Have you ever walked casually down a street when suddenly a cobweb clung to your face?
And then, did you find yourself waving vigorously at an invisible gooey thread?
That’s exactly what happened to me with my Elphie books series. Well, except for the cobweb and the waving part. But everything else was literally the same.
I was casually browsing TV channels one lazy afternoon when I stumbled upon an episode of The Mythbusters. The hosts were trying to check whether elephants are afraid of mice. They designed an elaborate experiment that was supposed to confirm or bust that myth, and, what do you know – it was confirmed. Elephants are afraid of mice!
I was so amazed by that revelation and right that instant – boom. A cobweb of an idea for a picture book began tangling in my mind.
Unlike real cobwebs, ideas don’t need to be waved off. All you need to do is be distracted for a brief moment and they’re gone. Poof.
But that idea was different. It was strong and clingy. It was like a music worm that plays in your head on and on. Don’t you just hate it?
I couldn’t shake it off and it drove me crazy.
The idea wasn’t very articulate. It was just a blurry vision, something to do with primal fears.
Duh, I told myself, trying to wave it off. Fears are the most popular subject in the children’s genre. No one needs another picture book about fears. But the idea refused to be defused.
You can do it, the idea whispered or, rather, hissed inside my head. You can write a book about fears without even mentioning the F word (which is fear, of course). So, I clenched my teeth and sat down at my desk.
An hour later I had the first draft for a series of 3 books featuring, well, an elephant that is afraid of rats and his pet, which is, of course, a rat. That wasn’t the only thing that frightened this unfortunate little creature. He was also afraid of heights, monsters, and the apocalypse.
It took me about a minute to realize that this baby elephant, named Elphie, is a replica of me. I mean, if I ever had a trunk. But, yeah. I am an adult who is afraid of heights and monsters and the apocalypse.
So, I thought that if I could find a way to help myself overcome my grownup fears, it would probably work for a little elephant as well.
I brainstormed about it for a while. I focused on one specific scenario – climbing on top of the roof.
My husband and kids climb up there all the time. When they come down they always praise the view; they talk about the summer breeze and how your entire perspective changes when you stand up there at the tip of the roof.
I longed to join them and feel the summer breeze caress my face, but I could never climb the ladder. I just couldn’t bring myself past the third step.
I thought, what would make me climb that ladder? And I realized. It would have to be a life-threatening event, and nothing less. And I knew that if I had to save one of my kids I would make that leap.
And that was that. My solution was found.
Elphie had to save his pet in order to get over his fear of heights!
Then, I gave Elphie a cape and a sword, because the world is somehow less scary when you’re wearing a cape, right?
This whole brainstorming process, from problem to solution, took only a few minutes. Of course, it took me two more years to perfect the message and the looks of the picture book. But there you have it … from a cobweb of a sticky idea to a picture book that helped me conquer my fear of heights. Yep. I finally did it.
The view from up there is magnificent. See for yourself.