Once Upon A Time: The Story Behind The Story

This is how it happened…

She had always been a reader and writer. Somewhere along the path of discovery and education; from the child in first grade figuring out the phonics of it all…an internal smile came upon her spirit. There was joy in the written word. And, perhaps just perhaps, she might write her own stories, in her own words. Initially it was simply the day dream of a young girl that honestly roots with other  “when I grow up” possibilities.  Then it became a growing, steadfast acceptance that happens over time and experience. It transitioned from “Once Upon A Time” sweet story telling to “Dear Diary” observations to “I Am A Writer” attempts towards craft. 

It can be said that there are old souls that just know their destiny from the onset life. So innately brilliant that their gifts of expression explode and cannot be stopped. Such people become the artists, poets and musicians whose works are classical and timeless.  She recognized that she was not such a prodigy. For her, any confidence and mastery of writing would take time.  So, she read Greek philosophers, social satirists, classical playwrights and novelists and, yes, modern writers in all genres. Over the years she soaked everything in…gaining knowledge and enjoyment. And always wondering if her inner light would transition from desire to a viable literary voice.

As the years went on, priorities of living took over. She found herself a college student, a wife, a mother, a career woman, and then…all of a sudden, a grandmother. As she and time evolved, she became more knowing and accepting of the complexities of living and survival. Sometimes, the happiness was so grand that she unabashedly basked in the glory of moments. Other times, the challenges and unexpected twists and turns became so grave, she became crippled in sadness. Both were all consuming and she surrendered to each path. It became a full life…as she put it, “a good run.”

Yet she never lost the urge to write. In college, she focused on rhetoric and journalism and won writing awards. When raising her daughters, there were always books read aloud and discussed. In her career, she would compose copy, create marketing/publicity campaigns, and write speeches. Throughout, the dream of independently writing, though a side bar to the reality of living, was never lost. When she could, she took publishing classes and, in her early 30s, came close to writing a children’s book. And, to her surprise, with each joy, each loss, each adventure of life, she privately documented.  Not because she was going to market it. Simply because it became who she was. A part time writer.

Little girls filled with fairy tales and young women filled with drive eventually grow up. The years fly by with speed. Surprisingly and suddenly, she found herself retired.  At last, time to truly focus on developing her writing…discovering where she fit in the literary spectrum. She wrote poetry only to find that her words were borderline clichés. In an attempt to adapt to writing trends of the times, she started to write a blog. She became uncomfortable and unhappy with the self-indulgent, “arrogance of opinion” the format seemed to nurture. Perhaps, she wondered, she could write a script for a Broadway play. No. Her attempts were mediocre at best though she did find herself writing a Tony Award acceptance speech for best screenplay. The dreamer had become a dabbler. But at least she was writing and she was trusting her voice, her instinct.

Writing is a wild combination of hard work, talent, and risk. But like everything in life, such factors have to all come together when the time, the inspiration fits. She understood this years ago when she realized she was not a writing prodigy. She needed to grow, learn, and hope.  If it is meant to be, life would present the opportunity, the moment, the unexpected courage to proceed. So…again she stopped; waiting for that marriage of opportunity and inner instinctual voice to rise.  

Each day she listened and looked. A wishful optimist, with a graceful acceptance of boundaries and possibilities.

For the next couple of years, she did not formally write. She experienced some tough times of loss and loneliness. Honestly there was confusion and sadness. With such challenges came the realization that she should simply just be. Perhaps this is what getting older truly means. But, ever the thinker, she continued to experience thoughtful ideas and observations that she scratched down in a dog-eared journal.  Mostly because she did not want to lose the inspiration. There were no expectations that any of these random (albeit clever) musings would result in a tangible piece of work… though she joked to herself that a few might possibly make a good, final obituary.

Then…out of the blue, her daughter asked her to come to Colorado to help her with the kids.  It was a complicated offer and a HUGE decision but she ultimately said yes. Because of love, because of gratitude, because of survival.

And then…the unexpected happened…

With all the difficulties and dynamics of relocating, there arose a wondrous new reality…a growing, intimate bond with her grandchildren.  She would come to spend the week with them, from approximately 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening. Yes, Samuel at 3 years and GiGi at three months, were sometimes demanding and tiring. Yet the intensity of the obligation blossomed into joy—in spite of the dirty diapers, the expected childhood tantrums, and the physical demands. There developed an intimacy and immediacy of nurturing and sharing. The grandchildren absorbed life with such innocent enthusiasm that she became an amazed participant. Her world became full of music, kisses, and discovery.

As it happened, her daughter lived near a wonderful nature reserve. Very Colorado…acres of wildlife and trees, sweeping mountains looming. A rustic park, discovery center, lots of paths to be explored.  It became the ultimate destination for daily excursions. The only thing that stopped the routine was a blizzard.   

And, to her surprise and delight, through the innocence and unconditional love of two little grandchildren, she reconnected with her sleeping, wounded spirit. As the three sang, read, walked, and dreamed, they found magic. Not only in what was but in the possibilities of what could be imagined.

The second winter in Colorado, she decided to chronicle their adventures in a little book as a Christmas present. She found, as she wrote, that she wanted to capture the essence, the highlights of what was shared. She knew it needed more direction. Would it be written from a child’s perspective or that of the grandmother? How can she tighten up the storyline? Who was the ultimate audience? Suddenly, she again became that excited young girl who loved to read and hoped to write. She enthusiastically re-opened her dreams, her goals, her spirit. A gift for her precious grandchildren, a redemption for herself.

As a snowy day quietly sat in stillness outside her window, she heard herself say aloud, “Once upon a time”…she took a deep breath and began to type.



I completed the book’s first copy that Christmas but it took two years and many edits, etc. to finalize and publish. (Soon, when I am ready to objectively do so, I will write another story about that process. As I was told, “WHAT? YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS GOING TO BE EASY?!” I have seen “behind the curtain” and it is complicated)

I am very proud of “Samuel and The Magic Tree”.  Not because I can say I wrote and published a book…I always hoped that I would. But because it is a sweet, loving, and good little book. It is a legacy of love to my grandchildren which I hope they will cherish long after I am no longer here. And, within its pages, I hope it resonates with all grandparents and their grandchildren. It is amazing what happens when the innocence and love of a child inspires a grandparent. That is magic!!!!

To discover more about the book and to order, please go the website:

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