Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Hardest Thing to Write by Lisa Dalrymple

            The e-mail pops into my inbox:
Hi Lisa, we need your inscription for the dedication page.
            My fifth dedication. This does not get any less stressful for me. With so much support in my life, so many people who have given so much to my writing, how do I pick only one?

            This has been a long journey for me, a lifelong journey. (I was writing and submitting to publishers when I was 10 years old–and I have the rejections to prove it!) But these last miles, the ones in which I’ve been writing kids’ books, have been championed by my husband and my children. Three children. So again, how do I pick only one name for the dedication page?

            I began writing picture books in my head when my kids were tiny. At this point I had two children (although some days it felt like two dozen.) I recall the youngest, successfully installed in her snowsuit and gloves, wailing as she waited for me to chase the three-year-old bundle of hyperactivity through the dining room. I’d chant silly songs to calm the youngest down and make up funny rhymes to entertain the oldest as I jammed his arms into sleeves and his feet into boots. The stories I’d recite kept me sane–and kept my kids from being subjected to a real-life Mommy-Monster (hopefully not too frequently, at least.)

            The first full story with developed characters, plot, and a complete arc came about a few years later. A now seven-year-old bundle of hyperactivity ran up and down the stairs while a new baby grasped my hair in a talon-like grip and I asked my four-year-old what she wanted for Christmas. Wide-eyed and sincere, she told me that Santa was bringing her a polar bear. I deflected. “How can Santa do that? What would a polar bear do at our house? Wouldn’t he cause trouble, so much trouble that I’d want to send him back to the North Pole?”

As Nat and I played with answers to these questions, If It’s No Trouble... A Big Polar Bear took shape. Of course, there was much more work to do. Three years of writing, revising, submitting, re-writing and re-revising. But eventually, the story I “wrote” with Nat became a book. The dedication should have been easy, right? But I had three children–and a fabulous husband–and experience enough to know that getting published is hard. What if it never happened again? So I dedicated the book to all of them.

Then along came Skink on the BrinkA Moose Goes A-Mummering and Bear’s adventures continued in Bubbly Troubly Polar Bear and in this final book, Double Trouble at The Rooms. In it, Bear joins Nat on a class trip to The Rooms museum in St. John’s, Newfoundland. After all the fun and excitement of having a big bear around, Nat wonders if the museum will even have “the room” for its unexpected visitor. But, of course, the museum does. In fact, it has room for two bears as Bear becomes good friends with Peter in one of the exhibits. And maybe it would be good for Bear to stay somewhere that has the room for him to play–and for Nat to come visit all the time.

            So now, with my fifth dedication, I will dedicate this final polar bear book to Nat. I can feel confident that there will be more books, further opportunities to thank each of my kids and all the people who have been wonderfully supportive of my writing.
            I will address the e-mail to my editor and I will type out my dedication:
For Natalie Sage–where Bear’s story began.
And I will click “send.”
 About the Author

Along with her polar bear series, Lisa Dalrymple is the author of A Moose Goes A-Mummering. Her book Skink on the Brink won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award for Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Writing for Children Award. She loves travelling and camping with her family. In real life, they know it’s best not to invite the bears to play!

Twitter: @lisaonthebrink


  1. Thank you, Lisa, for the inspiration found in your journey to being published :) Children do warm our hearts and our writing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, @Charlotte Dixon. So glad to have you here!