Thank you, Janet, for letting me write a guest post on your blog. This is my first time. I am a new author. I have been a lifelong writer, but this is my first book. Brighty’s Special Gift was published in December 2014 by Meryton Press. I have decided to tell Brighty’s story and share some ideas for using it with the young ones in your life.
How The Story of Brighty’s Special Gift Came into Being
It has been my practice for the last decade to write a short Christmas story and pair it with a photograph that enhances the message as my Christmas card. Usually, it proves easy to come up with themes for the story. Then I find a way to give it a Christmas twist, and voila! There you have it— instant Christmas card and present all in one. Plus, it’s handmade, has lots of thought going into it, it’s personal, special and one of a kind (not coming off the factory Christmas card press). Sounds easy, right?
In 2011, my dad was critically ill. I couldn’t write. I didn’t send out cards. I barely knew my name. He died on December 27. That Christmas was a blur. So, in November 2012 I wanted to resume writing my annual Christmas story. It didn’t usually take long, but my ideas had dried up. I decided to ask God to inspire me. I prayed for a story. It seemed confusing, because I awoke from a dream-filled sleep with the middle of a story. I trusted that God would reveal more. In two more subsequent dreams, I awoke with the end and then the beginning. By March 2013, it was written, but it was too late for the season. So, I reviewed it occasionally and saw that it really was just right for illustrations.
In July, I hired a Disney-inspired artist, Wendy La, who read the story and was just as excited as I was. I put the story in a table format with one column for text and the next column describing the picture I envisioned. Piece of cake! As it turns out, my artist was a mind reader who could take my descriptions and “run.” Wendy intuitively knew how each one should look and transferred them into nineteen magnificent paintings. Any child picking up my book can “read” it with these pictures.
Next, I began exploring various options for publishing. I spoke with an agent/publisher at a writer’s conference who said she loved the story and wanted to take it home to her kids, but she couldn’t publish it because of its mention of God.
I was both encouraged and disappointed. Even so, I decided to stop pushing. In the late fall of 2014, I decided for a complete re-write, not to change the message but to simplify the language to appeal to the youngest readers. My dear friend Ellen Pickels, brilliant book designer and editor extraordinaire, helped me get it all together. Now, it was done! I was happy that I had clarified my primary audience (ages 4-10). Brighty’s Special Gift was ready, but I still didn’t know how it was going to get published. I said, “God, this is your book. If you want this published, then show me what to do to make it happen.”
I met Michele Reed of Meryton Press by phone to consult on how I could start my own publishing company. She had seen the final draft. She liked it. She shared a few ideas. Ultimately, Michele said she would be interested in publishing Brighty as a new venue for Meryton. Yay! I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this group of talented writers, editors, designers and publishing gurus.
17 Ways to Use Brighty’s Special Gift:
- Read it out loud to an individual or group.
- Re-read it making special voice tones for God, Brighty and the others and for the “star” sound effects.
- Draw, color and cut out the characters and put on craft sticks.
- Use your hand-made puppets to re-enact the story.
- Ask questions to start a dialogue.
What happens when you are different from everyone else? Do you try to blend in so no one will notice? Are you grateful for your own special talents?
- Give a copy to a friend whose child is being teased or bullied, and/or take one to your church’s library.
- Have an older youth read to the young ones. (Exposure to this message at any age is valuable.)
- Draw, cut out and decorate felt characters and put on a felt board to re-tell the story.
- Make over-sized 3-D characters with material sewn together and stuffed.
- Think about other times when hope is needed. Write a story about Brighty lighting the way for that occasion.
- Make a storyboard for your new story illustrating Brighty and your new characters. Your new characters can be animals or children.
- Make a “Brighty’s Gift” box and decorate in a special way. Put in slips of paper with compliments you hear about yourself from family, friends, teachers and acquaintances. Read them when you need to celebrate who you are.
- Make a “Brighty’s Gift” box for someone else. Start their box with slips of paper naming things you or others like about them.
- Make a “Brighty Compassion” box for your family and put in it all the things that hurt others and ways to show compassion to help them. Read them out loud in a family gathering on the day you name as “Compassion Day.”
- Plan a “Special Gift” treasure hunt. Have friends over. Put everyone’s name in a basket. Each person draws a name and writes something special about that person on an index card and decorates it. Have an adult or older child hide the “gifts.” Then go looking for the treasures. Whoever finds and gives the most “gifts” to others, wins. You decide the prize.
- Share these ideas with your friends. Have these conversations before you need to have these conversations. It will make you the place to go when times are difficult.
- Go to Amazon and leave a review. All the “stars” on Amazon will help get the word out.
I have one friend who read the early version of Brighty when it was in the “works.” She is always one of my test readers. After complimenting me, she asked if this was my autobiography. I paused and thought. “Perhaps it is,” I pondered, “but I don’t think it is only mine.” Being young is sometimes so tough. I want it to be mostly delightful, lined with just the right amount of wisdom, support, and hope to help every child hang tight until the tough growing times are past. I am speaking about children of every age. It is my hope that all of us find our own special gift, and, when the time comes, that we use it for whatever good it may bring to ourselves and others.
In the early days of the universe where it is cold and dark with zillions of stars, Brighty feels completely alone. He has no one to play with or talk to. The other stars taunt, torment and bully him because he is strange and different from them.
Brighty is hurt by their teasing. He thinks he cannot take it anymore; he loses all hope. After crying out in the big, black darkness for eons, something wonderful happens just in time . . .
Brighty’s Special Gift is a parable for children of all ages with a special Christmas connection written by Dee Wallain and illustrated by Wendy J La.
About the author:
Dee Wallain lives in Richmond, Virginia, the happiest city in America, with her husband, Jim, and Wally the rabbit. They laugh together every day, mostly because they like to have fun. Ordinary life is full of comical things; they laugh at themselves and especially enjoy the antics of Wally. He showed up on Easter Sunday, a runaway domestic rabbit who chooses to live in the “wild.” He knows his name, comes when called for meals, and entertains the neighborhood with his “sightings.”