For the last few years, I’ve had to be much more creative with my gift-giving, because funds have been exceptionally tight. This means, I’ve been focusing on experiences and spending time instead of money.
This year, in keeping with that spirit, I decided that for Christmas I was going to write my nephews a story, and not only make then the heroes of the piece, but, make it a whole adventure: a self-contained experience that, with any luck, they would remember, and would have a touch of magic for them.
I had no idea what to write.
Finally, one night, in the bathtub, I was realizing that the story needed pictures, and I remembered that I had a picture of my oldest nephew and a gray kitten that had wandered across our path when we were walking around in a cemetery in Iowa. And then I knew what to write.
I turned that photo into the beginning of a quest. The kitten would lead the boys to a castle in another world, where they would get a treasure map, and a mission from the King to reclaim the treasure, and break the curse put on this land by a witch. The boys would need to find it, and then disguise and protect it. As their reward, they could keep the treasure.
At work, I made the treasure map, complete with burned spots and aging. I got a small treasure box at Hobby Lobby, filled it with “gems” and sparkly plastic necklaces I had in my costume closet, took some pictures of these, and mailed them to my sister, who would arrange the hiding of the treasure.
I put the story into a book, and printed it from one of the print-on-demand sites, with extra pages in the back for the boys to draw and color the details of how the story ended.
The boys had a blast. They took their swords with them to hunt for the treasure, and they looked under every tree they saw. They took the bequest for “disguising” the treasure very seriously, and were certain that there was no way that evil witch would recognize the stolen treasure.
My sister recorded the whole adventure on video, and I admit, it was pretty cool to watch them get excited about the adventure as my sister read the story. Their imaginations went crazy, inventing a path and bridges on the map that weren’t there. They saw “naughty guys” hiding behind bushes and were amazed that they were reading a book with their pictures in it.
According to my sister, they’re still hiding the treasure all over the house, so that they can go find it again. They excitedly showed me their efforts of painting the box.
My sister and brother-in-law figure that I should create customized story kits, for families to have their own adventures, where the kids are the heroes, and the parents are involved in orchestrating the magic for their kids.
So, I’m going to give it a try. I’m working on the logistics, pricing and creating three story templates to see what happens. My brain has constructed a “dig for dinosaur bones” story, a pirate story, and a lost princess tiara story, and I’ll put each of them up for sale in two formats. One will be customized story only, with instructions for how to collect the other parts they need. The other will be a full kit, with the treasure/dinosaur bones/tiara all packaged together with the customized book. For this version, I’ll have the parents send a few specific pictures of their kids to mix in with the text.
What I’ve noticed is that I’ve been feeling particularly inspired by pursuing this idea, and I’ve really been generating a bunch of ideas around this concept, and how to make it go, and it’s feeling exciting to me in ways that some of my other projects of late haven’t felt. It has also started to solidify more of a direction for me in terms of what my goals are and what direction I want to take, which is feeling more “right” to me than almost all the other directions I’ve contemplated.
I don’t exactly know where this will lead, but, it seems worth trying. I will keep you posted.