By Rebecca J. Hubbard
Illustrator: Krickett King
Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade Adventure
Length: 62 pages
Release Date: August 10, 2015
All eleven-year old Pip wanted was a best friend. When Pip gets a horse for her birthday she is delighted. She thinks that the horse she names Buck will be her best friend from the moment that they meet. But she finds out that friendship does not come that easily. Her father gently guides her so that Pip can discover for herself how to make Buck a true friend.
Pip's new friend, Buck, has a story of his own. After leaving his own herd, to move to Pip's house, he is looking for a relationship that will help him feel safe. He, too, learns that making a friend takes patience and understanding.
AUTHOR INFORMATION & LINKS
Rebecca J. Hubbard grew up with horses and is blessed their friendship. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides treatment to traumatized children. She lives in North Carolina with her two dogs, cat and horse.
My friend and business partner, Alicia, asked me to write a book about a horse and a kid. I was noncommittal about it but she persisted. Every once in a while she’d ask me when I was going to write the book. Frankly I wasn’t sure I could write the type of story she was asking for. I write therapeutic stories and I thought that fun fiction was out of my reach. But her persistence planted the seed for a horse and kid story. For six months the seed did nothing. It did not produce one idea or character. It was dormant. When I thought about the idea I felt sort of sick inside. It was something that I felt I really couldn’t do and I didn’t have any ideas to even begin to try. Every once in a while Alicia would offer a suggestion for the story but nothing inspired me. The words just wouldn’t come.
Then, Alicia and I went to the Advanced Training for Natural Lifemanship™, a trauma focused equine assisted psychotherapy™ model, and I had an experience with a horse that touched me very deeply. During that weekend the seed began to germinate. The phrase “What is this relationship worth to you?” played over and over in my mind. I knew I wanted to tell a story about a relationship between a kid and a horse told from the kid’s point of view and from the horse’s point of view. The idea of sharing the story from the horse’s point of view excited me. I had never seen anything done like that before. Since writing the story I now know it has been done before but as I was developing this idea I did not know this.
Despite having a frame I did not have a story. I had no ideas about plot, or characters. I didn’t even have the idea of whether the child character would be a boy or a girl or even the idea that there would be a parent involved in the story. The frame was empty. I had only the idea of a story about a relationship between a child and a horse told from both perspectives.
A few days after the seed began to germinate I woke up in the middle of the night with a sentence about the story. The next morning I typed that sentence and the story began to flow out of me. I did not intentionally create the characters. For me it is like they create themselves and use me to venture out into the world. It feels like the story flows through me and not from me. I don’t ever recall deciding that Pip would be a girl she just presented as a girl or that Pip’s parent would be a father. As the story unfolded the parent presented as a dad and the words he spoke came from him and not some idea I had about him. I am often asked if the dad in the story is modeled after Tim Jobe, one of the developers of the Natural Lifemanship™ treatment model. Although I adore Tim, the father in the story is not modeled after Tim. He just happens to be cut from the same cloth. The hardest character for me to write was Buck. Initially he did not present himself as Pip and the father did. I wasn’t sure how to give voice to a horse. I tried to create Buck’s voice but everything I did was wrong. His voice sounded insincere and saccharine. Once I stopped trying to create Buck and focused on what his experience was his voice flowed through me like the other characters.
It seems silly to say that it feels like characters venture out into the world and are not created by me but for me that is what the initial process feels like. I feel honored to hear the story and to put it to paper. After the initial telling of the story I am able to add elements or eliminate elements to the story. The real work for me is in the process of fine tuning the story. During this phase I read the story aloud many different times and change the wording depending on how it sounds when it is being read aloud. It was during this phase that I felt that Pip’s initial voice sounded whiney and she was not very likable. An experience with a young friend helped me understand Pip’s hurt and disappointment.
My young friend fell in love with a huge bay horse out at the farm and she tried and tried to get this horses’ attention. Every time she came to the farm she called to this horse and she even tried to walk up to him but he wouldn’t give her the time of day. Eventually she gave up. After a year of coming to the farm my young friend went to the fence and called to this horse. He raised his head and looked at her. Then, he walked over to her. My young friend was smiling from ear to ear. He even allowed her to pet him. Remembering the way her face beamed helped me to understand how hurt Pip was when Buck rejected her and how delighted she was when he finally paid attention to her. After thinking about this I was able to adjust the dialogue and Pip’s thinking to make her a more likeable character.
When I started on this journey I thought this would be only one story. But I can feel Pip and Buck starting new journeys in my mind. I am excited to see what happens next.
The Gift, like most of my stories, began with a sentence that woke me up in the middle of the night. I don’t recall the exact sentence that I jotted down but I do recall the next morning Pip’s story flowed quickly and easily. It was almost like I had already written it and I was just typing it from memory. Most of the stories I write have this easy already written feel to them. I rarely have a moment of what now or a hard time getting the story to flow but this happened when I arrived at Buck’s part of the story. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what Buck’s story was going to be or what kind of spirit he had. People who know my horse, Cash, encouraged me to model Buck after him but Cash is a clown. And Buck didn’t feel like a clown to me.
I had to sit with Buck’s part of the story for many days. I talked to my friend, Alicia, about Buck and how he was different from Cash. Talking to her helped me identify what part of Buck’s experience I wanted to focus on. I decided to focus on what it was like for Buck leaving his herd and moving to a new place where he knew no one and was alone. The moment I started to write Buck’s story from this view point I knew this was the right focus because the words flowed easily.
After finishing a rough first draft I read all my stories out loud. It is important to me to hear how the words sound. I will adjust word use and tone to reflect how I want it to sound when being read aloud. Usually during this period of editing I try to think of what the story sounds like to a child and adjusted the language as needed. My second round of edits involve sending the story to one or two friends to obtain their feedback. I sent The Gift to my friend, Alicia, because she had asked me to write a story about a child and a horse. Her feedback was extremely important to me as I continued to shape the story. After receiving her feedback I made changes to address the areas that were not clear or did not seem to help the story.
The next point of development was to send the story to a few friends who did not know anything about the story. After receiving their feedback and making the necessary adjustments I sent the story to Laine Cunningham who I affectionately refer to as “my editor.” Laine helped me clarify some of the points in the story and encouraged me to expand other parts. After this process was completed I again read the story aloud to insure that the cadence felt good. Then, I sent the story out to about five friends for more feedback. Usually at this stage there are few if any suggestions made to improve the story. In about two months the story was completed. I jokingly say it takes a village to write a good story. But honestly I could not produce the quality of stories I write without the honest and creative feedback I receive from my friends. They are the glue that holds the process together.
This was my first book of fun fiction. In the beginning I wasn’t sure I could write such a book because the only stories I had ever written were therapeutic stories for the traumatized children I treat. But as it turns out it is not only fun fiction but a therapeutic story. Although I did not initially intend for this book to be used in therapy, it is a very useful therapeutic tool. It can be used to explore relationships, and discuss what it takes to make, and be a friend. It can be used to help foster parents understand the importance of family to foster children. It can be used to teach children about cognitive distortions and unhelpful thinking patterns, and how those negative thoughts impact the way they see the world, and their lives. In the end my brain did what it knows how to do, it created a story to help kids.