Customized Tales

Cameron’s Quest for the Secret Saola

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Illustration by Amelia Grace Gossman (see Collaboration)

You know you’ve found a great topic to write about when Microsoft Office and Google find the need to spellcheck your main character! For my second customized story, I decided to write about the saola, a rare mammal that lives in Asia and is often referred to as a real-life unicorn for it’s rareness and profile view of its two horns. A good friend of mine is one of the world experts on the saola, and I loved the challenge and opportunity to raise awareness about a beautiful animal that no one knows about. My friend’s son is absolutely adorable and easily translated into a main character in the story. After several attempts at completing the story, I ended up walking away from it (it’s quite challenging to rhyme saola)! Though when my friend announced that he was leaving to join another organization,  it provided the perfect push I needed to finish Cameron’s Quest for the Secret Saola as a goodbye present.

Where the Wind Blows

I wrote this story for a coworker of mine who told me that he and his wife were expecting their first child. You’d be hard-pressed to find two people better suited to bring a new life into the world, and I was quite excited to finally write my first customized tale. I attempted to create the illustrations for the book as well, though quickly learned that I’m meant to stick to writing! In this case, it actually worked out for the better. I asked our other coworker’s children to each illustrate a page of the book, which turned out to be a great way to really pull the team together.

The challenge with any custom story is ensuring that there is enough detail in the story to make it truly personal. These two had quite a story! They met in Gabon while one was serving in the Navy and the other was working in wildlife conservation. After moving to Washington, DC, the two found a surrogate in Georgia to carry their first child. I wanted to ensure that this element remained in the story, to embrace the determination they had to be parents. The kingfisher is her favorite animal, so this led to Where the Wind Blows, a story about two traveling birds and one determined wind storm.

Praise from the recipients: “We absolutely loved the book you created for Max – the poem itself was beautiful, thoughtful and loving;  but also having Bas’ colleagues’ children contribute with their art was beyond touching.” 

Glenn and Penn’s Flight School

I wanted to create a little wedding gift for a good friend with an adventure theme to wish them many years of adventures together. How do you create a story about about a pilot and wildlife crime expert? Easy-Start with a flight school and add a little mystery! Penn and Glenn run their own flight rehabilitation school for injured birds. When one of the birds is kidnapped, Penn, Glenn and the other birds must find and rescue him. Will they be able to follow the clues and overcome their fears of flying to save their friend? Illustrations by Nicole Condon.

The Journey to Rosalie

Two of my best friends announced they were expecting their first child and I was FINALLY able to make them a customized book. The beach and Maryland have played an important role in their relationship, so I wanted this story to mirror that. Starting at the beach where he proposed, travelling to Annapolis where they were married, and settling down further north, this story follows two blue crabs on their journey through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Illustrations by Nicole Condon.