The `Power of Putting Dreams into Words

I have always been a bit superstitious about writing. I would never, for example, kill off a character based on a living person, afraid that it might somehow bring about that person’s death. Early in my marriage, I wrote a story about a couple who tried to conceive for ten years without any luck. When we had real-life fertility issues a few years later, I thought back to that story, half-believing that I’d jinxed myself through my writing.

But lately, I’ve come to believe that the words that I put on paper can bring about good things, as well. When I began my most recently published novel, Gadget Girl, about a biracial 14-year-old with cerebral palsy who aspires to be a manga artist, my own daughter was only seven. My daughter is biracial, and she has cerebral palsy, but at that time she hadn’t yet learned to read, and she didn’t draw manga.

In the book that I wrote, the main character, Aiko, takes a trip to Paris with her sculptor mother, Laina, after she wins an award for her art. Although I’d fantasized about taking a similar trip to Paris with my daughter almost as soon as I knew I’d be having a girl, I’d never said anything to her about it.

As she got older, she began reading manga, like many Japanese girls her age. And soon, she began drawing her own stories. When she declared, at the age of twelve, that she wanted to go to Paris, I was delighted, but I wasn’t sure how I could make it happen for her. I didn’t have a full time job. I could hardly afford a mother-daughter trip to Paris. I came up with an idea – I would write a book proposal for a mother/daughter travel memoir. Maybe a publisher would give me a generous advance and we would be able to take our trip to France. Then I would write about it for the book.

I wrote the proposal and sent it to my literary agent. She thought it was a nice idea, but she didn’t think she could sell it with just a couple of sample chapters. I would have to write the book first. So then, I decided to apply for a grant. I sent my book proposal to the Sustainable Arts Foundation, along with the manuscript of my novel,  Gadget Girl, for which I had found a small, but well respected independent publisher.

To my great surprise, I was awarded a grant. I immediately began to prepare to take my daughter to Paris – just like the mother and daughter in the book I’d written. During our trip, I had frequent moments of something like déjà vu. When my daughter was embarrassed by the nudes in the Orsay Museum, I thought, “This is like when Aiko was embarrassed by the topless dancers!” Or when we were having a fancy dinner on the second level of the Eiffel Tower, talking about my daughter’s difficult birth and babyhood, I thought, “This is just like that scene when Aiko and her mother were having dinner in a nice restaurant!” I felt as if I had imagined our trip into being.

Words, I have come to realize, are powerful. They can, of course, entertain, ease loneliness, persuade, and cause pain. Words can be dangerous. They also have a kind of magic. Perhaps when we write down our wishes, we will them into being. I believe that by writing it all down, I made our dream come true.

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