Have you ever felt like a unicorn?
The rarity in the herd?
In the children’s book writer’s world, I have.
Unlike many of my contemporaries, I didn’t spend lazy summer days, dark, stormy nights, and every other waking moment of my childhood with a book in my hands, nor did I write my first book at the age of six. I have, however, oftentimes envied them. Especially those
who had hunkered down in bed with the covers pulled over their heads, a flashlight in hand because they couldn’t sleep until they’d uncovered the secret to a garden or learned where Papa was going with that ax. The only place you’d have found a flashlight in our house would have been in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, hidden in a forest of dishwashing liquid, furniture polish, ammonia, Ajax, and bunches of rusty Brillo pads.
Don’t get me wrong. I did love to read. Just not voraciously. Books weren’t all that available to me. There was no library in my school, nor were there outings to any either. On occasion however, I was allowed to walk with my best friend to the one in town.
We’d set out on our adventure strolling up the block, hang a left at the sand pit, run past the swamp (wouldn’t you have when you were nine?), stroll down the path through the woods that ended on a crescent shaped dirt road, and continue along the curve that hugged a lime-green-scum-covered brown pond. Here, we’d stop to feed the ducks for a moment, then move on down a paved street, cross over the railroad tracks, and onto the main road. This might sound like some isolated town in the middle of nowhere, but it is a borough of New York City, albeit the most rustic in the mid-1960’s.
No. Nancy Drew, Wilbur, Charlotte, and the four kids that walked through a wardrobe were not even the tiniest blip on my literary radar. Although I do remember leaving that library cradling a stack of books in my arms and being extra careful not to drop one anywhere near that scummy pond for fear it would be snatched and swallowed up by some looming swamp monster. No way was I going to put myself in danger of having to wrangle a book out of some slimy amphibian’s saw-toothed choppers. My allowance was allotted to penny candies, not paying a fine on damp, serrated overdue library books.
My own library collection began with CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, a Scholastic Book Club favorite. Eventually a treasury of GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES landed on my shelf. The originals. The version where Cinderella is not a Walt Disney adaptation. In my book, one step sister cuts off a big toe and the other a heel to fit a foot into the slipper which is not made of glass, but gold. In this not-so-happily-ever-after-for-those-who-deserve-being-punished-for-their-actions, pigeon’s peck the sisters’ eyes out at the wedding. The gruesome ending drives home a lesson, doesn’t it? It also explains why I’d kept a healthy distance from flocks of birds and strove to be a good little girl.
I’m sure the seeds that grew into my adult love of travel and adventure were planted by the intrepid protagonists in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, TREASURE ISLAND, KON-TIKI, THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, in particular THE SEVEN VOYAGES OF SINBAD THE SAILOR. I only wish they had included tips on how to maintain a sturdy pair of sea legs and keep my lunch down in rolling swells. My dog-sled adventure in the arctic in 2016 was a dream come true inspired by my love for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Tru-To-Life-Books edition of ESKIMO FAMILY. As for the the sword wielding heroes fighting for justice in my dusty, dog-eared copy of THE THREE MUSKETEERS? Might they have been the motivation for my inner child to finally step forth and prod me into wielding a pen instead of a blade?
As I’m sharing my little secret with you now, it’s becoming clear to me that I did do a fair share of reading in those early years.
Perhaps not as much as most authors, but enough. Enough to have inspired me to write. Enough to have propelled my pen into action, coax the shy wordsmith from the shadows, and send me on a quest to find my voice, hone that voice, and to use it…that voice that is uniquely mine. The voice that separates me from the rest.
I like to think we are all unicorns.
Each one of us, a rarity in the herd.
❤ for stopping by today ❤
Please share your unicorness in the comments.