Rita and Jodie meet each week as part of True Care’s Memory Care program. They often do creative writing activities which keep Rita’s brain active and as healthy as possible despite her memory impairment. One particular afternoon, during one of their sessions together, Jodie and Rita starting working on a book. They didn’t know where this activity would lead them; all they knew was that it was fun and they enjoyed creating something together.
Rita started off by creating a series of drawings. From those drawings, Jodie would ask her what was happening in them. What was the story behind these images. As they worked on it week by week, they saw it evolve shift into something interesting and exciting. At first, Rita, who lives with dementia, would change the character’s names each time she told the story behind her drawings. She would change the name of the village they lived in and even the name of their dogs. What the character’s did for a living would change, as well as what they liked about each other. Pretty soon Jodie had the idea that this could be a “fill-in-the-blank” book, where anyone who read it could come up with their own names and places for the story as they went along.
One day I joined Jodie and Rita for a session while they worked on the book. It was a treat to see what they’ve been working on and how everything was coming along. Then they started asking me questions like: Do you think this would make a good children’s book? What age range would be appropriate for this book?
I thought of my own daughter and how she is currently learning to create her own characters and story lines in school. She’s seven now and in the second grade to I told them that would be a good age where they would be capable of filling in the blanks to complete the story. Jodie then asked if Sara could join us one day and review the book with them and test it out.
At the next session, Sara and I joined Rita and Jodie to read the book together. During this session, Sara had some great insights as to how to make the story better. She suggested that the story lacked a bit of conflict and informed us that she was taught by her teacher that you should always have a problem to solve in order to make a story more interesting. And so, Jodie gave Sara a little homework assignment. She was given the task of continuing the story and add elements to it to make the story better.
Excited to be part of the creation process for this book, Sara dutifully went to work on her ideas right away. To add conflict to our story, Sara came up with the idea that the dog gets lost. The characters in the book search for the dog and post pictures of it on telephone poles in their neighborhood. Then their next door neighbor finds the dog and calls them to let them know he had wandered into their yard. She also created the pictures for her addition to the story.
We brought these back to Jodie and Rita and they were thrilled to see the book coming together. In the end, they created this wonderful children’s book and taught us all how a story can evolve and become anything you want it to be.