I recently submitted my completed draft to my Thesis advisor and am working on my critical essay until I receive her edits. The first part of the essay is a description of my process of writing the book. I am copying it here so you, too, can see my journey to writing It Chose Three.
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has encouraged and supported me. I am so excited to graduate, and I know I couldn’t have done it without you all rallying around me!
When Three Meant One: How Perspective Impacts Story
In Dr. Sullivan’s History and Criticism of Children’s Literature class I wrote a paper about the under and misrepresentation of characters with disabilities and the importance of introduction of disabilities in picture books. In the following summer of 2015, I listened to CeCe Bell give her talk about how she developed her remarkable graphic novel El Deafo. I believed I had found the idea for my magnus opus – or at least my graduating thesis. I stood at the end of a long line and waited as Bell graciously spoke with everyone and signed their books. After she signed Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover for me, I asked her if she thought it would be fair for me to write a story like hers about a legally-blind character. Would it have the same impact coming from me, who has normal eyesight? With genuine curiosity, she dug into my question. “Who is legally blind?” led to her extricating more from me than I expected and set me on an entirely new path.
My twin sister and I are the youngest of five: four girls and one boy. If you look at any family picture you will not see anything unusual. There are no service dogs or canes. Nothing shows my three sisters have a rare genetic disease called Stargardt Disease, which causes the degeneration of the macula: in other words, the deterioration of the central vision tissue, which presents at an early age.
When Bell looked me in the eyes and said, “You need to write your own story,” it began a very long and difficult process. I plunged into memories and brought guilt and anger to the surface. Up to that point, my focus had been the need to represent those with disabilities correctly and positively. I wanted to tell my sisters’ stories. A major question I asked was, “Who cares about my story?” Both Amanda Cockrell, the Director of the Hollins MFA program, and Bell had to convince me my story mattered. As I turned my gaze inward, I grew to accept what they were saying. My mindset was making me overlook a very important character: the sibling.