A Rewrite for the Illustrator

This month I’m looking at how authors think about illustrations as they write. I CAN’T STOP: A STORY ABOUT TOURETTE SYNDROME leans more toward the illustrated story side of the spectrum. You could read the text and know what is happening without the pictures. But the pictures help bring a challenging subject to younger readers.

I am not an illustrator. So, I look forward to the sketches to see how an illustrator “sees” my story. For this book the illustrator, Meryl Treatner used models for her illustrations. When I received the sketches there were many things I liked, but I felt that some of the children looked older.20210615_144252 As written the final pages of the book took place during recess. The text was:

One day at recess, Nathan and Josh saw some kids whispering and laughing. “Those kids better stop.” Josh was mad.

               “This is a funny tic.” Nathan laughed. “I call it ‘the chicken’.”

               Josh smiled. “It does look like a chicken, but they shouldn’t make fun of you.”

               “They don’t bother me,” Nathan said, getting in line for the tornado slide. “Not with a friend like you.”

The final page showed Nathan going down the slide. The text:

               Nathan sat at the top of the slide. “Look out below!” He closed his eyes and pushed off. He was a marble rolling down the slide, heading for the bowl. He knew that the tics were part of him, but they wouldn’t always get in the way.

               “Watch out, tics,” he thought. “You don’t stand a chance.”

The children who were making fun of Nathan looked too old to be in elementary school. The editor did not want to ask the illustrator to redo those illustrations as she would have to pay new models, so I was asked to rewrite the ending.20210615_144243

               One day on the way to the soccer field, Nathan and Josh saw some kids whispering and laughing. Josh was mad. “Those kids better stop,” he said.

              “This is a funny tic.” Nathan laughed. “I call it ‘the chicken’.”

               Josh smiled. “It does look like a chicken, but they shouldn’t make fun of you.”

               “They don’t bother me,” Nathan said. “Not with a friend like you.”

The final spread showed Nathan kicking a soccer ball.

During the game, Nathan took a shot and watched the ball fly into the net. As the kids cheered, he grinned.

               He knew that the tics were part of him, but they wouldn’t always get in the way. Watch out, tics, he thought. You’re not the only moves I can make!

At first I wasn’t happy that I was going to do a rewrite, but making a book is a collaborative effort. So  I did a minor rewrite to accommodate the illustrator, and once I did, I decided it made for a stronger ending anyway. What do you think?

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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