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Child Abuse Awareness Month: Lena & The Dragon & Meet the Blogger

Happy Picture Book Therapy Thursday friends! Tomorrow is the first day of April and Child Abuse Awareness month. For the month of April, I am focusing in specifically on picture books that deal with issues around child abuse, domestic violence, and trauma.

I'm kicking off this series by doing the thing I find terribly awkward-- self promotion!

During the month of April, I am running a Kickstarter to self-publish my picture book LENA & THE DRAGON!

This post has everything: cute therapist, winner from a giveaway, vulnerability, picture books on tough topics, AND a book trailer! Keep reading to find out more.

First, CONGRATS to our winner from last week's giveaway, Jenna Johnson! You've won a copy of "IT WILL BE OK" by Lisa Katzenberger.

So, without further ado, here's a bit more about me.

Who's the girl behind the blog?

I am an active member of both SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge as well as a scholarship alumni of Highlights Foundation and a winner of the 2022 Kid's Choice Kid Lit Writing Contest. I live in Longview, TX with my husband, daughter, and pets. When I’m not writing, I work as a therapist and social worker. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @bookshelfofbeth.

What inspired Lena & the Dragon?

Lena & the Dragon came about from two places: my childhood and my job. I had just finished a counseling session with a client, and suddenly this story popped into my head. I’d never had any real desire to write a picture book, but this girl and her dragon just wouldn’t let me be until her story was out. Many of my clients experienced trauma during their childhood, or are currently working through trauma as a child. Unfortunately, I was abused as a child. Much like Lena, I tried to ignore it in hopes it would just go away. As an adult, I am finally able to process all those emotions and trauma. Lena & The Dragon is another form of that processing.

What was the process like from inspiration to publication?

After the initial inspiration and writing the first draft, I jumped the gun and tried to query right away. I knew nothing about the publishing or writing world and got several form rejections. However, I did know that I wanted this story in the hands of kids, so I decided to buckle down and learn more. I had a wonderful critique done by Jennifer Rees through Reedsy that really shaped up my story and allowed me to make it shine. I joined the writing community on Twitter, took some online classes, and found critique partners. Nearly a year later, I finally felt that the manuscript was complete.

During all of this, I realized that the market for a picture book on childhood trauma is slim. I was very passionate about seeing this book out in the world for children to relate to and clinicians to have as a tool. I chose to take on the task of self-publishing. I found Rodrigo and his incredible illustrative talent, and knew right away he was the one to partner with me in bringing Lena & the Dragon to life.

My favorite scene to write:

In the story, Lena eventually comes forward and opens up about her trauma with her parents. She joins a therapy group of children who have experienced trauma. When she walks into the group meeting, she immediately sees a room full of kids and dragons– in all shapes, sizes, and colors. This is my favorite scene: that realization that she isn’t alone and all the diversity that comes with that. I can’t wait to see what Rodrigo does with this!

Why is this book important for kids to have on the shelves?

Trauma isn't something we like to talk about because it seems like a scary thing. The reality is most kids will experience at least one type of trauma before their 18. Unfortunately, with the recent pandemic, our children now have all experienced a collective trauma. This book can help kids make sense of the things they're feeling.

How can parents, teachers, or counselors could use Lena & the Dragon to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

This book was written specifically with the goal of being a tool that parents, teachers, and counselors could use to engage in what could potentially be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation with kids-- but an important one. By discussing how Lena acts, how the dragon acts, what trauma is the discussion should come about organically. Additionally, I am working on a companion guide with a few worksheets, discussion prompts, and coloring sheets.

What comes next in this project?

In order to fund the publication of this project, I am running a Kickstarter campaign for the month of April (Child Abuse Prevention Month). By raising the initial funds for the publication of the book, I will be able to sell the book at cost to print. This will mean the book can get into the hands of more kids who need it! For every 10 books sold, I will donate 1 to a nonprofit, child care center, school, children’s advocacy center, or other organization that could utilize the book.

When we meet our goal (just going to speak it into existence here), Rodrigo will complete the illustrations and book design. We have a target date of December 2022 for the publication.

To help spread the word about Lena & the Dragon, I am hosting an ART CONTEST later this month! Be sure to check back April 4th for more details.

For now, check out the book trailer below!

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