A Story for You
Once upon a time, there was a Peabody graduate who was nanny to four children. After washing the family dog one day, she was inspired to write a children’s picture book called The Great Dog Wash. She entered it in a contest and won! The book was published by a famous New York publishing house and put into 1.5 million boxes of Cheerios. The End.
Like most true stories, this one is a bit more complex, and it certainly hasn’t ended for Shellie Braeuner. Like all good tellers of tales, she started early and has built on her craft.
“According to my parents, I was telling stories from the moment I could talk,” Braeuner says. “When the National Geographic would come, I would look through all the different pictures and string them together into a story. To this day, my sister swears I always knew how to read.”
As a master’s student in human development counseling, Braeuner used stories therapeutically while working with adolescents. After becoming a nanny, she used stories to help her young charges deal with a move out of state.
“We would use Bambi, because those were the little figures that were in the McDonald Happy Meals at the time,” Braeuner says. “They didn’t know anyone, so I would tell stories about Bambi—what was it like, how do you think he felt when this or that happened—and they could act them out.
“The family I nanny for said,‘You really need to publish some of these stories,’” Braeuner says. “My family had been telling me this all along, but I had pooh-poohed the idea, because they’re my family. But when they said it, I thought, well, maybe so.”
I’d love to have the kind of writing career where kids could enjoy my books in their parents’ laps and then move on to enjoy my books at other ages.
After moving back to Nashville with the family about five years ago, Braeuner made a concerted effort to become a professional children’s book writer. She joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and started attending workshops and conferences, learning from published writers, editors and illustrators. One editor encouraged her to enter more contests, which led to her entering the Cheerios Spoonful of Stories on the last day of the contest.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to agonize over every word” Braeuner says. “They said what they really liked about it was its energy, its humor and that it’s as simple as possible.”
Now, Braeuner not only has more confidence in herself and her work, she also has an agent.
“I’ve got a couple of picture books, a middle-grade novel, and I’m working on a young adult novel,” she says. “I’d love to have the kind of writing career where kids could enjoy my books in their parents’ laps and then move on to enjoy my books at other ages.”
That would make for a very happy ending.