While Sarah and I didn’t have any creative writing experience when we started our book, we knew the key to a successful fantasy adventure series was having a magical world that kids wanted to escape to. But creating a magical world isn’t easy- at least not for me. Sarah, though, is different. She’s one of the most boldly creative people I know. That is one reason (of many) why I love writing with her. I, on the other hand, tend to worry and overanalyze, which is perhaps why it took three signs before I knew we were on to something with our magical world, Valorus.
We always knew we wanted animals to play a role in our magical world; we just had no idea what kind of role it would be. I happened to be visiting home one weekend and ran across a favorite book from when I was a child called, Incredible Animals A to Z (thank you mother for not throwing away our books). I took it home and excitedly starting emailing Sarah animal factoids. When Sarah visited for a book weekend, it turned out she had the book when little as well and had loved it. That was Sign #1. It led me to first ask Sarah about the idea of filling our magical world with amazing things from our world. She immediately loved the idea, but I was still unsure….
I worried about whether it was creative enough- it almost felt like cheating to take things from our world. I continued to think these very silly thoughts until I met Ollie. Well, I didn’t really meet him (unfortunately). He’s a friend’s son, and he has special needs. His family was doing an online voting campaign with the hopes of winning a van that accommodated his wheelchair.
While reading about Ollie’s incredible story and the way his family loved and supported him, I was reminded of my time as a therapist for an autistic child named Finn (pictured below). Finn is perhaps the sweetest and happiest child I’ve ever meet. He delighted in everything, from drawing happy flowers and “happy houses” to getting the mail each day. However, working with or raising a special needs child can also be an emotional battle. Every parent struggles with things like potty training and “use your words,” but most parents can reassure themselves that these things are, to a certain extent, passing phases. Those struggles are magnified by a million when you’re working with special needs children because part of you is always worrying whether some behavior won’t be temporary. But, the flip side is the unbelievable joy you feel at the littlest things. I will never forget the sense of elation I felt when Finn first asked for a toy in a complete sentence without me prompting him. I could see that same joy over little victories in Ollie’s website, and it moved me, which is what led me to clicking on the link to his Facebook page.
That was when Sign #2 happened. The page had a picture of a misty night with a tree decorated with glowing white lights. Across the image, there was a quote: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” My first thought was how great it was to think of that feeling of joy in little things as magical. My second thought was, “Wow, that is exactly what I want to inspire in our book.”
I did a quick google search of the quote and discovered it was by Roald Dahl, another childhood favorite of mine and Sarah’s. And the full quote was even more in line with what we wanted Valorus to be about: “Watch with glittering eyes the world around you. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it.”
So there you have it. A children’s book, two inspiring little boys, and a children’s author was what it took for me to realize what Sarah understood right away: creating a world that recognizes the magic of our world isn’t cheating after all. It’s inspirational. And a little creative inspiration in your day never does any harm.
**Because we don’t want you to have to wait until our book comes out to be inspired by the natural world, we’re starting the Jane Martyn version of Science Friday on our Facebook page (see link on left). Each Friday, we’ll post a picture or fact that we think will appeal to your imagination. We hope you have as much fun learning (and in many cases re-learning) about the incredible world we live in as we have.
Finn at the Scandinavian Festival.
Happy flowers! One of my favorite of Finn’s drawings hanging on my wall- smiles so big they’re almost full circles.
I swear he smiled like that every time he got the mail.
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