Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
I Love Writing
I love writing! Since I was old enough to put a crayon to paper, I have always enjoyed creating stories, divulging feelings, and recording facts on paper through word or art. At least since age 10, I was determined to be an author—however, at that age I never could have imagined that my first published piece of work would be a book about potty training for children.
Seventeen years later, I had three children, all with autism, and all in diapers. Toilet training was very important and was on my mind more than frequently. It was almost constantly! I had bought, borrowed, or rented about every book or toy available at the time that pertained at all to potty training. Nothing worked.
I wanted to relax and do something that I enjoyed. I needed to take a much-needed break from such stress that most could not imagine. There was no way to justify such a luxury when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in visual communications, my husband was completing his degree in business management and information systems, he was working full time, and we had three children—who were smearing poop on the walls, beating their heads into things, eating sheetrock and wood right off the walls and the windowsills, and so on.
Finally, at a complete loss and in meltdown myself one day after my 3-year-old daughter had stripped naked at a grocery store and screamed so loud that an old lady had accused me of kidnapping and I had to leave without even buying my groceries, I dropped by my bedside and fell on my knees. I am a religious person, and have been my whole life. I knew how to pray and had prayed oh so often, but I had never before “cried unto the Lord” the way I did that afternoon.
This time I got an answer. The answer was just a thought in a weary mind that could not have thought of anything but sleep, help, and rest from my troubles at that moment. Yet, this thought was clear and confident, not my thought. It came as a question. “Why not use your talents, hobbies, and skills to give yourself a break and improve your situation?”
“What?” I asked in my mind. What is He referring to? I thought. My mind was fuzzy after such a lack of sleep, having children who never slept without medication and still slept only a couple of hours. At one point, my oldest child had gone just shy of four days straight without so much as a nap. So my husband and I had been taking shifts watching her to keep her from hurting herself.
At this point, she was six years old and was very limited in her verbal skills. But when I changed her poopy diapers, I would take her hand and try to help her wipe herself, but she screamed and threw the wipes at me. I would say, “This is your job! You need to do this. Big girls go potty on the toilet.” All she could say was “No, Mommy’s job,” repeatedly.
As I pondered what God could be referring to, how to get this break, and how to help my situation, the thought came as a question again from God. “Your degree is in visual communications, is it not? So then why not communicate visually? Use the talents in art and writing that I have blessed you with to bless yourself, your children, and then others.”
So—I got up, stopped my crying, and got busy. I stayed up until almost three every night. Some nights I never went to bed. I learned how to use computer programs to scan my art into the computer and how to do layout designs and such, until finally, with God’s help, I was able to create a step-by-step, fully illustrated, 32-page book about how to go potty on the toilet, emphasizing that your parents would still love you and be proud of you, even though you were no longer a baby.
After printing out my book and hand-laminating every page, so that my daughter would not tear it to shreds, I presented it to her. After only one week of using it with her, and after years of working with specialists, and everything else I could—she was finally potty-trained. She has never had an accident since. Not too much later, my 5-year-old daughter, also with autism and not potty-trained and with her own set of serious problems, picked up the book on her own, looked at it, copied the steps, and toilet-trained herself.
I had mentioned this to a few friends who had children or grandchildren of their own with autism. One of these friends asked to borrow the book and used it with her 9-year-old granddaughter, who was autistic and still in diapers. A week later, she came to my house crying and thanking me for writing it and telling me that it worked. Her granddaughter was now using the toilet. After sharing this with many people whom it helped, including my younger sister, who used it with her nonautistic child, many of them began to encourage me to publish the book.
I said I did not have the time or energy, as I had attempted to publish a different children’s book before and knew the time and energy it took and knew the rejection from big companies and such also. Finally, my sister searched me and found ten pages of publishers that she thought might want to publish this book. I looked through the list and felt inspired to give one of the companies a call.
Never realizing that I would be speaking to the publishing house owner, assuming I would get a secretary, I called Publication Consultants. I was talking with Evan Swensen, the company owner, but did not know this. I then asked if he could forward the manuscript he had requested to the owner or the person in charge. He kindly said, “I am the owner and the guy in charge, and I am interested in your book.” He was so humble and helpful and friendly that I thought I had been talking to an editor or secretary. I had no idea that he was the owner, editor, secretary, and everything all in one.
Since publishing No More Diaper for Girls, I have also published No More Diaper for Boys, and The Alaska Sun Turns Silly in the Summertime through Publication Consultants. I have many other books in the process. My prayers were truly answered. I was not only able to improve my situation, but my children are all toilet-trained, reading above the grade level of their peers, and most people do not even know or recognize that they have autism. They help clean the house and help with our farm, and now they are helping clean up chicken poop, instead of wiping their own on the walls of our home. Creating and publishing this book has helped my children, myself, and many others, and I have been very grateful to those who have written to me and told me of their joy and success stories after using the No More Diaper books.