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- author Jackie French

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Guest Post: Jessica Galatola on Writing Stories From The Heart

Writing from the heart may come intuitively to most authors, particularly children’s authors, but I feel it’s never been more important to the world of Children’s Literature than it is today. 

Our young readers need books, more than ever, that celebrate matters of the heart. They need to connect with words that grip them and help them feel seen, heard, and understood. 

Our kids need heart stories that celebrate diversity, empathy and understanding; stories that help them place themselves in this world. 

Otherwise, we lose our children to screens, where connecting is as easy as a few taps and a leap down a rabbit hole that may or may not be a friendly place.

I have always loved storytelling - reading stories, writing stories, directing stories, even acting them out on stage. As a teacher and a mother, I tell stories every day. There is nothing more personal or magical than the connections we make through storytelling. Stories teach us about who we are, where we come from and what we are capable of.

I am a keen observer of the stories my boys like to read. I love to see what lights them up, makes them laugh and brings them joy. Often, it’s a picture book about passing gas or various kinds of bottoms but I am humbled to find that more often than not, it’s the heart stories they love the most. 

These are the stories that put the human experience at the centre of the protagonist’s journey.  The stories that celebrate an underdog, a hero, a character who can learn from their mistakes, characters who care for animals or people, or stories about making a difference in the world. Our children are the future changemakers, we need to fill them with stories that celebrate empathy, diversity, learning and emotional intelligence.

I fell into this beautiful writing journey, by happy accident. I wrote my first picture book for my children at a time when they needed a heart story. Our family changed dramatically in 2020 and my children needed to understand why not all the family players would be around to tuck them in, or live under the same roof, or share the hard moments, or be there to celebrate the happy times. 

I wrote, Some Families Changeto try and be honest with them and reach them where it truly mattered – right in their heart. Because my greatest fear was that without a heartfelt story, they would despair, or blame themselves or not be able to cope and process their feelings. This is the story of many children. This is the way of our world - life can be pretty tough to navigate. 

So now that I have found this beautiful Kid Lit community and am listening to the deep call to write, many of my stories seem to be heart stories, dealing with big feelings and deep themes. These are stories that give young readers the room and emotional space to process. I don’t mean stories that shove a didactic meaning down a child’s throat… we all know there is a balance to a story that inspires or touches a child, while teaching them something at the same time.  

I still write loads of stories about exploding sneezes, witches, cheeky spiders and all sorts of fun characters that get up to mindless mischief, stories that make my kids laugh. But the stories that I instinctively feel good about are the ones that deal with feelings and meaningful topics. It might be my teaching background? It might be the fact that I’m a parent watching my little ones find their way in the world? But now, more than ever, I believe in stories from the heart on issues that matter.

Jessica Galatola’s first picture book, Some Families Change, is released this year in May, with another EK Book to follow in 2025. Recently she received a highly commended in the 2023 Pitch It competition for her picture book, Sneeze Adventure. She is a mother to two wriggly boys who love to read picture books before bed. As a teacher, she has worked in the education sector for fifteen years, specialising in English and Drama curriculum. Jess has a passion for helping young people discover a love of reading. She believes that the magic of reading begins with picture books.

Get in touch with Jess via her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.