As any parent knows, bedtime is one of the sweetest times you can spend with your child, but it can also be difficult to get kids to settle down and fall asleep without any drama. I learned this first-hand putting my son, Mason, to bed every evening. After he takes his bath, puts on his pajamas, brushes his teeth, and kisses Mommy goodnight, we retreat to his bedroom where we almost invariably read three books. However, we’ve gone through long periods when, even after I made my reading voice as soothing as possible, he was still having a hard time calming down. So I started telling him a story about a boy named Mason who lives in a big house with his Mommy and Daddy and his two dogs, Muffin and Lloyd, and who one day decides to go for a walk in the woods. It started out short and halting, but as Mason was going through a growth spurt, a time when he tends to be particularly restless, the story grew and the wording became more refined as I repeated it night after night. And it worked. Something about the rhythm of the narrative seemed to settle him down. His eyes would grow heavy, he’d turn over on his side, and his breathing would become regular. I’d whisper the story for another minute or two, just to make sure he was asleep, and then creep slowly and deliberately out of the room.
After I had been putting Mason to sleep like this every night for months, my wife, Ginny, finally heard the story and suggested that I get someone to paint illustrations to go along with the words. Ginny’s mother, Susan Edwards, is an extremely talented artist, so she was the obvious choice. A few days later, I mentioned it to Susan, who asked me to send her the story, which I did. I had no idea if she would be inspired enough by the narrative to make a whole series of paintings, and I got back to work writing my dissertation (which eventually evolved into my forthcoming book, How Does It Feel?: Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Meaning of Rock and Roll). A few months later, Ginny’s parents came to visit and Susan brought with her twenty-two beautifully rendered watercolor paintings that somehow perfectly expressed what I had imagined, while also being surprising, bringing a depth and subtle humor to my words. I was extremely happy with the result, and we immediately determined that we should share the book with others.
At first, we considered sending the book to literary agents, but after doing a lot of research on the publishing industry and talking with a number of writers, agents, and editors we knew, we decided to publish independently. I wrote a post a while back explaining my rationale in detail, but the bottom line is that, instead of submitting our labor of love to industry professionals who would view our book primarily as a marketable commodity, we felt that we could appeal directly to friends and friends-of-friends, building an audience organically based on the high quality of our work and the intrinsic value it has for others. Our motivation in writing this book has not been primarily to make money, though of course that would be nice, but to share the beautiful thing we’ve created.
People seem to be loving The Walk so far, and we’re gratified to know that it’s being enjoyed by a growing number of children, and that the story is helping parents get their kids to fall sleep.