I hear voices. Really. I do. They show up first as whispers in my ear. If I stop and listen, really try to hear, they get louder. They get braver. And finally, they tell me who they are and what their story is. Once that happens? I have no choice but to tell their stories. It becomes a compulsion and an obsession. Their whispers become voices so loud that I simply cannot do anything else until their stories are told.
People often ask me if I can write a story about a certain subject or featuring a certain character. The only way I can answer that is to say, “I can if they show up. My characters choose me – I don’t choose them.”
Currently, there’s a magic blue whale named Beatrice talking so loudly, that frankly? It’s hard to concentrate on much else. She is demanding my time more loudly each day. And to make it even louder in my head? An angel named Charlie Grace showed up last Friday whose whispers I catch very faintly when I have quiet moment. They don’t care how busy I am – no matter how many times I tell them to wait. (Parents of small ones? You know what I’m talking about!)
I will write their stories. I will HAVE to. Like I have written Jonathan James’, Bob’s, Dog’s, Mouse’s and Cordelia’s stories. But it doesn’t stop there.
Then I must share them. I must travel all over this country sharing my stories with as many children as possible because that is my job. That is my purpose. These stories I have been gifted, are stories children NEED.
I know this because of stories I get via email, Facebook messages, letter in the mail or text message.
Stories like this – shared with permission from the mother. (I had sent her daughter a Cordelia book and doll, not knowing her story but feeling a strong need to send it as a gift when I heard she was having some worries about school this year.):
You know your characters are special, and as a teacher I LOVE having them as a part of my classroom. But what they mean as a mom is so much more. My daughter knows I’m sharing this with you and wanted you to know. She was abandoned at birth, has no idea who her birth parents are, why she was abandoned or anything.
As a baby with HIV she was not held or touched like others. Being an orphan in an eastern European country, you’re basically nothing, and with a serious and very misunderstood illness, it’s even worse. She was in 5 different facilities and was not allowed to attend regular school until she turned 8. We adopted her and moved her out of her orphanage the day she turned 11. She was convinced we would bring her home and sell her organs, that’s what she was told would happen, but she says very matter of factly, that it was better than staying there -that’s how bad it was.
We have used the Whatif Monster in therapy, to change misunderstood fears. It has helped so much for her to be able to talk and realize that everybody is scared and needs help. But now CORDELIA! We’re going to therapy tomorrow with her! She GOT IT! ON HER OWN!!!
She read it on her own (she was not completely literate in her country’s language – 3 years here and she’s on grade level!) She just came over to me, “Mom, people in my country told me I was stupid, and ugly and horrible, and I believed them. Now look at all I can do since I came here and you guys tell me everything I can do and I am doing it. I need to remember that and I think I can do something amazing.”
This is why I do what I do. Even though I travel to over 100 schools a year talking to as many children as I can, I need to do more. Share with MORE children. Cartoons can help me spread my messages and stories far and wide.