Once children develop the ability to talk, constant questions immediately follow. Why is the sky blue? Why are there stars? Are there people up there? Why don’t you know? Why? Why? Why?
At the age of 2 and a half, Layne Mancini developed the same trait. However, her questions were a little more unusual. She wanted to know why her family was different from her friends’ families, because Layne has two moms.
This inspired her mother Aly Mancini to write a children’s book called Layne at Home about Layne’s life in Long Beach with her two mothers Karyn and Aly Mancini, along with her friends at school.
Mancini wrote the book for her daughter and children in similar circumstances. “But I really think the audience should be more mainstream because children of gay and lesbian parents, children of single parents and children of all different family structures are becoming more prevalent,” she said. “I think it is good to have all children be exposed to this in literature, on TV and in movies. While, yes, I do think its meaningful for people who are in this situation to share it with their child, I also think that it is important that other kids who don’t see it in their everyday life be exposed to it.”
Mancini was shocked when Layne had noticed a difference in her family at such a young age. “We kind of expected that around five or six, but she started noticing it really early,” Mancini said. “We always figured that as soon as she was ready to ask the questions, we needed to be ready to provide the answers. We talk about it a lot. To this day, she asks questions all the time about other families. Luckily for us, we [know] examples of all types of families.”
Mancini had never written a book before nor has she ever had any training to do so. “I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book,” she said. “I never really had a passion for it until I had a child.”
Mancini based much of the book on experiences that Layne has been through. Olivia, Layne’s friend, had her dad pick her up from school sometimes. “He’d lift her up and do all these typical dad things,” Mancini noted. “And [Layne] would think it was funny, but she was also intimidated because we don’t play with her like that. I didn’t ask her about that, but I definitely tried to think about her experiences and sort of think about how men and women are different.”
The book was published on Nov. 27. Although the process of publishing a book took a few months, the manuscript only took about an hour to write. “I really knew what I wanted to say,” Mancini said. “I’ve read a lot of children’s books. I love children’s literature. So, I understand what sort of language appeals to kids and how you need to describes things in a way that captures their attention.”
To find a publisher, Mancini only had to search “self publishing” on Google. “There was a website that [had] about five questions that asked, ‘What kind of book are you writing? What are you looking to do with this book?’- just to see where your goals were,” she explained. “If you needed illustrations, if you wanted to print on demand, or if you wanted it in book stores or online, then it would spit out which publishing company was best for you. It was like matchmaking.”
From this website, Mancini found Xlibris, an Indiana-based self-publishing company. “I loved them right away,” she said. “They were great. They were very supportive.”
Xlibris provided an illustrator for Mancini. “Basically, you start on the manuscript, and you send them descriptions of what you want the illustrations to look like on each page,” she noted. “I sent pictures of myself, my wife, my daughter and her friends.”
At first, Mancini was dissatisfied with the first illustrations she was given because the pictures had been drawn to look realistic. “I kept trying to make changes that I thought would make it better, but I had to call and finally tell them I needed them completely redone,” she said. “And they charged me next to nothing. They understood that I needed to be happy.” Marvin Tabacon, the illustrator, then redrew the artwork, to Mancini’s delight, in a colorful, animated fashion.
Around the same time Mancini and her wife explained to Layne about the differences between families, they had connected with five other families that had the same sperm donor as Layne’s. They decided to all meet in New York City, NY and spend a weekend together. “So, these were her brothers and sisters basically, but they’re donor siblings,” Mancini explained. “And so, that kind of brought up the whole– how are we going to explain that these are her brothers and sisters, but not brothers and sisters in the way that most kids think of brothers and sisters?”
Initially, this was the story that Mancini wanted to write about. “I started to write a book about us flying to New York City and meeting her donor siblings,” she said. “And then I thought, I need to go backwards from the beginning about her sort of realizing that she doesn’t have a dad because that’s how it all really started.”
Mancini plans to write a series of children’s books as Layne gets older and learns more about families and relationships. “Things that she will deal with are the things that I want to write about. That’s my inspiration,” she said. This includes possibly writing a book about transgender children and another about having parents with different religions. The manuscript for her second book is already finished, and she hopes it will be published by June.
Mancini encourages everyone that has a story to write a book about it. “I know writing a book can seem really intimidating, but self publishing is really easy and very rewarding to know that you are in control of your destiny,” she said. “It’s kind of like making your own dreams come true. It would be more beneficial for kids if people are willing to put themselves out there and share their story.”
Layne at Home is available at amazon.com or xlibris.com .