Time to lift the lid I think on DC Network’s current exciting writing project. No, not another one of my booklets but an hilarious illustrated story book for donor conceived 8 to 12 year olds. I am part of the advisory group for this project and as far as we know nothing exists for donor conceived children who have known about their beginnings since they were little but are wanting to explore and understand more about genetic and non-genetic connections and the meaning of family. There used to be a wonderful American book called Let Me Explain by Jane Schnitter, but this went out of print many years ago now…possibly because at that time there were too few children of this sort of age who had been told about their donor conception. It was also only suitable for a child born into a heterosexual couple family by sperm donation. Today’s donor conceived children are to be found in increasingly diverse family situations and of many different donation types.
DC N has wanted to produce a book for this age group for years – there is certainly demand for it amongst the membership – but writing for children is not one of my skills and the task felt immense. Funding from the Nuffield Foundation was a good starting point. At least it would be possible to pay an author and illustrator. DCN appealed to it’s very talented membership but in the end it was extended friendship connections through two of the people closest to the Network that brought forth the writer and illustrator who are now well on their way to producing what is hoped will be a hugely enjoyable but also thought provoking and informative book.
The style is that of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid for those of you familiar with the literature of this age group. I wasn’t, but when I saw the books I could imagine how well they could be adapted for this subject matter. This way of reaching the 8 – 12s was identified as appropriate by a focus group of children between these ages before the writer and illustrator were found. Archie age 11 is the author of the diary. He records his thoughts on all sorts of daily happenings, including how his twin sister Jemima and he are being set the task of researching their family. Archie is a chilled-out, low key kind of guy and is horrified at this class project but Jemima is a bit of a show off and is dying to let her teacher and all their friends know how interesting their family is. Through their friendships with other children and their research for the project Archie and Jemima come across all sorts of interesting facts about genes and families and also other types of donor conception families. The tone throughout is light and humorous and the illustrations, as in the Wimpy Kid stories, help with engagement of the reader and also sometimes act as an explanatory tool. Lightness of touch does not mean that potentially difficult topics will be avoided, but it does mean that they will be handled in a way that is supportive of a child who is wanting to explore more about what it means to be donor conceived and moving towards the years when they will have their own thoughts about it.
As the text and the illustrations slowly come together DCN has now found from within the membership a designer to help make everything look good on the page. There is huge excitement that this long held dream is now really happening. And as it will be home published and printed in Scotland, like all DCN publications, it is hoped that it will be available to buy not only via the DCN website but also from other on-line outlets by the summer. Fingers crossed. Watch this space and http://www.dcnetwork.org