Four and a half years ago, our family had just moved to Neverland. It was colder than I ever expected winter to be in the subtropics and my kids were praying for snow…since they were incredibly homesick.
One morning, I called a dear friend. We’ve been friends since high school and have stayed close. During this particular day, she shared a struggle her autistic son was experiencing. She tearfully confided that he was being bullied by children and adults alike. While I had no doubt their family would get through such an ordeal, it was devastating to hear about.
Having some experience (although certainly not much), I understood how children on the spectrum each have unique ways of communicating, as well as their own way of interacting with people around them. Josh is high functioning and quite social so it’s difficult for others around him to understand why he behaves differently from them.
The conversation left me perplexed and saddened. Being thousands of miles away, I couldn’t hop over there and play his favorite board game or share a batch of cookies, just to let him know he was loved. It was a very helpless feeling. Over the next few days, I considered how I could support them but nothing seemed all that helpful.
Then it came to me when I least expected it. In the shower.
Josh needed to be a protagonist in a youth novel. And I knew exactly what the story needed to be about…one of history’s most fascinating mysteries, of course! It would be told in two time periods. It involved one of the most famous pirates, hidden treasure and a couple of underestimated people with extraordinary gifts.
It took hours of research as I’ve tried to maintain the historical integrity of the piece. As I searched, my eyes suddenly opened to possibilities for setting and character development. I was stunned by how much was out there.
AND as it turned out, relocating to Neverland was exactly what I needed at the time. It’s proximity to locations involved in the nautical history I was studying, made it easy for me to investigate them myself. And so, I set to work. And living life. And being a wife and a mom. And exploring our newly discovered paradise. And falling in love with the beach. And so on…
Over 70,000 words later, 2 babyhoods, thousands of miles of exploration, and 1 cross country move away from Neverland, I hovered over ‘DONE’ for months.
Then something happened a couple of weeks ago. Something very scary. My brilliant protagonist almost died. On top of his autism, Josh also has seizures. He had one on vacation while swimming. His brave, quick thinking, level headed momma pulled him out. They suspect he was submerged under water for 30-40 seconds. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital and over the next frightening 24 hours, exhibited signs of delayed drowning.
Gratefully, he was finally out of the woods within a couple of days. But what an excruciating ordeal for his family.
Josh has inspired many people to be kinder, gentler human beings. He’s so good, sweet and has not an ounce of guile within him. His smile lights up the room and he shows it often.
I’ve been honored to receive phone calls from him every couple of months and he tells me about his lawn mower. He loves it. He loves basketball and any sport with a ball, for that matter. To consider how close we came to losing him is breathtaking. Days after the ordeal, I held my sweet friend, Josh’s mother, while she cried. Feeling her shaky, wracking sobs reminded me that no one bore the brunt of this as much as she did.
It kicked my butt into gear.
After hours of pouring over the last few pages, I finally finished the manuscript at 12:06 in the morning. While I fully recognize there is still A LOT of work to do, the first part is DONE. This is a big deal because I’m a starter…not necessarily a finisher. I’m afraid of commitment and have a very short attention span.
BUT for Josh and the other sweet children I’ve based characters on, THIS has been worth it. This story is for them.
I’ve decided to self publish. I’ve hired a dear editor friend and I’m ready to fine tune it. There are many things to consider in this endeavor and clearly, I’m such a ‘newb’. My ultimate goal is to distribute this to children who deal with ‘weaknesses’ that are actually strengths in disguise, kids with untapped potential who just need to know how special they are.
What I ask of you, dear blogging buddies, is your opinion. Several people have recommended a Kickstarter project to get my story out there. This is hard for me. There are MUCH nobler causes needing support right now. I’m not sure it would be reasonable for me to ask for others to help. Then again, such financial support may make this more available to those who would benefit from reading Josh’s story.
I’m conflicted. This is where I would LOVE your opinion. I’ve created a poll and would appreciate your input. Also please feel free to email me, facebook me, or leave a comment if you care to share your thoughts. The comments on this blog are moderated so let me know if you would prefer your input to remain private.
And that’s the story behind the story. Stay tuned.