The Zoe Bowie Project is done...well sort of…
My three-and-a-half years of community managing and blogging for MS communities throughout the world, reaching 95 countries, while simultaneously living with Multiple Sclerosis have taught me so much-about myself, about strangers, about fighters, about people who continue to triumph over whatever life throws at them.
Oddly enough, or perhaps not so oddly, many of these beautiful souls don't even have MS, but they have something. Everybody has something. Ahhh, yes! The first rule of fighting whatever hand life deals you is that pity need not apply, because everyone has something.
Much of my own personal journey has been about dealing with my MS in such a way that I teach my children this one, true, nugget of importance—no pity, everyone has something. It’s true that MS is hereditary. Sometimes I lay awake at night, staring at that one dust bunny in the corner of the ceiling in my room, and I think about that—what if Zoe gets this? What if AJ gets this? I pray, and I try not to let it haunt me.
Those nights staring at dust bunnies on the ceiling led me to where I am now, in this post, about this book. My goal this year was to stop blogging so much, and to put my words to better use-to write my ‘big girl book', and to write a children's book, the one I started way back when and never finished because, truth be told, it’s harder than I realized to write a children’s book.
This year was a success, I have finished both. I'll tell you this, running a marathon was less exhausting. After finishing my 'big girl' book, I lay on my friend's floor exhausted and woke up the next day. Mission accomplished! Not really, but sort of.
There are other mountains to climb after writing your first manuscript. You would think writing two books-one being 318 pages, would be climb enough, but nopers. The biggest climb comes after you are finished. You begin that insurmountable task of writing query letters, proposals, stalking agents (essentially) and publishing houses that are the most likely to be attracted to your genre, and your subject. So onward I go. Well, we go actually.
I knew if I wrote a children’s book, I’d want to work with someone I trusted and loved; someone my family trusted and loved. And then there was that whole ‘talent’ thing. This person, I would imagine, would have talent and a vision similiar to mine. Talking to Tony about who that someone would be, we knew within a total of 3 minutes that I would ask our friend Johnny J. Keane.
I called Johnny. He didn't flinch. His response was a simple, "Sure, buddy!"
We started the Zowie Bowie Sings, Despite All Bad Things…Even MS together in January. Every Saturday I would shlep up to his apartment/studio. I’d write, totally unaware of his presence. Every now and then I’d shout out a, “Johnny, what’s the word for that ….you know...thing?” Knowing me well, he’d fire off some choices and we’d find the word together. When he was inspired, he'd begin to sketch. We worked in one sense solely alone, but in another, together. Side-by-side, but both of us by nature and, thus, work, loners.
We went from an 800 word picture book, to a 13,000 word chapter book. Ironically enough, all those words, and all that time, and I ended up writing myself in a circle. My finished manuscript would end up looking pretty darn similar to what I started with. I realized the time, the words, they were not wasted. Johnny and I worked through a lot, accepted some things, evolved, then we were ready to see from another angle and shoot down other ideas. Things we weren't ready to see before had we not gone through all those 'wasted' words and writing in circles.
When he would feel inspired, he’d draw based off the content and concepts I was thinking aloud. None of this was a waste.
The Zoe Bowie Project is an 800-word, children's picture book about a girl whose a smidge downtrodden after the birth of her brother Meatball, and her mother’s new MS diagnosis. The book explains the nature of MS without scaring the bejeezus out of the young reader, AND it illustrates through Zoe Bowie’s own revelations as she watches her mom deal with the disease-that everyone has something. The worst of these ‘somethings’ to have, however, is a bad attitude.
That shit can be lethal ;). However, we don't say it quite like that. This is a kid's book afterall.
Johnny had an epiphany yesterday. I called him on the way home from my infusion. He thought it was time to share our process on my Ugly Like Me/Multiple Sclerosis blog. So here we go, complete with illustrations that have been nixed or will evolve to the more abstract.
This book is an important one for me. I decided to push for this before my ‘big girl’ book for one reason-above everything else and all that comes with Multiple Sclerosis-there are 2.1 million people with Multiple Sclerosis world-wide. Whether they have children of their own, whether they teach children or are an aunt or uncle to them, there are so many kids out there who are walking around touched, and confused, by the nature of this disease.
I mean I'm still confused, I can't even fathom how my babies process this.
If I could find a way to explain this to them, in a glass-half-full way, I was going to try my hardest to find it. As I get older, I realize I don’t matter much, my MS doesn’t even matter much to me, EXCEPT in the way that it affects my children. Hence, this book. If you know any literary agents, or if your mom owns a publishing house lol…feel free to point them in this direction. Thanks my friends.
Oh, and check out (euphemism for LIKE) Johnny J. Keane’s art page on Facebook. He'll be sharing the illustrations and the process as well. Johnny is a quiet, humble soul. He doesn’t own a microwave. He recently went wild and got cable. After graduating from art school, he decided his calling was serving students with special needs. This is how we met. We taught together.
We finally got him on Facebook for his art’s sake. Next step-a microwave! Heating my tea up in a saucepan really disrupts my work flow when I’m in the zone. We hope someday you will be able to hold our published book, Zoe Bowie Sings, Despite All Bad Things, Even MS. Thanks so much for your support through the years my friends. I love you muchly.