Written and Illustrated by Nancy Cote
2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20
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Birth of a Story
by Nancy Cote
Leonard’s Beard, was destined to be written in rhyme. On the day the seed for the story was planted in my mind, the wind was blowing hard. It was a beautiful, sunny, Fall afternoon and my husband had just come home from work. He entered through the door in my studio. The wind caught the door and slammed it against the wall. A powerful gust of wind entered the room blowing my notebooks and folders to the floor. My two dogs scrambled to get to them before I could.
One of the folders that contained photos I had taken of my neighbor Leonard in his writing studio, spilled out under trampling dog feet. As I distracted the dogs and gathered the pictures up from the floor, my husband asked if I’d gotten to rake any leaves in the yard. I guiltily answered no, as I continued sorting the photos and placing them back into a folder titled “Leonard.” Glancing once again at the photos, I started to smile and my mind began racing. I thought about the leaves I hadn’t raked and mentioned to my husband with a laugh, that I didn’t have to rake. The leaves would all find their way to the bottom of the hill and into Leonard’s yard anyway. At that moment, the thought expanded. I imagined if Leonard was standing outside in his yard, that whatever would blow downhill just might land in his beard. Since my eccentric neighbor wore a large red beard, everything might get caught and trapped in that beard. I literally felt the rhythm of the day bouncing in my head as the first line of the story was etched in my mind. “Below a great hill, in a house by a bog, lived a writer named Leonard, his dogs, and a frog.” It was the rhythm of the day, and in that moment, I didn’t choose a writing style as much as the rhyme chose itself.
There was no question that this stormy story sang a song. The story of a writer who loses his direction, then finds it due to a wind storm, blew into my imagination and was set free on the wings of rhyme.
Leonard’s Beard, is essentially about living in the moment and not losing sight of what’s important to you. Through joyful language and pictures it reminds us that it doesn’t have to take a wind storm to be yourself, but sometimes it helps!
I’ve written eight picture books and three of them were written in rhyme. I believe that instinctually you know through the characters, subject matter and intent of the story, what style of writing will compliment that story. Like a symphony, music is intended to convey a mood, and I believe writing style does the same.
If you allow yourself to be free of overanalyzing and controlling, the expression will come naturally. That is the magic.
Nancy Cote, an award winning Children’s Book Author / Illustrator, has illustrated over forty picture books and has written eight of her own.
Her stories, illustrations, paintings and poems have been featured in many exhibits, collections and children’s magazines throughout the U.S. She is currently earning International recognition for three picture books she illustrated for Ariella Books of Berlin, Germany.
She was featured at the University of Southern California Book Festival having illustrated the first three books of the ReadConmigo award winning series of bi-lingual books and is a full member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Currently she is being represented by the Liza Royce Agency in NYC.
Nancy earned a B.F.A. in Painting at U. Mass, Dartmouth and worked part-time in the children’s department of the Swansea Library for sixteen years, until she ventured out as a freelance author/illustrator with the encouragement of her husband Mike, and her family. She works full-time from her home studio in the historic village of Somerset, MA.
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