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“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As I study Philip R. Rogers’ powerful rendering of my main character in “The Curse Under the Freckles” I recall the bottomless well when the story began, and the empty buckets that came to the surface. “The Curse Under the Freckles” can also be found at Joseph Beth online.

When Chapter One appeared in my first draft the tale had a different title as well as an older audience. I wanted to take a third-grader’s vocabulary and write a book for seventh graders. Although my granddaughter with Down syndrome was already showing an interest in every word in her story books, she opened my eyes to the larger world of kids with special needs.

Older children with limited reading abilities do not want to pick up a story about bunnies and kitties. Yet, the adventures prepared for teens and preteens contain too many words, too many syllables.

As I put together scenes, however, I felt as if I were trying to build a believable fantasy with stale super-sweet mini-marshmallow bricks. The plot reflected it, as predictable as an alphabetical listing and twice as boring. No subplots, insufficient conflict.

Bottom line—I wasn’t ready to serve. Many people believe that writing for children is easy. It isn’t. The editor and publisher’s expectations are higher for the author of children’s material.

Stories need to be fresh and entertaining yet stay within the realms of a young person’s understanding as well as the limits of respectability.

I don’t remember when I knew that giving up on my original goal was no longer an option. But I do know that is when the story took off—with plenty of hurdles of course.

Chase Powers, my hero, lost a few years. He became eleven instead of fourteen. He developed a sense of humor. His foes grew mightier. Some of my critique partners began comments with, “I don’t get this at all. But then I don’t even like fantasy…”

Oh well! Oh, very deep, what-the-heck-is-down-that-imagination-of-yours well?

One of my magical characters says, “It takes no courage to climb a steep mountain when you have been lifted to the top.” Sometimes this writer needs to listen to her own creations.

In the future I hope to help kids who have difficulty reading by writing in a style that is super-easy to read. This book travels through a 560-660 Lexile measure, fifth to sixth-grade reading level.

Perhaps, if I work hard enough I can tell a story with small words that touch and capture the wise. I know it can be done. My grandchildren have shown me that route. Often.

I’m not there yet. In the meantime I plan to have a signing at our local YMCA, and give a portion of my earnings to their autism program. These young persons have a lot to give; the program helps them to find those gifts. I have no idea how much water I can bring to the desert. But those extra drops aren’t noticed in the ocean.

One drop, one word, one action at a time…

back cover the curse under the freckles

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