Someone once asked me if I live a happy life and if that's what accounts for the cheerful stories I tend to write. I found the question very surprising given that the last ten or so years of my life have been filled with challenges and trials. I confess that these conflicts make great soil for good stories to grow. Porcupirate Plans the Day is a good example of this, and I'd like to give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse as to how this story came to be. Mind you, it's rather grim.
The first draft of this story was put on paper in October 2010. I wrote it while watching my father go through two weeks of hospitalization. My brothers had left for abroad with their families. My wife was taking care of my newborn son, Timmy. I was the only one left to take care of my dad. And into that two week stretch, I managed to go home for only a single afternoon to see my boy.
I'm certain that everybody, at more than one point in time, will find themselves in these undesirable (and oftentimes painful) circumstances. In those moments, when we can't completely understand why the world works the way it does, sometimes the best option available is to just ride the rapids through 'til the end. There were a lot of other places I wanted to be at that time. Just as I'm sure there were many places my dad wanted to be as well. But this was the situation we found ourselves in.
So it was during this time that I polished up the rhymes to the first draft of Porcupirate while my father was hooked up to a dialysis machine. He had grown very weak, and his low blood pressure was dashing any hope of sustained procedures. To make matters even more dire, the hospital bill was rising to a point we could no longer afford. My father's pension was all used up. I maxed out my three credit cards to pay the daily hospital fees. I even closed my personal bank accounts just to keep up with expenses. Through all of this, I sat long hours staring out the window of my father's hospital room. If I wasn't staring at the people riding in jeeps and buses outside the hospital, I was explaining to my father why he was in the hospital to begin with. If I wasn't doing that, I was worrying about how to pay for the next day's billing. And if I wasn't doing that, I was polishing this little Porcupine Pirate story.
By the end of the two week stay, my dad eventually passed away.
(Told you this was grim.)
However, this story does not end lingering in a sorrowful corner. Porcupirate may have been born out of a very trying experience, but it has grown into a highly cheerful tale! I guess I just can't help it!
At its heart, the book is about handling days that don't go our way. And how sometimes, when we don't expect it, they may even turn out to be the best day we've ever had.