Yes, this surprised me, too, but give me a minute to explain.
It all started 11 years ago, after returning from the last vacation that I took with my sister. We were both fighting different types of cancer at the time, and one of us was losing the battle. So when I got home I created a short, silly story to remind myself about the importance of holding on to hope, even when things seem most hopeless.
The plot centered around the misadventure of an optimistic young snake named Hank and included other crucial story elements like words that rhyme and several pictures that I had drawn myself. It’s worth noting that I’m not a very good artist. Or poet. Still, it met the quality expectations of my target audience (me) so I ignored all of the critics (also me) and keep working on it.
Now I’m not sure how long it usually takes to finish a G-rated, 32-page snake story, but it’s almost certainly less than 11 years. I wasn’t writing the entire time, of course. I also spent a significant amount of time erasing. But that’s somewhat beside the point.
The point is, I never intended to write a book. I was simply transforming my lingering grief into some lighthearted verse and childish illustrations. In truth, it was a wholly selfish endeavor created to make myself feel better. And it helped.
I really didn’t have an exit strategy after that.
Some recent news made me realize, though, that there are a lot of people in the midst of incredibly disheartening battles right now and I thought, maybe, this silly story about hope could help them, too. So I uploaded all of the words and drawings to a self-publishing website and pressed the submit button.
Then, just like that, I had a book. More incredibly, people started buying it, and some of them probably weren’t even related to me! It even spent a couple days as the #1 New Release in Children’s Books on Amazon.com. Slow week for book sales? Possibly, but that didn’t stop me from printing a screenshot to store in my wallet alongside the pictures of my wife and children.
To increase the book’s odds of spreading goodwill, I decided to give all of the proceeds to Seattle Children’s Hospital this year. Plus, my employer is going to match those donations up to $15,000 ($15,000 worth of proceeds = 7.7 billion copies of my book, or something like that; as it turns out, I’m also not very good at math).
Together, I’m hoping we can help turn a little bit of hope into survival.
If you’d like to see some sample pages and learn more about the book, visit http://www.hankthesnake.com/. Otherwise, you can just wait until I accidently finish the screenplay and then go see the movie. It shouldn’t take too long.