How I Betrayed My Children (While Writing With Them) #KidLit

Children’s book authors like to make kids cry, a tradition that goes back to parricidal folktales and fairytales. L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is no exception:

In the parlor lay Matthew Cuthbert in his coffin, his long gray hair framing his placid face on which there was a little kindly smile as if he but slept, dreaming pleasant dreams. There were flowers about him–sweet old-fashioned flowers which his mother had planted in the homestead garden in her bridal days and for which Matthew had always had a secret, wordless love. Anne had gathered them and brought them to him, her anguished tearless eyes burning in her white face. It was the last thing she could do for him.

With Anusha of Prospect Corner–the updated Anne of Green Gables story I’ve been writing with my twins that reflects our ethnic background and community–I’ve dreaded getting to the point where we have to do something about Manoj, our version of Matthew.*

When we started this project, my daughters made one request: “Whatever you do, don’t kill Matthew.”

“Okay,” I said, wondering if it was a promise I could keep. We’ve made many changes to L. M. Montgomery’s classic tale–and not only to the names and heritages of the characters. However, Matthew’s death is an important turning point in the original. What can be analogous to that in our version?

I thought I had come up with a solution, a compromise. Well…

With my twins’ permission, I have posted the following picture to show you how they responded to the “compromise” in the final chapters of Anusha:

Mommy Betrayed Us

I took this picture with my phone while giving my daughters a few minutes to calm down. Then, we spent the next hour tweaking the story to their satisfaction.

Quite frankly, the girls improved it. I should’ve listened to them in the first place.

A full draft of Anusha of Prospect Corner is now finished! 🙂

________________________________________
anusha-front-cover-smaller*For more on the process of writing Anusha, see:

*Update: Anusha of Prospect Corner is out now. Find it on:

32 thoughts on “How I Betrayed My Children (While Writing With Them) #KidLit

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  3. I agree – if there was one thing I could change about Anne of Green Gables, it would be not to kill Matthew. It’s fiction, and he can live as long as the author wants him to. He was a brilliant big soft character, full of sweetness and wisdom, and humour, and I thought it was a real shame when he died.

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    1. They are so proud of the story! It’s adorable. We had a very positive reaction from our beta readers, and my girls were just grinning ear to ear when they heard the responses. 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s been so much fun to do this project. I love Anne of Green Gables, and so do my girls. We’re going to have to visit PEI at some point (I hope soon!).

      I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the story yet. I’ve loved self-publishing (especially designing the covers!), but I’m considering submitting the story to a couple of indie presses. We’ll see. I’ve never written a query letter before, and I’m still researching the process.

      1. raidergirl3

        I know nothing about publishing, but with so much about Anne here, think about publishers in the Maritimes. There are small indie presses up here. Also, if you self publish, let the media up here know about it too. I could see the newspaper doing a little story.
        Let me know if you plan a trip and need any ideas 🙂

  7. Look at those faces! They are so precious. As sad and sobbing as a story might make me feel, when I was a kid I loved it when a book was so emotionally devastating. Congratulations on finishing a full draft!

    1. Thank you! This has been a fun project. I’ve learned so much about my girls. I wonder if what happens to Manoj would be as devastating for other children. For my girls, he’s basically part of the family because they helped create him.

  8. Jaclyn

    Awwwww, those faces! Seems like Anusha is working out to be a wonderfully moving story.

    My mom likes to tell a story about when I was a kid – a little older than the twins, I think, because I was old enough to get off the bus and mind myself while waiting for my parents to get home from work. She came home one day and I greeted her with a tear-streaked face and puffy eyes. My mom was immediately worried that I was injured or that something terrible had happened at school. She asked me what was wrong and I wailed, “Matthew DIIIIIIIIIIIED!” A few follow up questions and she discovered that I had been watching the Megan Followes movie version of Anne. (And I had read the book before, many times, so Matthew dying was not new information.) She comforted me but to this day can’t tell the story without laughing.

    1. That’s a very sweet story. I wonder if you actually were older than the twins. The 80s was a completely different time! I walked home by myself from the bus stop at 5, but I can’t remember how old I was before I was allowed to stay home by myself for short periods of time.

      I remember reading the chapter about Matthew’s death. It broke my heart too. With Anusha, I knew the compromise would be challenging for my twins, but it was worse than I expected. It was an ambiguous ending, and my girls wanted more details about Manoj’s prognosis. I wonder if other kids would be as emotional about it as my girls were. For them, Manoj is basically a family member (considering the role they played in creating him!).

  9. I remember reading the chapter when Matthew dies and feeling so sad. I’m curious what your compromise was — judging by your twins’ expressions, it seems to have caused some anguish! Glad that it’s all sorted now. And congratulations on finishing the first draft! 🙂

    1. I remember reading that chapter too, and I remember crying. With Anusha, the initial compromise was ambiguous about Manoj’s recovery. The revision still makes my daughters tear up–less so with every re-read during the editing process, of course–but they like having more information about his prognosis. Samira (the one with the glasses in the picture) was adamant about certain changes. She’s such a soft-hearted little thing, and she identifies with Manoj like he’s a member of our family. I don’t know if other children would feel as emotional about it.

    1. Thanks! We’ve had so much fun writing this story. I’ve learned a lot about how my girls see their racial identity (which wasn’t obvious). I’m looking forward to doing this type of project again with my youngest, who is a natural storyteller. At her pre-K graduation last week, her teacher thanked her for her imaginative stories. I can’t wait to see what she ends up writing someday. 🙂

      1. I wish my mother had been half as attentive when I was growing up. Unfortunately, she was not the caring, loving sort. Your kids are lucky to have you, and what wonderful memories you’re creating!

    1. It was heart-wrenching, but thankfully, they were happy with the final results. The story is with beta readers now. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it.

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