Expression of Experience
My earliest memories as a child all have my mom’s small side of the family in them; My grandmother, brothers, uncle, and of course, mom. When people ask, I tell them, “I’m from Nashville”, which takes a lot less effort than giving the entire roadmap to how I got there. We migrated as a family down from the harsh winters of Chicago, the summer before I turned 6 years old. All of my young adult years were spent in the Music City. My entire family as I knew it, with the exception of my dad, was in Nashville, with me, raising my brothers and I.
Being down south brought me new friends, new interests, new horizons, and naturally, football. Being so young when we moved, I didn’t even realize what sports were. Who knew how big a part this game would play in my life. So many places it’s taken me. It paid for my college experience at Virginia Tech and allowed me to move to Montreal by means of the Canadian Football League. In a similarly unpredictable fashion, while in school, I was able to open the doors to my literary career and produce my first children’s book, #JustaGobbler.
#JustaGobbler is the story of a young bird’s struggle to find itself amidst the pressure of self-imposed comparison. It follows Hokie, a young resident of the wildlife sanctuary as he prepares for the day he’s waited for his entire life, the day of the big talent competition. With all this expectation, comes a fair amount of uncertainty as Hokie sees what the other contestants bring to the table. Hokie has some obstacles clouding his vision, but in a manner we can all be proud of, he finds what is important, just in time for his moment in the spotlight.
The thing I enjoy so much about children’s books is they bring together these different avenues so effortlessly. They are visual, they are literary, they are educational (at times). It’s not a far reach to say flipping through a child’s book is entertainment! It’s almost cheating. All that for an elementary audience, it’s amazing how a book like #JustaGobbler is able to capture relevance outside its perceived market. It’s got a solid message and is so relevant to me, more so now that I read to others than when we were creating the manuscript.
I got into the production of this book for a few reasons:
For starters, I love the art of it all. I’ve enjoyed writing since encouraged to do so in my 5th-grade classrooms, and have appreciated drawing well before that.
Explanation and expression of experience are roots that all forms of art have the potential to share, and I’m a believer that the pen is at their foundation.
Secondly, is the familiarity of my coauthors. I get to work with family, which is not always a walk in the meadow, but there are times when I definitely have to appreciate the pressure it takes away. I knew them both well before the idea of a book ever manifested itself, and it’s nice to have familiarity as I ride the training wheels of what is hopefully the beginning to something enduringly special.
I don’t know where things go from here. I think it would be a disservice to try and guess. It’s nice to have seen what it takes to create something from scratch. Even better is something tangible that can be appreciated and improved. I’m all about the process, and in that is the reflection of self. Hopefully, people see the intention, but if not, it was fun. If that’s not the definition of an artist, I’ll figure it out later.
I don’t know if I consider myself a real “writer” as of yet. The irony is that #JustaGobbler is published and people have really shown their love for the idea. We approached it more so as a project than we did a true literary work. I look forward to the day when my art can be appreciated on a level where I am able to do it for a living. What a fun road it’s been so far, and we’ve only just begun.