- Mike Armstrong
Why I Write Children's Books
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Every time I walk into the library with my daughter, I feel gratitude. Gratitude for the librarians, teachers, volunteers, authors, illustrators and community that together create one of her favorite places. Straightaway, she races to the children’s section – my instructions to “walk” always ignored, yet the kind librarians never seem to mind - and begins rifling through the new releases. This kid absolutely loves to read. So much so that when we finally leave, I have to guide her by the arm to our car because she is already nose-deep in a new book.
I’m grateful for the stories that she loves and for the people who write them. Books that encourage her to seek out the next one. And the next one. And the next.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to become one of those people.
That said, becoming a children’s book author was never part of the plan. My career set off down a very different path.
Early on, after receiving my MBA, I became a trade representative for an import/export company. Much of my time was spent communicating with individuals for whom English was not their first language. Misunderstandings could be costly, so I learned very quickly to boil every message down to its essence. Anything else would likely confuse the issue. It was a good lesson (but easy to forget, as this webpage clearly illustrates).
This position also required me to visit factories in the heart of some less-developed countries. After witnessing poverty, hopelessness, and kids working in factories, my worldview began to shift. So did my career path.
For the next 20 years I worked as the director of several small non-profit organizations dedicated to improving lives. It was gratifying work, and hopefully we did some good. Along the way I met a nerdy bookworm whom I somehow persuaded to marry me – finally putting that marketing degree to some good use.
Then we had a kid. I left my career to become a stay-at-home-dad, spending more time than I could have ever imagined reading…and re-reading…and re-reading children’s books.
As we plowed through one book after another – some new, some old, always the favorites – I recognized something. If I laughed as I was reading a particular book to my daughter, she would insist we read it again. The next night, she would request that same book. She enjoyed seeing me enjoy reading, and that made her want to read all the more.
Consequently, my wife and I began a quest to find children’s book that we would actually enjoy reading (and re-reading) together. Around the same time, my stay-at-home brain started demanding some exercise. So, naturally, I thought, “Hey, I bet I could write that kind of a children’s book!” Silly boy.
The next five years went something like this: I write a terrible story. I read books about writing. I write a bad story. I join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I write a meh story. I attend an SCBWI conference. I read more books. I write an OK story. I join a critique group. I attend another SCBWI conference. I write a pretty good story. I get lucky and meet an editor who agrees. I trade revisions with the editor for six months. Together we create a really good (I hope?) story. I get an agent I don’t deserve. I am told I need an author platform. I create this website. I write this post.
That brings us to today. For me, the point of all of this is simple. I want to do what so many children’s book authors did for my daughter - write books that children and parents will enjoy reading together. Books that will make them both laugh, help spark their interest in reading, and encourage them to seek out the next book. And the next one. And the next.