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The Birth of a Book

by Christina Laurie

Writing a book is the easy part. That is, after you tweak the characters, revise and edit and revise and cut and rewrite and revise.

It all began when I wrote a board book about ocean creatures. In 2002 I called my writer-sister Becky in Salt Lake City, and she was completing a state book on Utah, "A is for Arches," for Sleeping Bear Press. My thoughts turned to my board book and I saw alphabet.

I wrote to Sleeping Bear Press. "I realize you are nearly done with the state book series, but you forgot one state - Cape Cod." They didn't agree and quickly replied, "We're done with the states and are on to a new series."

I had started the book. So I continued. I began by listing as many Cape Cod things as I could for each letter. After writing poems for many, I chose the best and researched each subject. I sent the book to numerous publishers. No bites. So the book went the way of many – in my "another day" drawer - and I went on to work on other writings.

In the fall of 2011, I received the Islandport Press catalog and saw their new publication, "A is for Acadia." I pulled out my manuscript and sent it off, including the letters Q, W, X, V, U and Y, all difficult letters to feature: Quahoags, whales, xylophone, Vikings, U.S. Coast Guard, and Yacht and Yawl.

The children's editor liked it and pitched my text to the editorial board. Within a month, they accepted the book. However, that was just the beginning.

First were the letters that the editor wanted to change. Sharks (too scary for kids, she said) became seals (much more fun for kids); Vikings (text too long) became vacationers; Tourists became turtles (vacationers is a much nicer word than tourists), and so on. Although I liked P for presidents, they liked Provincetown better (and so do many of my readers!). C for crab became cranberries, which also graced the cover of the book.

Because the photographer, whom they chose, had trouble photographing the Wampanaug tribe, we changed the letter to whales, and a frolicking humpback breached through the W page.

These changes meant I wrote new poems and did more research for the new text to appear with the pictures.

In editing, I shortened many of the poems to fit onto the page.

A hermit crab with pincher claws
crawls on the ocean floor.
It changes houses as it grows
and finds food on the shore.


A young hermit crab
naturally knows
to change its house
each time it grows.

L is for lighthouse, clear and bright
Guiding sailors on a fogy night
Past hidden, dangerous shoals and rocks
Where boats and cargo and sailors are lost.


Tall lighthouses
slender and white
guide sailing vessels
on a foggy night.

My editor also wanted me to get rid of the letter in the poem, so we changed this one:

E's for estuary
where sea folk can breed
our care for these waters
is what they all need.


where fresh water meets salt
sea creatures breed
let's try to give them
the care that they need.

Since Becky and I do a lot of writer talking back and forth, I sought her ideas on some of the poems. She went from serious to comic.

F is for fishermen
And brave whalers too
Who seek their booty
Off the sea so blue.


Wide trawlers
with fish in their belly
slide into docks
Oh! My! They are smelly!

Other letters that I had to change included I, J, O, Q and Y. You need to read the book to see the revised ones.

There also was the editing I did as I read and reread my manuscript.

Down sandy beaches
the surf is so high
guys riding kite boards
nearly touch the sky.


On some sandy beaches
When surf is so high
folks riding kite boards
seem to touch the sky.

To be more kid friendly, I edited down some of the texts. With the bridges I became less factual and omitted much of the dates and details. I had to drop the text about the trash train, which carries 300-600 tons of trash a week across the Cape Cod Canal. The lighthouses also lost some of the facts, like George Washington ordering the Truro lighthouse to be built.

When that was done, I brushed my hands and went on to another project. But for the publisher, the work had just begun. Once the text was approved, photographs were chosen for each letter.

The book went to the artist who laid out the pages, chose the corner design for each page and decided on the shell below each rhyme. Then a cover was chosen from all the photographs Steve had submitted.

Next I received the galleys, the proofs I had to read carefully and edit. Once they were returned, the printing was to begin. With each step, I concentrated on returning the texts, new letters and corrections as quickly as possible.

While the final work was completed, I began to set up appointments for book signings and children's programs, concentrating mostly on Cape Cod bookstores and libraries.

Perhaps the most exciting moment was when an advance copy of the book arrived. I tore open the envelope and jumped up and down, hugging the book to my chest and singing praises for its beauty. (Does every book excite its author this much?) I couldn't believe how my little text was presented in completed form. I fell in love!

Check out my poetry blog at and read my weekly features on

Events & Books Signings


June 28, 10:30 a.m.
Eight Cousins, Falmouth
June 28, 1-4 p.m.,
Books by the Sea, Osterville


July 5, 10 am Market Street Bookshop
Mashpee Commons.
July 12, Preceding the parade,
Books by the Sea, Osterville
July 12, 11:30-1:30, Ansel Gurney House, Marion
July 16, 4 p.m., Cotuit Library
July 23, 10 a.m., Children's Hour at
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham


August 13, 10-noon, Brewster Bookstore
August 15, 11-2, Yellow Umbrella, Chatham
August (undated) Children's hour,
Falmouth Library

Photograph by Steve Heaslip

An award winning poet, Christina Laurie has written hundreds of poems and haiku, which have been published since 1976 in Canada, England, Japan and throughout the U.S. She has received numerous prizes for her works and has presented workshops for elementary schools, book clubs, community colleges and senior centers.

Born in Worcester, Christina raised her family in the Boston area and retired to Cape Cod where she volunteers, swims, golfs, bikes, kayaks, writes and skis. She is a former newspaper writer and editor and pastored United Methodist churches for a decade before becoming a Hospice chaplain.

She is presently the First National Vice President of the National League of American Pen Women, a professional group of women writers, artists and musicians. She also is a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), American Haiku Society, Academy of American Poets, Mass. State Poetry Society, Christian Writers of America, the Cape Cod Writers Center, Steeple Street (Mashpee) Poets, and Cape Cod Children's Writers.

Check out Christina's poetry blog at and read her weekly features on