When my kids were younger, the bedtime stories I told them were family origin stories: how my father's father, a Polish citizen, had been conscripted into the German army during World War I and how he escaped or how my father and more than 40 members of his family escaped Germany in 1933, for example, and how he eventually emigrated to the U.S.
They do love those stories but -- while I am very grateful, I don't have any similar personal stories. So I began telling them ghost stories, which they liked more than I expected. Ghost stories may seem an odd choice for when you're trying to get kids ready to sleep.
But we lived near Salem, Mass. at the time, and ghost stories are kind of a lingua franca of the area. So I told my kids aa series of ghost stories involving two teenage best friends, Bob and Eddie.
After a while, I decided to write up the first of those stories into what became "Wooden Kayaks," which was published in Spaceports & Spidersilk Magazine.
I learned a couple of things in transferring an oral story to the printed word. The characters and plot elements remained the same but the way I introduced the characters, the settings and the narrative itself had to adopt for it to make sense for readers who are not my kids. I enjoyed the process, and was pleased when the editor, Marcie Tentchoff, described it as "A great traditional style ghost story, and I'll admit that I love the nautical theme." Which is what I had been aiming for when originally telling it to my kids: It's spooky without being scary, which was important since we lived a few blocks from the ocean.
I knew this story was successful when elements appeared in a story my daughter wrote in elementary school. Since her version appeared in print before mine, she claims credit. But then I claim credit for the good grade she received. So perhaps we're even.