By Nancy Churnin
After publishing 10 nonfiction picture books, my first co-authored book, WHEN MAMA RINGS THE BELL, will come out in Fall 2023, co-authored with Shayna Vincent, for Albert Whitman & Company.
When should you co-author a book rather than be the solo author?
Often, being the solo author is the only option. My first ten books, all picture book biographies, were about people who are not alive. Not much of an opportunity for collaboration there beyond what I could conjure with research and my imagination!
But one doesn’t always co-author with a living subject. The decision to do so is subjective. Here are some factors to consider:
1.Does the subject want to play an active role in telling his or her own story? Some subjects or sources might want to leave it all to you. Others may have strong feelings about making sure their voice is not only heard, but acknowledged in the author credits.
2.Would you be appropriating someone else’s culture or experience by telling their story without them? One of the best way to ensure that you are respecting someone’s culture or experience is to partner with them in telling the story.
3.Would it be more rewarding for you, spiritually, to join voices with someone else?
For me, this third consideration was the deciding factor, although the second factor was important, too. WHEN MAMA RINGS THE BELL is inspired by Shayna Vincent’s experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer as a young mother in her thirties. It is told from the point of view of one of her young daughters.
Shayna didn’t ask to be a co-author when I approached her about telling her story. But as I worked on the manuscript, using her words, her experience, her feelings, her details, it was clear to me that the best story would emerge from our full collaboration. With regard to the third factor, it felt right spiritually to meld our words. With regard to the second factor, it felt right, morally, for her to have the credit she deserved by getting full credit for sharing the story that she wished she had for her daughters when she was diagnosed and would now help others.
Shayna lived the story we were writing. Not only did that merit credit as a co-author, but one of the added benefits was that as a full co-author, Shayna could be an even more powerful spokeswoman for families dealing with cancer and other serious medical conditions.
This is my first co-authored book, but it has been an incredibly rewarding and uplifting experience. I hope to do more.
Nonfiction Ninja Chick Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of 10 picture book biographies. When Mama Rings the Bell, co-authored with Shayna Vincent, is one of her three new books scheduled to be released in Fall 2023. It will be published by Albert Whitman & Company
7/26/2022 09:53:41 am
This sounds like an incredibly powerful story, Nancy, and I look forward to reading it!
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