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by Trish Healy Luna and Janet Healy Hellier
Trish wrote the first draft of this story almost 30 years ago for her two young children. It was originally titled “My Daddy Has a Problem,” because their loving Daddy had a problem with addiction that eventually took his life.
In the late 1980s, talking about addiction, and its impact on the family, was off-limits, even frowned upon, especially to young children. This was very isolating and stigmatizing to Trish and her young family. She read to her children about many of the experiences in their lives: sharing, starting school, nighttime fears, even about going potty, but she was unable to find anything to read to them about the most impactful situation in their lives... the family disease of addiction.
This led Trish to take matters into her own hands and write about it herself. The original copy had no illustrations and had to be printed on pages that were taped together to make it a book.
As the opioid epidemic rages on, there are many news stories showing young children caught in the crosshairs of this disease. Reading about and seeing these stories reminded Trish of her own family's heartbreak, and she thought about her story tucked away from long ago, and realized it was even more relevant today. Trish reached out to her sister, Janet, with a proposal that they partner to dust off the old manuscript and add more modern therapeutic methods.
Janet has a master’s degree in mental health counseling. Always having a keen interest in mindfulness and meditation practices, Janet has studied the benefits of these practices when used with children. She has attended numerous conferences, seminars and workshops lead by such noted experts as Thich Nhat Hahn, Dan Siegel, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Janet saw first-hand how beneficial and empowering it can be for a child to learn techniques and self-soothing skills to gain a much-needed sense of control in chronically stressful situations.
Janet and Trish live in two different states and had to devise a way to work collaboratively across the miles. They were trading email versions of the manuscript which quickly became cumbersome. Then the magic of Google Docs happened, and they were easily able to keep track of the many versions and revisions of the work, which spanned a 4-year period. They spent countless hours in front of their computers, on the phone, or FaceTiming, working and reworking the phrasing to make sure each word carried the most impact. The most challenging part about writing in verse is getting the phrasing and rhythm correct. The two sisters persevered, though, because they believed the cadence brought a soothing element to a difficult topic. They had always enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss to their children and appreciated the author's talent for rhyming, but their respect is vastly greater now for having attempted to do it themselves!
Once they were satisfied with the wording, Trish and Janet sent the manuscript for editing/review. They were fortunate enough to have three people with working knowledge and expertise of therapeutic practices. That team offered excellent suggestions and constructive edits of the book. Trish and Janet incorporated those edits into the final version of the manuscript. Then, all they needed was for the words to come to life with illustrations.
Trish saw the work of Mackenzie Mitchell, an artist studying at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and just knew that she would be the one to make their vision a reality. There was an instant rapport, and Mackenzie was able to translate Trish and Janet’s concepts into full color. The authors knew exactly what they wanted from the scenes, including the emotions they wanted to convey and Mackenzie was able to perfectly deliver the nuanced expressions that the story needed.
Janet and Trish wrote several versions of Timbi Talks about Addiction. The two sisters worked to find the right balance between length, content and age-group; they wanted to include as many evidence-based coping skills as possible. Given the current epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States, and the limited resources for this 3-12 year old age group, they saw this as the first niche to fill.