Two authors with local ties have written books with themes from both sides of the parent-child dynamic.
Marana resident Lori Alexander will have her first children’s book, “Backhoe Joe” published this fall and the road construction in the town was an inspiration. Alexander’s son Max was fascinated with big trucks and other construction equipment, so she often found herself looking at a lot of construction sites.
“I found myself constantly stuck in traffic, as we sought out road-widening projects so he could see the machines in action,” Alexander said. “Some days, I wished my son had been a dinosaur fanatic instead. But in the end, his love of construction inspired Backhoe Joe, as we spent many hours together imaging what it would be like to have a backhoe of our very own.”
The book, a picture book for children that comes out in mid September, is about a named Nolan, who finds a “stray” backhoe in the street. He names him Joe and can’t wait to adopt him.
“Backhoe Joe is not very well behaved,” explained Alexander. “He revs at the mailman. He digs in garbage. As Nolan tries to train his new pet, he learns that this backhoe might already have a home.”
While writing a 40-page children’s book may seem easy, it is actually a very lengthy process. Alexander’s initial story went through a number of re-writes. She turned to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for guidance and also went to writing classes and critique groups. It wasn’t until she found an agent that things started to really get moving.
“Things moved quicker after I found an agent to represent my work,” said Alexander. “The text for Backhoe Joe sold in the summer of 2012.”
Making the sale was just the first step. She had to work with a number of people at Harper Collins, as well as illustrator Craig Cameron, whose vibrant illustrations bring a charming, but vital, cartoony-feel to the story.
“It takes about two years, and loads of dedicated people who love children’s literature, to create the titles we see in the bookstores,” said Alexander. “Tons of work goes into the illustrations, cover design, printing, distribution, sales, and marketing of a picture book.”
The book will be released on September 16 and there will be a release party at the Foothills Mall Barnes and Noble a few days later. She signed a two-book deal and is already working on another Backhoe Joe story, as well as a variety of other writing projects she hopes she the light of day.
Whit Honea is the son of Marana Mayor Ed Honea. Now living in Los Angeles, Honea has just had his book the Parents’ Phrase Book released earlier this year. It is designed to help parents answer the tricky questions that children always have.
Honea spent 10 years writing about parenting and childhood for outlets like Disney, BabyCenter, Wired, Babble and Huffington Post, among many others.
“At some point it just became obvious that a book was the next step,” Honea said.
He soon found a publisher, Adams Media, that also liked his previous writing and they set out to release a book. Both sides had ideas of what the book should be, and while they differed slightly, their overall vision was not too far a part.
“They wanted a tool to help establish better communication between parents and children, which is what the book is at its core, but I wanted a guide to empathy, happiness, and being the best person that we can be, and that’s there, too,” Honea said. “It was a pretty easy compromise.”
Honea had to change how he wrote. He went from writing short pieces and blogs, to having to produce a full 240-page book. It took a little adjustment, but the lifelong writer who attended Pima College and the University of Arizona soon found a groove.
“The most notable change was the overwhelming scale of the project,” Honea said. “Generally speaking I would tackle any one of the topics included in the book as its own focus, but for this I was committed to a seemingly endless number of situations and they just kept coming. That said, finding topics that had a broad enough reach to appeal to a large audience while still maintaining a personal touch was tricky at times, which is why I included essays and stories to support some sections.”
The stories he tells in the book, though not always from his viewpoint, are all things that really happened to his family.
“I think that helps to connect with readers on a more personable level, honesty is always relatable,” Honea said.
Like Alexander, Honea has another book on the horizon, which he says will be “a lot less helpful but with more action.”
He is also working on non-writing projects like Dad 2.0 Summit, which is a conference on modern fatherhood, a couple of new websites for social good and a very funny web series.
“I like to stay busy,” Honea said.
With a lot of family in the area, and deep ties to the Marana community, Honea gets back a few times a year and was actually in town at the beginning of August to promote his book.