TeachingBooks.net is delighted to welcome award-winning author and illustrator Cece Bell as our featured guest blogger.
Each month, we ask one distinguished author or illustrator to write an original post that reveals insights about their process and craft. Enjoy!
To All the Great Minds of Computer Science
by Cece Bell
The other day, I was speaking to a group about my book El Deafo (Abrams, 2014), an autobiographical graphic novel that chronicles my experiences growing up as a deaf kid with hearing aids. After my presentation, a man, who happened to be deaf, asked me what I thought was the single most important technological advancement for deaf people since the invention of hearing aids. My answer? The Internet, and more specifically, email.
I wouldn’t be an author and illustrator of children books if it weren’t for the Internet and email. In 2000, I was working as a freelance illustrator and dreaming about a job as an illustrator, and possibly author, of children’s books. But how was I going to become one? It all started with the Internet.
Back then (can you say “back then” when referring to the year 2000?), the Internet was new to me, but I forged ahead and did some online research. There I discovered Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books (Watson-Guptill, 1985) and ordered it. When it magically arrived on my doorstep, I read it and re-read it so many times that I truly believe it is now part of my genetic code.
I let Shulevitz’s process for creating children’s books marinate for a while, and when I was ready to go, wrote Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood (Candlewick, 2003), illustrating and creating a dummy for the story with what I learned from Shulevitz. Now what? The Internet again. There I researched book publishers. Each one had a website with advice on what to send, as well as an address where to send it to. Holy moly!
I was able to find a few publishers that seemed a good fit for Sock Monkey—and were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. I sent my dummy to Candlewick Press. Three months later, there was a message on my phone. My husband Tom told me it was from Candlewick’s Jamie Michalak. She was interested! Gracious! Tom called her and asked her for an email address so that I could communicate directly with her. I sent off an email to Jamie, she wrote back, and suddenly I was officially in the world of children’s books. Ever since that day I have been corresponding with a bunch of amazing editors.
That’s one of the really cool things about email; I’m clearly not the only one who loves it. Almost everybody—even hearing folks—would rather communicate via email. It’s the Great Equalizer. And it has totally, totally, made my life as a children’s book author and illustrator possible. Just think, without email and the Internet, I would never have published the following “Words of Great Importance” from I Yam a Donkey (HMH, June, 2015):
“I yam confused. First you say, ‘I yam a donkey.’ Then you say, ‘I yam a yam.’ HEE-HAW! Yam-a-yam! Yam-a-yam-a-ding-dong! Whatever you is, you is SILLY!”
I lost my hearing 40 years ago this month. One year after I was born, according to Mashable, “U.S. programmer Raymond Tomlinson allegedly sent ‘QWERTYUIOP’ as the first network email, and was the first to connect his computer to his mailbox by using an ‘@’ symbol.”
Thanks, Raymond Tomlinson. You rock the mic! And so do all the other great minds of computer science, for that matter.
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Lori Degman says
I love this post, Cece! I just recently read El Deafo and I can’t wait to share it with my students, who are deaf and hard of hearing, this fall! In the 80’s and 90’s I had students with the box and cord FMs – they’re so much better now! Whenever my kids complain about wearing their FMs, I show them pictures of what my older students had to use. Like you, I think email and texting has been an amazing thing, especially for people who are deaf. Remember the TTY phone? Same idea but so limited! And for me, the internet helped me become a published author. When I first started writing, definitely back in the day (1992), there was no internet and I felt isolated without a writing community. Once the internet came around – holy cow!
Pam Alwran says
We are a second grade class at Devonshire Elementary in Charlotte NC. Today is library day and we looked you up on TeachingBooks.net. We just read the NC Children’s books and voted for I Yam a Donkey as our favorite one. Over 1/2 of the students voted for your book. It was a tough year to vote, there were so many good ones. Every day students come into the library and ask to read I Yam a Donkey.
One student said his favorite part is where the donkey says you are a funny looking donkey.
We watched your video about El Deafo. The boys and girls love it, but I am having a hard time finding a hard back copy for our library.
Keep writing the funny stories – we love them!! Thanks for sharing your story with us in El Deafo!!!
Jaycie Bobo says
Dear Cece Bell,
I have been wondering if there is an “El Deafo 2” coming out because the book out right now is AMAZING!!
One of your greatest fans, Jaycie Bobo