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The Rewards of Reading and Writing

As a young teenager, I did not enjoy reading, as I was easily bored reading word after word on a page. It was a girl in junior high school who taught me “how to read”. She explained it was not about the words on the page, but instead, the idea the author was trying to convey. She suggested I read the words as if the author was having a conversation with someone and I was listening in. Everything changed after that. I understood!


Afterwards, she gifted me the book, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and I fell in love with reading. The story the author was weaving expanded my imagination. Soon after, I read the J. R. R. Tolkien’s books, and fell in love with the fantasy world he had created. Another friend suggested the books of Anne Rice and my imagination was further expanded into the realms of the supernatural. The books of Piers Anthony and Douglas Adams followed. These are fun reads.


As far as movies go, I was always drawn to animated movies. I became enamored with the movies, Watership Down and The Secret of NIMH, because the storytellers had imbued each character with very real human personalities. This made it easier for me to accept them and care for their safety and welfare as they navigated through very real world problems.


After my first son was born, I had an idea for a story in my head and I wrote a very rough draft of the premise and put it away. As he got older, we watched the Land Before Time movies together. Seeing his imagination captured, I took out the rough draft I had penned, added more to it and put it away again. Years later, my second son was born and I saw his fascination with the Toy Story movies and was reminded of the story I had begun. Once again, I brought it out and, using the life experiences I had gained since becoming a father, I added to the story. Getting this book published, or even self-published, was never on my mind. I just wanted something I could leave behind that would stir my children’s imagination.


Years passed and I was blessed with the birth of my grandson, Dean Alexander. Holding this little angel in my arms stirred something deep inside me. I felt an incredible need to pass my stories and life experiences onto him. I needed to get to work.


I found the rough draft and edited, re-edit, and change the story again and again. With the help of my wife, who spent hours upon hours proofreading, beta reading and listening to my ideas, I gained the confidence to send it out to others for their input. Using social media, I joined a Beta Reader’s group where I came into contact with a woman in England who agreed to read my story and provide feedback. Her feedback was invaluable, as she had pointed out something that I had also felt, but I had ignored in my haste to finish the story. She said that she loved the story, but it seemed to need just one more plot twist. I reached out to her, thanked her and said I understood as I had felt the same way. I asked, if she wouldn’t mind, would she reread it once I had made changes. Thankfully, she agreed and after reading it, she told me she loved it. But then she said something that left me speechless. She asked my “permission” to read it to her children. This interaction gave me the confidence to self-publish the story.


I am now the proud grandfather of two grandsons, Dean and Andrew. They also share the love of fantasy, adventure and storytelling. They know also that I have written and self-published books. How aware they were, I would soon learn.


At the time of this interaction, Dean was 5 years old. He was having a conversation with my wife, his grandma Gigi. She is a retired educator who loves the early childhood years and is a fierce advocate of reading to children. She has an extensive library of children’s books that she reads to Dean and Andrew. Gigi asked Dean if there was an author he would like to meet. Dean said, “Eric Carle!” He loves when Gigi reads those books to him. Unfortunately, Gigi had to tell him that Eric Carle had passed away. After a moment of reflection, Dean looks at Gigi, then looks at me, and proudly says, “It’s okay, Gigi. My Pop-pop is an author.” Andrew then adds, “Yeah, Pop-pop wrote books.” This was the first time I felt like an author, instead of a storyteller. Their words brought such joy to my heart. I hugged them as a tear of joy rolled down my cheek.


Dean, now 6, had an author come visit his school and he enjoyed the experience. He asked me if I would give one of my books to his teacher. I was more than happy to do so and thought no more about it. Well, shortly after, Dean proudly tells me that his teacher started reading the book, “Journey Home” to the class.


The book is about a young goldfish that lives in a polluted pond, and he needs to find a new home before it’s too late. He teams up with his best friends, a brave turtle and a determined frog, and together they go on a perilous journey to find a new home, Aeternus Pond. 


I was thrilled to hear that as part of his school day, he gets to hear my story. Being that it is a chapter book, he periodically updates me as to where they are in the story. Yesterday, he comes running up to me with a big smile on his face and gives me a big hug. He was so happy to tell me that his entire class cheered when the three friends reached Aeternus Pond. His pride and joy were on full display.


I am so grateful I followed through and self-published these stories. Now, Dean and Andrew will always have a bit of Pop-pop in their lives, and I hope one day that they get to read the stories to their children.

 

 

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