In a fit of frustration over a job I hated I hastily wrote a children's story. Two months later, after I had put the story aside, I lost my job. As a single mom to a child with special needs, I freaked out. What the heck was I going to do? I had four months' salary saved up, which at least let me handle rent, car, bills, etc., but I had just signed a new lease. Knowing the money would run out fast and not wanting to go on food stamps, I pulled out the story I had written and got in contact with a local art student. If the world was going to lean on me, I sure as heck was going to lean back.
My daughter deserved a better life than the one I could give her on welfare and SSI/Disability. She also deserved to have an example of what it means to love what you do, so that she could follow that example when she got older. The reality of the situation is that I will not live forever, and with her having special needs that greatly affect her ability to speak and perform daily activities, it was imperative that I make sure she is forever taken care of. I felt (and still feel) like if God entrusted her to me, I better do right by her.
I showed the story to my cousin who put me in touch with a friend of his who is an art student. We met, she loved the story and said she was excited to do the illustrations for it. Then I had to break the news to her that there was no way I could pay her, and I didn't know when I would be able to. Bless her heart, she completely understood and said, "Don't worry about it. If nothing comes of this book, consider it a gift from me to your daughter." I told her that I wanted to shop it around for possible publishing, and she said, "Even better."
I now had a Lean In partner.
I scheduled monthly meetings with my illustrator to see how the process was coming along. Being that she was still a student and I wasn't paying her, I was careful to be very respectful of her time and education. We met for one hour each month for a year and a half. At about the 10-month mark she introduced me to a friend of hers who was also a student studying graphic design. She wanted to bring her on to handle the design and layout of the book. I explained to her friend that I was still unable to pay, so she would essentially be working for free. She also said, "No problem. My nephew has special needs. This book needs to happen."
I was in shock but we continued to move forward. I queried some publishers and agents about signing the book but no one was interested, so at one of my monthly meetings with the illustrator and designer, I proposed that we form our own publishing company and self-publish our little project. My girls, without hesitation, said "Let's Do It." That afternoon Three Girls Publishing House was born.
The world was still leaning on me, but now I had back up. And we were strong.
Because I took a chance and let my frustration motivate me, and because people believed in me and their belief made me believe in myself even more, I released my very first children's book, Meet ClaraBelle Blue, to the general public on May 4, 2013.
I have learned the business side of publishing, learned to do my own public relations and marketing and have managed to build up quite a buzz about the book's debut. We have also decided to make a series stemming from the first book and eventually an animated series. My life has changed in a myriad of ways. With the anticipation that has built around the release of this book I have no doubt that things will change for the better. I wholeheartedly believe that I will finally be able to purchase a vehicle that will allow me to safely transport all of my daughter's equipment without having to pick and choose what comes and what stays. I believe that I will be able to move us into a home that is wheelchair accessible in the next three to five years. I believe that I will never be on food stamps again.
I have a team of girls who met me at my lowest and have been leaning in with me ever since. There is strength in numbers, and success in strength. But it took the world leaning down on me for me to realize it.
I've leaned in, and now I can't, and won't ever, lean back.