You are enough, just as you are by Deborah Underwood
Usually a picture book author writes a manuscript, and if she’s lucky enough to sell it, the editor and/or art director at the publishing house choose the illustrator, who then designs the characters.
With Bearnard’s Book, Misa Saburi’s adorable bear character came first. His appearance, his name, and even a basic idea already existed: Bearnard the Bear is getting ready to be in a book. But the publisher needed a manuscript. Did I want to take a shot at writing it?
Yes! I fell in love with Bearnard’s wide-eyed charm immediately. And for a writer who finds infinite possibilities daunting, the idea of knowing who the character was and what he wanted before I started to write was appealing. I find that limits, instead of stifling creativity, often encourage it.
My only concern was this: since the idea didn’t originate with me, would the book feel like my own? I wrote many work-for-hire nonfiction books when I was starting out—28, in fact. Since the publishers assigned the topics, those books don’t feel as if they are my books in the way my fiction books do.
But I set out on the writing journey. Bearnard is getting ready to be in a book. So what would he do?
Someone I know is a bit anxious. She tends to over-prepare. She worries. She’s…uh…me. So it’s not hard to see why Bearnard decides he must read other bear books to prepare, because he wants do a good job in his own book. And his research serves only to freak him out.
Bearnard thinks he might need to float in an umbrella like Pooh, so he gamely decides to practice, and discovers he is not good at floating. Paddington and the Goldilocks story bears reveal other things Bearnard is not good at. When he awakens on the day he’s supposed to go to Storybook Land to be in his book, he is ready to throw in the towel.
But. Sometimes a good friend can talk you down from your anxiety fit. Sometimes she helps you see the greatness within you when you can’t see it yourself. Bearnard is fortunate to have that kind of friend in Gertie the goose.
Bearnard’s Book feels like Misa’s book. And my book. During the writing process, I folded myself into the batter—not because I intended to, but because that’s just what writers do. Bearnard has my anxiety and my determination to do a good job. He has a wonderful friend who can help him see himself, just as I do. The book refers to other bear books I love. And the lesson that crept into the book is one I am continually trying to learn, one that many of us need to be reminded of: you are enough, just as you are.
Deborah Underwood is the author of The Quiet Book (a New York Times bestseller and one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010) and The Loud Book and Interstellar Cinderella. Deborah lives in San Francisco.. You can find her on Twitter as @ and online at www.deborahunderwoodbooks.com.