The Journey to be an Author

Guest Post by Melody McCallister

I'm Sorry Story book cover

To sign up for author read aloud https://forms.gle/oUMqq2NgJUVpbBMR9

How the I’m Sorry Story Developed

Roughly eleven years ago, the I’m Sorry Story was floating in my head. I was teaching fifth grade in Garland, Texas and pregnant with my first child. I had been teaching for five years and knew that if my students were worrying about the fights they had with their friends, the lessons in math and reading were nowhere near in importance to them. Like many writers, the story sat in my head begging me to write it all down. One day I realized if I didn’t take the time to do just this, my baby girl would be born and I’d be too busy with her to remember this story. So I did. I typed it out and read it to my class the next day!

This VERY rough draft did not have any illustrations. I put it up on the screen so my students could read along with me and told the story about a young man who was really struggling to make friendships, and he was also clueless about how to make amends for hurting others’ feelings. When I was finished with this first reading, my students’ asked me, “How did you know, Mrs. McAllister?” It hit home for them. We talked about the story’s message and we kept talking about it all year long. Even as a young teacher, I knew that my students’ social emotional health needed to be nurtured if I wanted them to care about long division and reading comprehension.

At the time when it was written, having it published wasn’t something I gave much thought to. However, I read the I’m Sorry Story every year to all of my classes, including my first graders. They let me know it really resonated with them, and so I began to think that maybe this was a message that would help other students! After working with Mandy Froehlich and her book The Fire Within, published by EduMatch Publishing, I decided to submit the I’m Sorry Story, too. Mandy Froehlich saw its potential and helped me get connected with Dr. Sarah Thomas, Founder and CEO of EduMatch Publishing. Dr. Thomas liked the message and gave me a chance. What I love about EduMatch Publishing is their foundation of amplifying the voices of educators and students. Before my family moved to Alaska last year, I was offered the Logistics Manager position and so now I also help authors in the process of being published.

The toughest part of the publishing process was finding an illustrator, but in the end, it was a former colleague, and teacher, who is also an amazing artist, who believed in my story and accepted the challenge. Her name is Rheanna R. Longoria. The beautiful students at our school were the inspiration of how we wanted the characters to look. The teacher, Mrs. James, is also loosely tied to a wonderful teacher I had worked with. Inclusivity is at the heart of my book and this is why I chose to have it published in Open Dyslexic font in hopes that readers who have Dyslexia might find it easier to read, too.

Over the years, I had made edits to help the story become more real for my students, but editing, and editing, and more editing is the name of this game! Once illustrations were completed, and the release date was in sight, I still had to submit to my focus group. This comprised of mostly educators, but also parents, and even other authors. Overall, the feedback was very positive. BUT ONE. There was one educator/author who really challenged me. There were some ideas that were so specific to my personal experiences that she knew would not make sense to other teachers. At first, this information discouraged me. I took this feedback to another author friend and asked for wisdom. He said to let it rest for ten days and then “re-spect” it again. I took his advice and started in on my last edits. It turned out these new edits made the I’m Sorry Story’s message much more solid and strong. I was extremely proud, and ready, to submit for final edits.

My focus group and supportive friends gave me a lot of help. When I was discouraged, Dr. Thomas and my focus group all challenged me to return to my “why.” By the time the story was ready to publish, I was emotionally ready to let the world see it, too. I worked hard to get marketing images and fun launch competitions with the help of EduMatch Publishing’s Director of Author Success, Mandy Froehlich. We were ready to launch on February 11th! The I’m Sorry Story has arrived!

One of the coolest things about launching the I’m Sorry Story has been connecting with classes across the country. The first day of the launch, I read and talked with at least ten classes. We had a Question and Answer time following the story and the questions they asked ranged from “Is this a true story?” to “How’s the weather in Alaska?” Students were honest in answering my questions about feeling like the main character, Ryan, and some of the other characters. They all knew what it was like to be told “Sorry” in a sarcastic and insincere way. A few teachers even did follow up activities such as role-playing and class discussions.

Hey Teacher! I would love to connect with you, too! Would you be interested in a read aloud with your class? We can talk about the importance of the social emotional message and also the writing process. I love telling students that they don’t have to wait to grow up to publish a story. They have so much to say and now that they know an author, I would love to help them cultivate their voice!

In this learning community we are all in which is dedicated to helping our students grow and blossom, we have something to say. Some of us can even turn it into a story! If you have a message to share that will help others, I hope you will get the words out, too!

bit.ly/imsorrystory

To sign up for author read aloud https://forms.gle/oUMqq2NgJUVpbBMR9

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