My daughter is obsessed with water towers. There’s a big one at the top of the hill on our regular walking route. Ever since The Miss discovered it, she’s been fascinated by every water tower we encounter. Plain ones. Fancy ones. Doesn’t matter. On our recent camping trip, she pointed out every water tower between home and Two Rivers, Wisconsin. And there are a lot more than you’d imagine. We’ve become so accustomed to looking for water towers that I find myself calling out, “Water tower!” when she isn’t even in the car. (I recently took a photo of the water tower in Arena because Julia wasn’t there to see it with me.) So it seemed natural to suggest we go to the library and check out some books on water towers. She jumped around the kitchen, yelling “Wat-oo tow-oos! Wat-oo tow-oos!” arms flapping like a baby condor. She was excited; I was excited for coming up with an idea that made her so unabashedly ecstatic. I could hardly drive there fast enough.
Then we hit a bump in the road. Who’d have thunk it, but water tower books are a rare breed.
I won’t bore you with everything I went through, from dealing with a really disappointed little kid to trying to find another source for a water tower book. Let’s just say my efforts were both exhaustive and exhausting. Finally, it occurred to me, after all hope seemed extinguished. Why not write one myself?
Now, let me clarify something before I go a single step further: I have no desire to write for children. Sorry. My work can’t stand up to an audience that sharp. But I can write for the most important kid in my life. I’d written a book for her earlier this year—Little Girl in the Woods, a board book about my sweetie’s passion for camping. So I figured slapping this puppy together this should be a snap, right?
Not necessarily. I’ve learned a few interesting things thus far and thought I’d share them here.
1) MAKING TECHNICAL STUFF EASY ENOUGH FOR KIDS IS A BITCH. Yep, kids are smart little stinkers, but sentence length and vocabulary are an issue. Plus, kids have a limited set of experiences you can refer to in analogies. How to explain hydrostatic pressure to a little kid? Hell, I don’t get it myself! The best thing I can liken it to that she (and I) might understand is the feeling you get when you have to pee. Classy, I know. But I’m at a loss here.
2) YOU CAN BE LAZY AND LARCENOUS WHEN YOU’RE WRITING FOR YOUR OWN KID. I’m talking about pesky little legal landmines like cross-checking information, listing source credits, and obtaining publishing rights to photos. As far as I’m concerned, an initial search on Wikipedia and a cross check with howstuffworks.com is verification enough for me. But I doubt a publisher would think so. And what about all those photos I helped myself to on various websites? Let’s face it, getting rights to all that stuff would be a bear. Not to mention prohibitively expensive.
3) THERE’S NO SLAPPING TOGETHER ANY KIND OF PROJECT FOR CHILDREN. I spent two hours on the introduction yesterday. Yep, two hours to write 93 words. And that’s after the three hours I spent researching and outlining the day before. Had I operated that slowly in college, I’d still be sitting in College Comp. The discouraging part is I still have many sections to write and I haven’t even begun to think about page design. The way this thing is going, I figure she’ll either have lost interest in the entire topic or graduated high school by the time I’m halfway though.
4) I MUST BE INSANE. I add this as the only logical conclusion, considering I’m moving forward on this in spite of the aforementioned points. And I won’t even get into the lack-of-time rant again. My only defense is I love my kid. I guess that’s reason enough.
So Way Out Water Towers moves forward, God help me. It won’t be at a store near you, so don’t look for it. And don’t look for anything else I write, either. I’ll be so busy inventing non-bodily function analogies for hydrostatic pressure that I doubt I’ll have time to work on anything else.
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