September 3, 2019

Birth Stories for Books: THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, by Contributing Author, Patti Richards

According to Harvard Medical School, "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Edited by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Marlena Myles
I think we could all use a bit more gratitude-related benefits, and THANKU: POEMS ABOUT GRATITUDE, seems like a good place to start (edited by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena MilesMillbrook Press, 2019).

I'm so grateful that one of the contributors, author Patti Richards, offered to share how one of her poems came to be in this beautiful new book for young readers.

Feeling Grateful
by Patti Richards

THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, was born in the heart of the amazing Miranda Paul. The idea for the book came about long before I got involved, and along with being absolutely thrilled to be included, this book-birth story is a testimony to the importance of critique groups, writing partners and always looking out for each other…something for which I am VERY thankful!

I follow lots of writer’s blogs, but I don’t read every post every day. When Miranda announced that she was running a contest to find two more poems/poets for her debut editorial project, THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, I missed the announcement. But my long-time writing partner, Lisa Rose, didn’t! Lisa and I have been in the kidlit trenches together for years, and she knows that writing poetry is one of my favorite things to do. I was working away at my desk when I got an email that read, “YOU SHOULD DO THIS!” in all caps! When Lisa types in all caps, I listen! I read Miranda’s post inviting followers to submit a kid-friendly poem about gratitude, the theme of the anthology, and got to work.

I feel like authenticity is crucial when you’re trying to reflect feelings that, as an adult, are not easy to bring to the surface at a moment’s notice. I remembered how thankful I was for my first dog, a memorable birthday party, my first trip to an amusement park, my bicycle. But then something surfaced that changed my life-- my first pair of glasses.

You might think it a bit of a stretch for a kid to be thankful for her first pair of glasses. Especially a chubby girl that was already struggling with self-image issues at the tender age of 9. But when I started 4th grade, I couldn’t see the chalkboard. My sister got her first pair of glasses when she was 5. I remembered how she and the other kids with glasses got teased on an almost-daily basis, and I didn’t want any part of it. I was so scared about getting glasses that I asked a friend next to me to tell me everything that was on the board so I could write it all down. That way no one else would know my secret. I thought I had figured out the perfect way to avoid ever being called “four eyes.” But when my parents took me for my annual eye exam I was exposed- and devastated. Not only did I need glasses, I needed them all the time. My parents tried to help me get excited about choosing frames- the new wire style would look so nice, you’ll hardly even notice them- but I wasn’t buying it. A few weeks later, it was time to pick up the glasses, I asked God to miraculously make me able to see before the appointment. I told Him He didn’t even have to get me a dog anymore. Just please don’t make me wear glasses.

When we got to the eye doctor I climbed up in the great big chair and waited. He walked in with the tray that held my glasses. I sat back, closed my eyes and felt the wire frames slip lightly over my ears. “Ok, open your eyes!” the doctor said. And then it happened. I. Could. See. I mean really see. There wasn’t a line on the chart- even the tiny one on the bottom- that wasn’t as clear as day. Colors were brighter, lines were crisp and even the clouds in the sky were fluffier. And I was as thankful as my nine-year-old self could possibly be with my limited life’s experiences and brand-new way of seeing. Was I nervous on Monday morning when I had to wear the glasses to school for the first time? You betcha! But was I thankful all over again when I didn’t need anyone’s help seeing what was on the board? Absolutely.

But how to turn this miraculous thankfulness into a poem that young readers could quickly identify with was another thing completely. I started thinking about familiar characters and their experiences with seeing clearly and Alice, popping through her looking glass came to mind. Once she stepped through, she saw things in a totally different- albeit reversed and crazy- way. And once I put on my glasses, I saw everything in a new and different way too! Alice became a vehicle to help young readers connect with my own experience of thankfulness. And what a fun way to share with others the gratitude that can follow when something scary becomes something wonderful.

It didn’t take long for me to write a few drafts of the poem, which was good because Miranda’s deadline was fast approaching. I hit submit, and in a few weeks, I heard back from her that my poem was a front runner and that she really loved how kid-focused the piece was. Then a few weeks after that I heard from her again letting me know that she loved the poem and wanted to include it in the anthology. I was over-the-moon grateful and excited (even more than when I got that first pair of glasses), and when I found out who I would be joining in the pages of this beautiful book I was overwhelmed and humbled to put it mildly.

It took several revisions to get the piece just right, then came contract signing and all the fun stuff of seeing the illustrations for the first time and making final tweaks. Then before I knew it, we had the pre-order link, a release date and final art. It was a whirlwind ride for me, with the entire process taking less than a year, but what a journey! I want to especially thank Miranda Paul for taking a chance and including my work in this anthology. What a gift! And I want to also give a heartfelt “Thank You!” to my friend and writing partner, Lisa Rose. If she hadn’t been watching out for me that day, I never would have had this opportunity.

So, here’s to writing partners, critique groups, authors with vision and new glasses! It took each of these things to make this book birth story happen for me, and I am truly grateful!

This is such a touching backstory, Patti! I'm so grateful you shared it with us. Here's to writing partners, critique groups, authors with vision and new glasses, indeed! (But I must say, I half expected your author photo to show you in glasses!)

THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE is available everywhere books are sold. 

Writer, teacher, mother, wife, storyteller, Patti Richards has spent more than 25 years spinning yarns and telling tales. Her children’s work includes three nonfiction books, and several magazine articles, including a fiction piece in Highlights Magazine. She was a Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain Honorable Mention winter in 2018 and a finalist in 2014, and she's been a Writer’s Digest Honorable Mention winner three times for her picture book manuscripts. Patti is a freelance writer and editor and offers professional manuscript critique services. As a freelance writer, she provides web content for various clients and has contributed to local newspapers, regional and national parenting and women's magazines. Patti lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan with her husband, Gene, where their three adult children come in and out regularly! Learn more at

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

1 comment:

  1. This was fantastic and resonated with nearsighted fourth grade me! I am looking forward to reading your contribution to the anthology. 'Thanku' for sharing this story!