“Sienna, time for bed.”
“I don’t wanna go to bed.”
“We’re not having this discussion… especially, for the 114th night in a row. Now jammies on, time for bed, let’s go.”
“But I’m not tired,” she tells me as she yawns.
“How many books tonight?” I ask, helping her with her jams.
I smile on the inside. Raising a reader thrills me. But prudence must prevail.
“Two,” I counter offer.
“Three.” She’s resolved.
“Deal,” I say.
“And a story,” she adds. I swear she’s gonna grow up to be a middle eastern rug dealer.
So we read 1, 2, 3 books (I really don’t remember which ones – she’s got zillions on her bookshelf – hey, I know the data relating volume of books to eventual levels of literacy in the lives of young people. It is, after all, my day job) and then I close the lights and kiss her goodnight.
“You forgot my story.”
“Actually, I didn’t forget, I was kinda hoping you had.”
She doesn’t laugh. Not that she didn’t get the joke; she just didn’t think it was funny. So I warm up the story-telling machine.
“Once upon a time…”
I don’t want to hear that one.
“I haven’t even started yet.”
“I want a different one.”
“Okay,” I tell her. “Once upon a time…”
“I don’t want to hear that one either.”
“But you don’t even know what story I was going to tell you.”
“A new one.”
“A new one?” I ask.
“A new one.”
So my wheels start turning. I gotta get this kid to bed. Not because I am worried about her not getting enough sleep but because I am worried about mommy returning home from
dinner with her friends and if Sienna isn’t asleep by the time mommy walks through the door, daddy is gonna be in BIG trouble.
“Okay,” I begin. “I am going to tell you a story that no little girl has ever heard before.”
“Nobody?” she asks, eyes wide with excitement. Now we’re talking.
“Not a one,” I confirm.
Meanwhile, I have no idea what story I am about to invent but years and years of teaching in the classroom have sharpened my ability to think on my feet in pressure cooker situations with kids. Get ‘em interested, fake it til you make it, and go with the flow. Veteran educators have been there a thousand times before.
So that’s what I did.
“Are you sure you want to hear this?” I ask building her excitement. I was also buying some time. Still, no story.
“Uh huh,” she said.
“Positive?” I asked.
“Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, entirely and totally sure?” I asked.
She was practically giddy.
“Yes, daddy, yes!”
“This is the story of Cinderella,” I say, creating a magical mood. Lights dim, just me and my daughter, her cozy and warm and in cute pink pajamas with butterflies all over them… it’s the kind of stuff parents relish about having 4 year old kids.
“Cinderella?” she said, looking crestfallen. She’d already heard the story of Cinderella bunches of times.
And so had zillions of kids. This wasn’t going to work at all.
“Wait, I’m sorry. Did I say Cinderella?” I said, quickly changing gears. “I mean… Cinder-Smella.”
“Cinder-Smella?” She laughed. Laughed BIG and HARD! Right then I knew I had her. I also knew that I had my bedtime story.
“Yep, Cinder-Smella… it’s a timeless tale about a little girl with very stinky feet!”
I emphasized the word stinky and added a Peeeeee-Yewwwww… then I quickly grabbed my daughter’s feet and pretended to smell them like rotten fruit. Sienna laughed and laughed.
The look was written clear and broad all over her face… now this was a bedtime story!
When I was done weaving my on-the-fly concoction of Cinder-Smella, Sienna went to bed with me just barely making it out of her room before mommy returned home.
“She go to bed okay?” asked my wife when she walked through the front door.
“Not a problem,” I said.
“How long ago?” asked my wife.
I avoided the question and started walking into the other room. “Uhm yeah, I just want to write something down for a minute,” I replied absent-mindedly, heading into my office. “Before I forget.”
Having sensed that I’d just cooked up the premise for a really fun and funny story, I went to go write a few things down, do some jotting. When ideas like this pop into my life, I always try to etch them into ink somehow. Trusting the muse to memory isn’t how I operate. Too many potential gems for me get lost that way. Writers write… and so I did.
That was about a year ago. Literally, it took me months and months of writing and re-writing and tinkering before it was ready to show to my literary agent.
As fate would have it, my agent was gonna be having a sleepover with 4 or 5 of his grandkids that weekend so he decided to take home Cinder-Smella and read it to his little ones. And on Monday I got a call from him telling me that indeed, the kids really, really liked the story, which was some feat since there were no illustrations (yet).
But then he said that his wife, Grandma, might have enjoyed the story just as much as anyone else in the room. She was tickled, top to bottom. The reading had become a true family affair type of thing. I beamed with pride.
Cinder-Smella just hit Amazon this week, at a price of less than 5 bucks. As of right now, it’s only available right now as an ebook.
Why an eBook exclusively? Tomorrow, part two on the how and why reasoning behind this decision.