When I was little, I craved escape through art. In an attempt to avoid dealing with my mother’s paranoid schizophrenia, which flared up at regular intervals and wreaked the kind of havoc on our house that made horror movies seem tame, I dove into books and lived in the reality of fiction for hours at a time.
When I was as young as 7 or 8, I spent whole afternoons sitting in one spot, cross-legged on the floor, just reading, the space between my thumb and forefinger turning raw from gripping my books so hard. I begged for books of my own when I visited bookstores with my dad, pleading with him for just one more as I cradled three books in my arms. If I succeeded and got him to buy me as many as four, all was well in my world.
As much as I’d like to think I was born with a natural love of the arts, I know that my father is directly responsible for my passion for reading and using my ima
gination. Our outings always centred around bookstores and libraries, and we spent so much time in our local video store that I was offered a job there when I was 11 (I took it and spent many happy hours shelving movies, lovingly caressing VHS boxes and carefully cataloguing new releases, bits of fallen popcorn at my feet).
My father also introduced me to creative visualization workbooks by New Age authors like Louise L. Hay and Shakti Gawain. These workbooks were meant for adults, but I loved them. They teach people how to imagine what they want as clearly as possible, commit those images to paper and then go out and make their dreams a reality. I still remember drawing a giant picture of the most popular girl in my Grade 2 class playing with me, the words “Best Friends” written below our stick figures. I surrounded the picture with a pink bubble and imagined pushing the image out into the universe. Two years later, we really were best friends!
All of this turned me into an adult who believes in magical thinking, the power of visualization, the sacredness of the arts and the importance of a child’s imagination. My imagination and ability to be transported and inspired by the arts has made me a happier adult and a creative problem solver. It has also reinforced the notion that anything is possible, motivating me to reach both creative and practical goals (I am both a fiction writer and a lawyer).
The fact that I grew up to abandon my job as a Bay Street lawyer practising corporate law to create a line of “picture books” that children illustrate themselves is a natural extension of my childhood. Picture It Picture Books inspire children to read a story and then create their own images to match, illustrating as they read. This kind of imagination exercise is just the type of thing that I would have loved as a kid.
And I am living proof that the value that children get from simply using their imagination is beyond measure.
As an adult, I am proud to say that I am part of something much bigger than myself: ensuring that future generations have the ability to dream up a world more incredible than our adult minds can ever fathom.