Hooray for the CSA!

This article first appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of CSA Voices. You can read more about Karen and purchase her book here.

book

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write feel-good books for young children who stutter.

I’m now 44 years of age, and the memories of being teased at school as a child are still quite vivid. Because of what I experienced, I’ve always wanted to help young children who stutter. I thought that writing encouraging children’s books would be a good way to accomplish this.

In the last few years, with the help of a great Speech-Language Pathologist, I’ve come a long way in my journey toward acceptance of my stuttering, and the greater confidence that comes with it. Recently, I finally felt ready to start my book project.

However, I didn’t have a clue how to write or publish a book! Neither had I ever been involved with stuttering support organizations or networks, and didn’t know where to turn to research my storyline ideas, or to see what similar books might already exist.

I solved the first problem by purchasing a great how-to book on publishing in Canada. I pretty much followed it step-by-step, and the process wasn’t as difficult as I imagined.

My husband then sent an inquiry to the Canadian Stuttering Association after finding their website through a Google search. I still remember Jeff’s excitement when he got an almost immediate e-mail response from Jaan Pill, CSA National Coordinator. This was followed by several more e-mails from Jaan, some of which forwarded notes, links and listings of children’s books from people like Lisa Wilder and Judy Kuster. This was all very encouraging!

With their help I found out that there were not very many children’s books about stuttering on the market, and so there was room for a story like the one I had in mind. I then went back to the CSA website to review relevant resource material, and to check out the websites of other major stuttering support organizations such as the American organization, the National Stuttering Association, and the British Stammering Association. Information from these sites helped me to fine-tune details of my story.

Once I had a reasonably complete draft of my manuscript, the first person I sent it to for feedback was Jaan. I was terrified to show it to anyone since I’d never written anything for public consumption before!  But he was very positive and offered helpful suggestions. My confidence boosted, I sent the draft to other experts for even more feedback.

At this point, I again used the CSA website, to locate contacts in other stuttering support organizations. I sent the draft manuscript to about a dozen people in various organizations, and received a response in almost every case. This round of consultation resulted in more positive feedback and suggestions, and gave me the confidence to take the final step to self-publish my book.  I’m happy to say that Hooray for Aiden was published in late May of this year!  Intended for children age 4-9, it is about Aiden, a young girl who stutters, overcoming her fear of speaking at a new school.

Then I was faced with the question of how to get the book out there to its audience. Jaan sent more helpful e-mails on the uses of social media for marketing purposes. I hadn’t really thought much about the potential of sites like Facebook, or how social media may be one of the best ways to market Hooray for Aiden!

Jaan also put me in touch with Daniele Rossi, a podcaster and blogger, whose site “Stuttering is Cool” is well known within the stuttering community. Daniele sent me several helpful e-mails about on-line promotion, and invited me to do a podcast with him, which I hope to do soon. Daniele also introduced me to another great person, Pam Mertz of Albany, New York, who helped me raise awareness about my book.

Speaking about raising awareness, the CSA has posted short articles advertising Hooray for Aiden on the main website and the CSA Facebook page. I am very grateful for this kind of assistance. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without the CSA I may not have published Hooray for Aiden. Without their help and encouragement, and the resources offered on the website (the revamped site is great), I don’t think I could have done it!

A side benefit of my project has been meeting many terrific people from the stuttering community, both within Canada and worldwide – including CSA board members like Jaan Pill and Lisa Wilder. It feels good now to be more “plugged in”.  When you live in a huge, remote place like the Northwest Territories, with a spread out population, there’s not a whole lot of fellow stutterers to network with locally. My new sense of connectedness all started with an e-mail last fall to the CSA....Hooray for the CSA!