How I Overcame the Biggest Challenge to Writing My First Picture Book


When it came to writing my first picture book, I was ready. I had conceived the plot of The Biggest Little Brother, a fictional story of a Sierra Leonean family living in Atlanta loosely based on my own experiences.  I had the title and character names planned out. But months and months went by before I actually put pen to paper and began to write.  

I had all kinds of reasons why I did not write from being too busy to not having the other equipment (yes, equipment) to needing to do more research to even needing to take a nap first. If you could think of a reason not to write, I surely used it.

Surprisingly, I am not alone and one of the most challenging steps for myself and many other first time authors to writing a children's picture book is actually writing!

You can have the entire story brainstormed in your mind from the plot to the character names to the setting but still find reasons to actually put pen to paper.

Why is that though?


I was worried about whether my writing was actually any good. I mean I was not an English major in college, and while teachers always marked my writing well, maybe it doesn't hold up to what is on bookshelves. 

I was scared that no one would understand my story. Is a story with immigration themes that touch on the taboo topic of family separation and features a Black protagonist going to resonate with American readers?

I feared what other Sierra Leoneans would think of it. Should have told the story differently? Should the story have been based in Sierra Leone? Would it be "accepted" by the people of my community? 

Fundamentally, my fear was rooted in not believing my voice had a place in a book.

How did I get over that fear?

Well, is a work in progress, and it is not entirely over. However, I decided despite all my doubt and negative self-talk (the antithesis of all creatives) I would write. So I sat down, and forced myself to write my preliminary manuscript for The Biggest Little Brother and not stop until I reached the end.

Thankfully, that first rough draft is not what made it to press, but if I had not committed to writing #byforcebyforce, my dream book would be found in my mind and nowhere else.

So the secret to writing that book you have meant to write is to write it! Do not let fear get in your way. This is particularly true for authors of color publishing in a prominently white industry. The importance of children being able to read authentic stories that both represent their experiences but also challenge dominant stereotypes is priceless. 

Aminata JallohComment