I work with my sister. We have built an online community, Tribe of Daughters, and are releasing our first book this summer: Queenie Wahine: Little Surfer Girl. Cool, right? Two surfer-girl sisters inspiring the next generation of little girls to be adventurous and brave. It almost sounds too good to be true.
Working with my sister elicits a lot of different comment from others. Everything from, “Ohhhh, how nice.” to “Hmmm, that must be hard.” to “Why? I’d kill my sister.” These have all been truths at some point this past year. But working with my sister hasn’t been quite like I thought it would be. It has been a series of mostly successes with a few hiccups and life lessons sprinkled in-between. Let me set the scene so you can have a context of how we came to work together.
Last summer, I was playing on the beach with my daughter helping her learn how to use the new surfboard that she had received for Christmas. While we splashed and played, I had a genius idea! I would write a children’s book about a little surfer girl. Done. I’m ready for my signing bonus.
If it was only that easy. I may have been an expert in young children’s literature (my credentials include mommy and former preschool teacher), but I draw like my six-year-old. So that was an issue. I needed an illustrator and my little sister Jess was the only person I knew with an ounce of talent who would indulge my BIG idea. So I phoned her up, and she agreed. Actually, quite enthusiastically. She loved the sample writing I sent her and she was on board. Queenie Wahine: Little Surfer Girl was official.
So there was one major obstacle that I left out: Jess lives in New Zealand and I live in North Carolina. How would we make Queenie Wahine: Little Surfer Girl come alive from so far away? As it turns out, that would be our easiest of challenges to solve. We learned some really important life lessons about sisterhood and partnership working together the last year. And these are just a few of the highlights.
Set the expectation for how you will handle conflict and disagreement. This is a hard one. Rule number one as partners: We are sisters first. Before we ever had our first disagreement, we knew that communication was important to seeing our book through to the end and getting a published product. But we are both non-confrontational, and that would definitely lead to passive-aggressive interactions at some point. And then the day came when we had to test this rule out. I had written something for Tribe of Daughters, and when I went to see it posted, it wasn’t my writing. Jess had chainsaw-massacre style edited what I wrote. And I was pissed. And then I took a breath and something in my head said, “She didn’t do that to hurt you. You just need to tell her and she will understand.” So I did. And she was very understanding. It worked.
Lean into each other’s strengths. You would think this one was much easier, but have I mentioned that I’m the oldest? My strength is knowing it all. Everything. Older sisters are always right. Well, that may be a stretch. For me, there were times that I had to intentionally pull back on where I thought the book and our series needed to go, and remind myself that Jess is an extremely talented artist. She’s spent so much time building her brand of art and this was her strength. Lean into her and let her lead. It didn’t make me less of a partner if I barely understood how to post a picture to Instagram; she could do that and actually post something visually interesting for our followers. But I come with my strengths too. I’m task focused…I have big ideas (that Jess helps me execute to reality)… my creativity blossoms in other avenues.
Compromise. For the most part, this doesn’t happen often when we work. Surprising, right?!?! I think somewhere, my dad just fell out on the floor. We actually have a very similar vision and aesthetic that we want to see come alive in our book so we are typically on the same page. Where we have had to exercise compromise the most is in our administration work and project execution. We generally agree on where we want to go, but different ways to get there. Before I stand too firm on a topic, I usually ask myself to evaluate how important it is to me that we do it my way. If it’s not something I have a passionate stand on, it’s up for compromise.
As exposed as this makes me feel, sharing these life lessons with others is almost like a badge of honor. It makes me proud to reflect on how far we have come and how close we are now for this whole experience of building Tribe of Daughters and our book Queenie Wahine: Little Surfer Girl. We’ve talked more in this past year, halfway across the world, than we did when she lived two hours away. We have a closer connection because of this experience and we have taken moments of difficulty and turned them into empowering achievements.
**Readers of Harness Magazine interested in pre-purchasing Queenie Wahine can use code HARNESS for 20% off their pre-order at www.tribeofdaughters.com**
Author: Ashley Lowcher Norris
Author Bio: Ashley is a former preschool teacher and currently is faculty at East Carolina University in the Birth-Kindergarten Education program. She is an outdoor enthusiast and spends her free time with her husband and two daughters hiking, surfing, skiing, and biking. She is always up for an adventure… especially one that she can share with her girls.
Link to social media or website: https://www.tribeofdaughters.com/