The Story Behind the Story

I think what really gets me excited about this whole book-making process is looking back at the journey. Super Penguin isn’t something new for me, it’s been something floating around in my head for nearly fifteen years! Here’s what happened…

I was a junior at Danville High School and I sat in study hall, bored out of my mind. I SHOULD have been working on math homework or studying for my next physics test, but instead I flipped to a blank page of my college-ruled notebook and started doodling. Doodling turned into drawing poorly-drawn animals and stick figures, and those turned into a comic strip.

I showed my friends, and they enjoyed it. In turn, I enjoyed their enjoyment so a cycle began, and, for the rest of my high school career, I became the guy that drew silly pictures to get a laugh from his friends. Super Penguin and Clip-Clop the Unicorn were usually the heroes of these stories but occasionally other characters would join the mix too.

After I graduated high school, the comic strip went away, but kind of like a song that you can’t get out of your head, Super Penguin would pop up from time to time and never really left me.

In 2015, I started dating my now wife, Halley.  One night, Super Penguin found his way into a conversation.  I drew her the same poorly-drawn picture I once drew for my classmates. Halley loved it and encouraged me to turn it into a book.   Being an author was something I’d always wanted to accomplish, but not something I actively went after.  I worked on it some,  but I never took it all that seriously.   I’d use my job as an excuse. I also struggled with low self-esteem, so I assumed nobody would be interested and any attempt at publishing would fail.

Months went by with little to no progress, but then something really cool happened…

I was running one of the McDonald’s restaurants in Danville. My supervisor requested I go with him to a meeting in Decatur, IL, roughly a two hour drive.  I didn’t want to go, but I reluctantly agreed because my boss asked me to do it. I enjoyed my job, but I was never passionate about it, so doing anything extra was a bit of a chore. Oh, and this car ride would take place in January with temperatures in the teens, so I was extra salty.

About an hour into the trip, my boss was in the middle of a rant about “the future of Bitcoin” and, while half-listening, I said a quick prayer, “God, is this really what I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing?” No sooner did the inner-prayer leave my brain, a big truck passed us on our left.   On the side were pictures of Clifford the Big Red Dog and other Scholastic Book characters.  The timing was spooky, an instant message, a gigantic sign from God on wheels. It felt too big and in my face to NOT be a message that I need to be writing. I needed to show the world MY Clifford the Big Red Dog, only he’s a little, black and white penguin with a cape. This car ride changed my life.

After that, I worked on my story when I could.  I started and stopped, started over a couple of times and erased what I had.  I listened to several audio books to pump up my self esteem and sought out ways to encourage myself to keep moving.  I kept chipping away at it over the next few years.

Fast forward to March 2020. I had a vacation planned to Florida but then the COVID pandemic happened.  The world was different and dangerous. I almost cancelled the trip. I prayed about it a lot, and had lots of friends telling me I needed to be safe, but I felt an uncontrollable urge (another message from the big guy upstairs) telling me to go.  I was about 75% done with the book. If I had one week of nothing to do but write, I could finish!  So that’s what I did.

In closing, if you have an idea, work on it. Work really, really hard on it. Whether it takes you a couple of hours, fifteen years, or even longer to complete, make it happen. There’s an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment on the other side. Whether Super Penguin sells 5 copies, 500, of 5 million, I’m super proud of my book and feel so much joy from getting it done. I hope everyone gets to experience that same feeling because it is magical!


2 thoughts on “The Story Behind the Story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: