It’s always a great thing when someone discovers their passion. It’s an even greater thing when they discover their passion is fatherhood.
I have always wanted to be a writer. Since the time I was a kid I loved to read, and that love translated into a passion for writing that I dabbled in off-and-on into my adult years—I would call myself a sporadic storyteller. Meanwhile, I spent my life before (and during) fatherhood as a hod carrier, a laborer at a newspaper, a mutual fund counselor…basically any number of things that I never felt fully satisfied with. My heart was always with this passion for writing, and I felt like I was just looking for the right path to pursue it.
Before my son John was born, I never even considered writing children’s books. I wrote short stories, always with adult subject matters, and assumed that would be the path I stayed on. But as a father in his 40s, I really wanted to have something I could share with my son, and stories were what I wanted to pass down to him.
I started by familiarizing myself with the kid’s section of our library, and from that got a proper grounding in the children’s genre, starting with Aesop, Grimm, Babar, Oz, and on and on. Fantasy became John’s and my favorite to read, and every night we’d get lost in stories about worlds so different from our own.
Eventually, the two of us had read so many books that we started coming up with a story together—one about a red crocodile who went on crazy adventures at night. It wasn’t a complete idea yet, but after a few years of the two of us talking about this crocodile character, I started to wonder what it would be like to use him as the premise for a children’s book of my own. After so many years of wanting to be a writer, and nearing fifty years old without ever having found the story I really wanted to tell, I really believed that this could be my time.
Plus, I thought it would be a really cool thing for my son to see our story written down on paper, employing the character that had bonded the two of us a tangible memory for him to hold on to.
It didn’t take long for me to finish writing Night Buddies and The Pineapple Cheesecake Scare, my first book starring Crosley the red crocodile. John had the manuscript to read and hold in his hands by the time he was seven. And after many revisions, the long process of the publishing world, and many years of standing firm in the thought that this story was absolutely the right one for me to tell, John was able to hold a real, published copy of the book by the time he left for college in Edinburgh. The series has won seven national awards so far, but above all, I’m happy to say that being an author and writing the Night Buddies stories is all I do now, and it came straight out of reading to my kid at bedtime.
When I look back on how I got to this place, living out my childhood dream of being an author, I’m struck by how everything worked out. I could not have known that I was meant to be a children’s author had I not known that I was meant to be a father, and had I not wanted to share a passion for reading with my son, and had I not spent all those years telling stories, no matter how sporadic they came and went.
If I had to live my life all over again, I wouldn’t change the timing of a single thing that fell into place, because otherwise I wouldn’t have written the stories I’m so proud to share with the world today.