far the umbilical cord will stretch. She lives in Boalsburg with her husband, Larry, their dove “Bake,” and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. Visit Jodi at www.writerjodimoore.com.

Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.

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