Science fiction writer Hugh Howey releases his first children's book this month. The author introduces Misty, about a young cloud learning to be herself.
"Tell us a story," my nieces begged me. We were together for the holidays, and Jordan and Catherine were playing "Storytime." They knew that I was a writer, but my stories were usually too dark for them, with bad things happening to good people. But I couldn't refuse. So I made up a tale on the spot, a story about a cloud named Misty who couldn't turn into shapes the way her friends could, which made her sad and brought on the thunderstorms.
Even while telling a children's story, I couldn't help but take a sinister turn.
My nieces didn't seem to be traumatized by the telling; in fact, I think they liked it. And this character and her world lived on in my imagination. Years went by. I published a number of novels and had quite a bit of success. I was eventually able to quit my day job and take on projects that had little hope of doing well. Returning to the world of Misty, I wrote a formal script for a children's book, and I sent it off to my agent. The next thing I knew, we were looking at illustrators and discussing how to make this a reality. I was going to put together my first children's book.
Growing up, reading was always a major focus in my house. My mother was a school teacher and taught us to read before we went off to kindergarten. Those first encounters with text and story and gorgeous illustrations are why I became a voracious reader -- and eventually a writer. With the freedom to pursue the projects I was passionate about, I thought it would be exciting to reach out to kids just learning to read today. I wanted to share with them this story about a young cloud learning to be herself and learning that it was okay to cry.
Together with the unbelievably talented artist Nidhi Chanani, we brought Misty's story to life. And any doubts I had about this project vanished with my first beta reader. A friend's 2-year-old daughter sat in my lap while I went through the first proof copy of Misty. We turned the pages slowly while I read aloud. With cries of "again," we started from the beginning. The first time she pointed to a cloud and cried, "Misty," I knew I was hooked. This was what it was all about. Watching a new reader come to life, hopefully a future voracious reader. Maybe even a writer.