The Manuscript & storyboard for ‘Bliss - the Almost Perfect Sheepdog’ is ready for distribution!
As you can see, Bliss was a real dog. In fact, she was a Red Setter who lived on a farm in Badgingarra (yes that’s a real place - google it - middle of nowhere, Western Australia). Bliss was a very beloved part of the family, but she was different to the working dogs - Chip and Boot. Boot was an awarding winning sheepdog - he was fast and smart and obedient and also a really sweet dog. Chip was his son (chip off the ole’ block; or Boot as it turns out). I actually feel a bit guilty that I’ve used his name to create a not-so-nice character. That’s a little unfair don’t you think?
I wanted to write a children’s book about different personalities; about recognising the value in a quiet, shy, curious kid. I see it with my own children where the athletic, outgoing and bold is more valued than the shy. Maybe it’s because we notice them more. Maybe it’s because they somehow demand more attention of us. But, I have an introvert and her quiet, subtle way of adding value to her social surroundings is overlooked more often than I like to admit. I wanted to write about her experiences and highlight those positive attributes in a playground context. I wanted the athletic, outgoing and bold to take a moment to recognise the quiet, shy and curious. Working out how was difficult - until I remembered Bliss.
This story has been swirling around in my head for almost 2 years. Although I knew the plot long ago, I kept arguing with myself over voice, perspective (farmer or dog), tense (past or present) and cadence. What I knew was:
Bliss gets bullied by the working farm dogs.
Bliss gets bullied because she’s different to the other dogs on the farm (they’re either blue heelers or border collies or kelpies).
Bliss is isolated and snubbed by the other dogs because she’s clumsy, silly and doesn’t follow the rules.
Bliss notices the fox because she’s curious.
The other dogs on the farm were too busy to notice.
Bliss saves the day.
Everyone recognises that Bliss is actually the perfect sheepdog!
The problem was working out how to tell it. Then it came to me - Bliss is shy and quiet. She says very little while the dialogue belongs to the other dogs and their owner. I finally nailed it.
So I quickly got to work and started storyboarding the picture book. This is how I write - using a storyboard, pen and paper. I doodle my way through the story and then add the text to fit. My story finally worked and I was elated.
Next was to send my manuscript for beta reading. I hooked up with the lovely Michelle Worthington and she made so few changes that I finally had the confidence to hit the publishing slush-piles.
So I hit 4… It always feels a bit odd for me to approach more than one publisher at a time. Somehow I feel like I’m being disloyal; like I should allow a right of refusal before I approach someone new. Is it normal to feel this way do you think? I believe it’s industry practice and I’ll soon learn how I work best. BUT for now, I just hope one of the four like her!
We may be waiting a year to hear whether or no that’s the case! I promise to get back to you