"How many of you–children or adults–have ever dreamed of flying?" This was writer Ann Marie Meyers' question to the audience at the launch of her children's book Up in the Air at Paper-Based Bookshop last weekend.The novel, targeted at nine-to-12-year-olds, is in the fantasy/adventure genre that children of this age love so much.It tells the story of Melody, who has always dreamt of flying. One day, she launches herself off a park swing with the intention of making it as far as the sandbox. Instead, she finds herself landing in an entirely different realm, the magical land of Chimeroan, where even the wildest dreams come true.
The heroine earns her wings–but, as in any good story, there's a catch: Melody can't outfly her problems, and in her case there's one looming particularly large: the guilt she harbours about her role in a car accident that has left her father paralysed. Will she choose flight and freedom? Or will she accept her family's new reality, forgive herself and open the door to healing?These may seem like heavy themes to pack into a children's novel (guilt, self-confidence, fear, forgiveness), but they are concepts that "tweens" grapple with every day.Meyers explained that the concept manifested itself one day while she was meditating. "The idea just came to me, but what was strange is that it appeared as images, whereas I usually think in words." So she did what she said in retrospect was a very risky thing. "I cut the meditation session short, went downstairs to my computer and started writing everything down. And then, I got properly stuck."
She hadn't waited for the story to reach its denouement in her mind, so she spent the next few years trying to figure out where the plot should go.Not that she didn't enjoy the process–Meyers has always loved writing, she said. She has a degree in languages and, after working for several years at the United Nations in New York, she started her own business, translating legal and technical documents from French and Spanish into English.She became interested in writing content for children after her daughter, Eliana, was born. "I tried to write picture books, but that requires a certain technique and I didn't have it," she said. "But I realised I enjoyed writing longer books anyway." The result is 200 pages of magical adventure that doesn't talk down to children.
Meyers' daughter, now 12, is testament to that. "She liked the book," her mother beamed. "I started reading it to her when she was nine or ten years old, and she'd always beg for one more chapter, so I felt I was on to something."Meyers shopped the book around to several literary agents and got nowhere until she decided to submit it directly to a publishing house; Jolly Fish Press took it on board and the rest is history in the making.The author is now on an international book tour that has fittingly started in T&T, the land of her birth, and will also include appearances and signings in New York and across Canada. She said that starting the tour "at home" was both scary and exhilarating, but she is looking forward to positive feedback about the novel. Judging from the number of people whose hands went "up in the air" when she asked her question at the book launch, that should be much easier than learning to fly.
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