It’s what we’re all waiting for, the emergence of a voice. It’s why millions watch The Voice, and it’s why those programs work – because there are many voices worth being heard, and every aspirant challenges us to be someone who follows a dream. We all want our voices to be heard – maybe at a karaoke party, maybe in a choir or in the shower, maybe in our choices of greeting cards. Maybe in the choices we make to support a cause. Maybe in the way we raise our children. It’s a wonderful feeling when one’s voice comes in.
As a writer, you hope for two things: First, that you even have a voice; second, that it’s worth hearing.
I was very lucky with Mr. Handsome, the voice of In Mr. Handsome’s Garden. He came to me over six months, between the first and second drafts of the book. Here’s how it happened.
The first draft of the book was called “Cat & Goat.” Long story short: it started as an email exchange between me and my friend June Avignone, whom I’ve known since college. In our knicknames for each other, June has always been the cat, and I have always been the goat. A few years ago, we had an email conversation as a cat and a goat. It was pretty interesting. It struck me as a model for other dialogues … perhaps leading to a children’s book on the order of Aesop’s Fables.
One thing led to another. I began thinking about animals and and other things that might share secrets that people might not always see. Catherine had begun illustrating the early stories. Stick & Worm, Antelope & Antelope, Dog & Football. Peter‘s layouts of the pages were looking beautiful as well. During this phase, I was intent that no human voice would enter the book but, in the end, I couldn’t hold to that rule. In the final paragraph of “Cat & Goat,” Mr.Handsome stepped into his garden to comment on an inchworm, a dragonfly and a hummingbird. I set the draft down for six months then, while I listened to what he had to say. What turn out was In Mr. Handsome’s Garden in its current and final form, with Mr. Handsome as a kind of Mr. Rogers emcee over the whole thing.
Funny how things happen!