Melissa Yapp, the author of 'My Puppy’s A Poo Magician', a story book for children who are scared to poo, shares how her idea became a reality.

Children’s books are really quite magical. They have the ability to transport children to imaginary places, share plots and characters that they would otherwise never know whilst modelling delicious sentence structure and grammar. Perhaps it is these reasons why I have always had that drive within me to write a children’s book. Even as a child I would sit happily at the typewriter (yes! A typewriter!) and Mum and Dad were always encouraging me to write my next pet-themed saga (there were many!). Once I started my career, that tug to ‘write that book’ never really went away. Once I also became a wife and mother, it became clear that if I WAS to write a book, it had to include an important message - a gateway for parents to start a conversation with their children about an issue that mattered.

Why The Topic of Encopresis and Constipation?

Meatball the puppyThroughout my career, both as a teacher and a speech pathologist, I have seen how silent and frustrating the issues of constipation, stool withholding and encopresis can be for families to navigate. The limited education and support available around these all-consuming, medical issues can leave families, teachers and other professionals feeling quite helpless. In my quest to help, my first thought was to go story book shopping, thinking that 'there has to be a book for that'. When I couldn't find what I needed, the concept of 'My Puppy's A Poo Magician!' was born.

The limited education and support available around these all-consuming, medical issues can leave families, teachers and other professionals feeling quite helpless.

How The Story Evolved

When I look back to the early versions of ‘My Puppy’s A Poo Magician!’, I cringe! Initially, I wrote the story in rhyming form (kids love rhyming stories right?). I worked meticulously on getting the rhyming and structure “correct” and thought I had produced a winner. I even sent it off to a few publishers! When I heard nothing back (after 2 days!), I became discouraged. I had also researched illustrators and realised that I did NOT have the funds to pay a professional – and my stick figure drawing skills were not going to cut it! Feeling deflated, I shoved the story in my drawer and ‘got on with life’.

I thought - What do kids with stool withholding issues want most? They want their poos to disappear! And who can make things disappear

It was a few months later when my Mum checked in and asked ‘how’s your book going?’ that I thought it was time to revisit the project. Reading over my story again, I realised what it was missing: the story wasn’t FUN. The precise rhyming structure was actually getting in the way of sharing the important message. I realised that even though I put on my ‘kiddies’ hat as a speech pathologist every day, I hadn’t been doing that when I was writing!  So I put on my “kiddies” hat for a minute and thought - What do kids with stool withholding issues want most? They want their poos to disappear! And who can make things disappear – magicians of course!! That’s when the story really started take to take shape. In one weekend, I completely changed the whole story structure. Out went the rhyme and in came simple sentences and a stronger plot, allowing the important message to shine through.

I also had success in finding an illustrator – my wonderful boss suggested contacting a colleague’s sister, who just happened to be an illustrator! From our first meeting, Sarah and I were completely on the same page (!). She specialises in illustrating animals and was the perfect fit to portray Meatball the puppy’s journey and emotions. I am still amazed at how she has made my words come to life with her beautiful imagery – plus she is an all-round beautiful person!

 My Kids Loved It…But What About the Rest of the World?

Once I was happy with the revised story, I wanted to ‘test’ if the story would work in the real world. Of course my family gave it raving reviews but that’s their job! I needed objective readers who could relate to the subject matter. I approached a couple of Facebook groups that focus on Encopresis and Constipation and asked if anyone would be happy to offer a review. I was inundated with offers! I sent it off to ten readers, along with a super quick survey for them to complete about the book. The response was very positive and it seemed that this book could ‘work’ in the real world. So now to get it published!

How I Self Published the Story

After a lot research self publishing, Amazon seemed to be the best fit for me – it’s accessible and well known all over the world and most importantly, they print on demand, which means no upfront cost and no need to store hundreds of copies of my book in my home office!

Top Tips for Publishing Your Own Story

  1. Pick a topic you are passionate about: This process of writing, formatting and publishing took me 12 months in total! It is a marathon, not a sprint, so make sure you choose a topic that you are passionate about and are happy to talk about for a LONG time.
  2. Keep editing until you are proud of your work: So many times throughout the process, tired and frustrated, I would find myself saying ‘Oh that’s close enough!’. Luckily my husband is great with attention to detail and would help me to stay motivated to make it the best I could make it.
  3. Connect with professionals and families who are interested in your story topic: Take the time to research your topic and don’t be afraid to ask for professional advice.

Writing and publishing a book has been a wonderful legacy and bucket list item for me. I have grown so much during the process and feel confident that I will approach the sequel (yes, the sequel!) with more knowledge and headspace.

Looking for tips on how to use shared stories to start conversations with your child? Download a FREE cheat sheet ’10 Questions to Start the Conversation With Your Child Following Shared Reading’.

Buy My Puppy's a Poo Magician 

AUTHOR BIO:

Melissa YappMelissa Yapp is a speech pathologist and a former special education teacher. When she’s not working or spending time with her husband and two spirited children, she can be found creating resources for professionals and families. For more resources, competitions and giveaways, visit www.theteachingspeechie.com,  follow Melissa on Instagram and Facebook @teachingspeechie or send her a message at [email protected]