How I Managed to Do A New Book in the Midst of a Pandemic

Okay, so 2020 hasn’t been the most creatively productive year. I’m not being hard on myself, or lamenting, just stating a fact. Very few of us have uttered statements like “Yay! The world outside is germy and dangerous! I’m gonna scratch everything off my to do list and produce magnum opus after magnum opus.” People who say things like that tend to have voodoo dolls made in their likeness.

Nope, for me, and for many, many others, it’s been a year of staring at a blank screen, doing the mechanical, easy stuff that needs to be done, and eating our feelings. It’s not a permanent state, I’m sure, but still frustrating.

I am, however, finishing off this rashy armpit of a year with something cool.

In days of yore (at least before COVID), I had an idea for a book about a kid who decides the world requires and upgrade, and proceeds to 3D print a new one. It would be witty, charming, and would have all kinds of ties to tech and STEM learning. Go cross-curricular! I wrote a rough manuscript, and the main character, a perceptive little girl with a get-r-done state of mind, told me her name was Mildred. And for a while, that was as far as it went.

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This spring/summer, the world really was in a bit of a state. Between being chased by a microscopic bully, worrying about the well being of our ecosystems, watching centuries-old racial tensions bubble, and generally slapping our foreheads over world politics, things got real. Fast.

Mildred tapped on my brain. She’d been sitting patiently and politely for a while, but she wasn’t having any more of that. She was a “just fix it” kind of kid, and in my memory, there had never been more that needed fixing. She told me it was time, and that she didn’t need anything gimmicky like a 3D printer to get things done. I partnered up with an illustrator I’d worked with before (Maria Jose Hurtado), a new photographer (Rod Heinz), and a bunch of very creative kids. This past week, we launched Mildred into the world in book form, and in the next month, she’ll be going digital.

In the book, Mildred rebuilds the world with a critical eye to what’s important, not just to her, but to everyone. She doesn’t balk at the task, but gathers her glitter glue and pipe cleaners and gets to it. I’ll admit that some (maybe all) of the kids’ characters I write represent a bit of wishful thinking. Mildred is certainly no exception.

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One indie kids’ book doesn’t fix the world. It might not fix anything, really, but Mildred does stand as a reminder to me that even in the middle of a mess, our responsibilities to and our connection with others don’t just disappear, nor does our power.

As always, I am so grateful to the team that helped make this germ of an idea into an actual thing. I’m also grateful to Mildred for replenishing the spot in my mind that had gone a little gummy over the past 8 months. I’m getting out my proverbial stickers and construction paper, and revving up to fix what I can in 2021. I hope she does the same for others.

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