Day 26: Adrea Theodore

Dr. Adrea (pronounced AY-dree-ah) Theodore is a mother, pediatrician, and debut children’s book author. Her picture book, A History of Me, was published on January 18, 2022 by Neal Porter Books and is illustrated by Erin K. Robinson.

Adrea’s passion for the holistic well-being of children is evidenced through her work at a child advocacy center, where she serves children who have been abused and neglected, as well as in her poignantly crafted stories for young readers. She wrote A History of Me “for those kids who are the only brown kids in their class, or on their team, or in their club…kids who are descendants of those who were enslaved in this country…kids [who] know that there is more to the story of our ancestors than what we have been taught. Our heritage is not just the struggle, but the strength, resilience, creativity, intelligence, and many other gifts that our ancestors have passed down.”

On Day 26 of 28 Days Later, it is our honor to present today’s featured author, Dr. Adrea Theodore.

THE JOURNEY

Writing has been at the top of my list of ‘favorite things to do’ for as long as I can remember.  My work in pediatrics has given me plenty of opportunities to write over the years, from writing research papers in medical journals to everyday patient histories, detailing one child’s current illness or problem list. Some years ago, I wrote what I called a ‘thought piece’ for a child abuse prevention organization. Someone contacted me about that essay and said that they had been so inspired, that they decided to change their life: leave their current job and begin working towards a new purpose (helping victims of domestic violence). I knew that words were powerful, but this was something new: tangible proof for me that I could still have an impact with my writing, even in my role as a doctor. Becoming an author wasn’t something I considered.

Fast forward many years, and I was working part-time and reading a ton of children’s books with and to my daughter.  I looked for specific stories to highlight the experiences that she was having, and didn’t always find what I was looking for; so I started to write stories for her, starring her!  Many of the stories that I saw featured as favorites every year were the same classic stories. I realized that the reliance on nostalgia in children’s books didn’t favor all people (or authors) equally. After sharing some of the stories that I wrote with other parents and seeing the call for more diverse storytellers, I decided to look into becoming a children’s book author. Starting out, I knew that it would take some time and training to go from writing for adults (especially a professional medical audience) to writing for children, the youngest of whom aren’t even able to read yet.

THE BACK STORY

How did the deal for A History of Me come to be?  While still working part-time, I didn’t feel that I had as much time to spend in the query trenches. I did send some, but it was slow-going. What made sense to me was attending conferences. I would use that time away to primarily focus on craft and be inspired, but also use it as an opportunity to potentially network with agents or editors.

I had worked on the manuscript for A History of Me in my local critique group and edited it many times. In 2017, when I attended a conference and participated in a writers’ roundtable, I read my manuscript in front of agents and several other aspiring authors.  One agent was intrigued by the manuscript and wanted time to consider it.  We corresponded for about a month, worked on a slight revision, and then he offered me representation.  Shortly thereafter, it was ready to go on submission. Within another month, I had spoken with a few editors by phone about the project, and we closed the deal with a small auction.

THE PROCESS

The writing process for me begins with inspiration.  Something happens, or I see or hear something, and it sparks an idea for a story. It’s unpredictable! Once I have this spark, I tend to write very few words; I jot down a note or record a voice memo so I don’t forget the idea.  After that, I mull over the idea: toss it around in my head, try out different scenarios, different phrases, try to see which angle to approach the story, and think about who the story is for (what age).  Who is the main character and what will the action be?  In what kind of setting will this take place?  Often when I finally sit and start to write, the words will just flow. If I get stuck, I’ll put a note in that place [“find a better word that means X” or “what I want to convey here is Y”] and keep writing.

  • I write my first drafts by hand, with pencil and paper. I’ll type it, print it out, and then edit by hand as well.
  • My favorite place to write is the beach! I love the feel of an ocean breeze and there is nothing quite like being still beside the soothing sound of the ocean.

THE BUZZ

*A Junior Library Guild Gold Star Selection

*The New York Times “What to Read: 4 New Children’s Books” (1/9/22)

Reviews:

“This title powerfully places history in a light that honors the past, challenges the way history is taught, and looks forward. Inspirational.” – School Library Journal (starred)

“A History of Me is a moving reminder of what we gain when we draw strength and inspiration from the past.” – BookPage (starred)

“This picture book is a love letter of recognition to children of color who have been “othered” in their experiences…” – The Horn Book

“An empowering picture book… an uplifting story that rightfully asserts the multidimensionality of Black identity.” – Kirkus

 

To learn more about Adrea and her upcoming projects, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

One thought on “Day 26: Adrea Theodore

  1. Having BEEN in the situation covered in A History of Me, I know that I would have treasured this book as a student. Thank you, Dr. Theodore – may more kids feel less weird and more empowered in a pivotal “only one” moment.

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