Father Ethan Bryan says – Super Heroes Are For Real.
Whenever someone asks me what I do, I say that I’m a writer and a storyteller. When they ask what I write about, I usually say baseball and life. On those rare days that I’m feeling particularly confident in my writings and rather ornery, I’ll reply that I weave together incredible narratives of baseball, faith, and life, trying to discover the greatness and nearness of God’s Story through the best game ever created by following the best team — the Kansas City Royals. But really, what I do, is I stay at home with my daughters while my wife works as a teacher of elementary students with multiple disabilities.
I drive my oldest daughter to school.
I wrestle with words for two hours at a coffee shop.
I do laundry.
I do dishes.
I clean house and take the dog for walks and do push-ups and sit-ups and jumping jacks for exercise.
I pick up both daughters after school.
In the midst of all of this doing, whenever I’m doing whatever it is I actually do, I’m definitely not writing a children’s book.
I don’t know anything about writing children’s books.Last summer, my wife and I were talking about random daily happenings when she told me that the theme for the upcoming school year at her school, which happens to be the elementary school I attended, would be “Not All Superheroes Wear Capes.” And as soon as she told me the theme, I had an idea for a children’s picture book.
The school at which my wife works is an incredible school, even if it is smaller in population. About one-fourth of the students are challenged with special needs. The teachers there don’t just babysit these students. They find ways to engage and educate them, knowing that they are learning about the world even if they struggle to get their bodies to cooperate with their brains.
As a sixth grader, I remember working with one student who used a computer to communicate — which was revolutionary technology back in 1986! Her name was Sarah, and even though Sarah was confined to a wheelchair and could only squeal and grunt with her vocal chords, I could tell amazing things were happening in her brain. She would greet me during lunch times and on the playground and I volunteered weekly to help in her room, reading her books or just visiting with her.
When my wife told me the theme, I first thought of Sarah. The very next morning, I went to my coffee shop and sat in my back corner and started wrestling with words. In two hours I wrote 1200 words describing superheroes that are seen everyday. Then Google told me that, at most, children’s books contain 800 words. “The pictures are supposed to tell the story more than the words,” Google said. I decided to edit the next day.
The following day, a writer friend sat at the table next to mine and asked about my work. I sheepishly told him that I was working on a children’s book. He replied, “My wife works with children’s books all over the state. She could give you advice, if you want. But I must warn you, she is painfully honest and direct in her critiques.” He gave me her email address.I cut 400 words, ignored my ego, and submitted the email.
That afternoon, while folding laundry, I received an email from my writer friend’s wife. “This is a wonderful story. You should contact Goldminds Publishing and tell them I sent you.”
I did as she said and was again amazed when Goldminds responded almost immediately, “We would love to have the opportunity to work with you on this book.” Goldminds partnered me with Travis Hanson, an award-winning illustrator from California. And today, only seven months later, I’ll go to my wife’s elementary school and give a copy of Superheroes are for Real to every single student and teacher for free, because they are the ones who inspired the tale.
One final note.
When you read Superheroes are for Real, you’ll notice that hundreds of other words were deleted. The pictures really do tell the story; Travis’s illustrations are brilliant. My favorite page is the one that shows that “Even superheroes have bad days.” The tale now ends when the daughter declares that her dad is a real life superhero. In the original ending, however, the daughter sees the extraordinary in the daily life and communicates this to her dad. And because of the relationship between the father and daughter and his words of affirmation and blessing, she believes that she, too, can do super things in this world.
This is the story I want to tell, I want to live. This is what I want to do as a father: to let my daughters know that I am proud of them, amazed by their creativity and compassion, and encourage them as they go and do super things in this world.
Photo Credit: Ethan Bryan