Years ago when my children were in elementary school, the son of a good friend wrote a little report on me. In the report, he talked about my books and at the end he wrote something like this: “I admire Nancy Carlson because she’s just like a kid.” I thought that was the best compliment a kid could give me.
My husband Barry once said almost the same thing about me. We were at a party and I overheard him say, “Nancy writes picture books because she never grew up.” I remember being a little irritated hearing him say that, but I knew he was right. Back then I did live in my own childlike world of imagination, even though I was by then the mother of three children.
I wonder if the child inside me is still there? When Barry got sick with FTD, I sure had to put on my big girl shoes and get my act together. I am not saying the child inside didn’t come out now and then on the journey with his illness. I would still imagine fairies hiding in the forests that I hiked. I would imagine that out of the blue Barry was cured because I discovered a magic pill for FTD. That is definitely the way a child would think.
For three years, I have been writing a memoir about this journey with FTD. Three drafts contained just words with very little art. By the fourth draft on the advice of my agent, it became more like a graphic novel. I thought, oh boy, I get to draw pictures again. But there were no little bunnies or dogs in this artwork. Instead horrible memories became much, much more painful to remember through images rather than words. I had to be a grownup every time I sat down to work on the book. It took almost a year of fits and starts to get it written and illustrated. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Now the manuscript is in my agent’s hands to hopefully sell to a publisher.
Since handing the book over, I took a little trip for my 65th birthday. I saw new places and ate new foods. I spent hours and hours in museums as I had often dreamed about doing when Barry was sick. It felt good to see new things far removed from our FTD journey. But I had to be a grownup as I tried to figure out traveling on my own.
Now I am back home busy speaking in schools during the day and at night looking at the pile of picture book ideas sitting untouched on my drawing table. In the pile is that naughty squirrel so wanting to get into some trouble. There are talking vegetables and that space loving frog. The pile also is filled with pigs, birds, fish and slugs all wondering when in the heck old Nancy is going to give them their stories. They have been waiting a long time while I worked on the memoir. But be patient guys, because as Picasso once said, “It takes a long time to become young.”