Creator of the Miniphant & Me series, Cally Gee, lets us in on how Miniphant and his stories came to be…
A childhood full of imagination
As a child, I loved the world of pretend and imaginary play. Acting out characters and roles, creating and making something, became a part of everyday life from a very young age.
The main character in my books is based on the bedtime stories that my dad used to whisper to my brother and me. My dad has a wonderful imagination and a great sense of humour. He would even record a story onto cassette tape if he was going to be working away from home, so that we wouldn’t miss out on the next adventure.
Listening to the make-believe world he created was comforting, imaginative and precious to the memories I have of growing up.
Thank you, Dad, for allowing me to do this. Thank you for these and many more wonderful memories. Thank you for all you and Mum have invested in me. You are my heroes and I am very blessed to be your daughter.
I'm having a baby…sort of!
I started 2016 with the goal to write one book a year, but little did I realise how long the ‘visionary’ process would take. It takes nine months to grow a baby, and that is exactly how long it took just to write the vision for these books!
By October I’d had two separate, unrelated conversations with people who I had known for some time, without having ever realised what they actually did for work. Finding out that they were both in the publishing business led to more than I could have dreamed or imagined. By Christmas the book was written and feedback was essential. Was I barking up a wrong tree? Was there really anything in all this? I sent it to both contacts and within a couple of months I not only had a three-book publishing contract with one, but a mentor and supporter through the other! I am grateful beyond words for these incredible women and all they have done to bring this little baby to life.
My ‘baby’ is the invention of a tiny toy elephant and his world, and since the gestation period for elephants is about 22 months, it seems fitting that this baby took the same amount of time to create!
Six years of dreaming, but a lifetime of experience
People have asked me, ‘Do you wish you did this years ago?’ My response has been, ‘I wouldn’t have been ready!’ I have needed all
my experiences to be able to get to this point. I now truly believe that nothing is wasted, even the really hard times. It has all helped to shape, teach and lead me to such a time as this! Timing is key, and while I may sometimes feel impatient or confused, I choose to trust that God’s timing is always best. I choose to trust Him with each unknown step and am thankful for hindsight, which so often reveals that He was there all along, unseen, working for my benefit in each and every moment.
The majority of my career has been spent working in Education – in various primary schools (including my own from childhood) as well as in secondary schools, pupil referral units and with young people who had additional needs, supporting them through their own challenges and helping them to overcome obstacles. It was while working in a primary exclusion unit six years ago that I started dreaming of more resources to help the children in my care – children whose sense of wellbeing was fragile or damaged.
The old saying, ‘sticks and stone may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ could not be further from the truth. The tongue is powerful and words can either build someone up or knock them down. I experienced significant bullying growing up and was partially deaf too. My bullies had their own issues – I know that now, but the impact of those childhood circumstances affected my self-confidence for years. The names may stop and the rejection may look different, but the distorted perspective and lies can run mentally deep. It is only with age and awareness that you realise that they were lies, which were coming out of the mouths of others who were hurting too. A journey of realignment, forgiveness, healing and truths needs to be lived out and a new narrative written.
Because our early years have such an impact on the person we become, I wanted create books that could help teach life-giving truths from pre-school age. By helping growing minds to understand what they are thinking and feeling, and showing them helpful ways to turn negative thoughts into positive ones and choose helpful actions – we can shape our children’s emotional and mental health to be rooted and established in truth, love and acceptance.
The books also call out something of the many precious and beautiful memories of my past. They redeem the challenges I have overcome and my hope is that they will bring joy and help to other children, and strength and hope to their future.
Putting Miniphant’s world together
Many would think that a children’s picture book that takes all of five minutes to read would be easy! Ha! What a process and challenge unfolded… The hours I’ve spent on ‘Word Hippo’ trying to find child appropriate language to describe things and bringing all the ideas together was like doing a jigsaw puzzle. I learnt to write ‘big’ and then start up my ‘word-mower’ to cut dramatically away, while still trying to say all I’m hoping to and make the story flow. The time, team and thought that goes into making a book has been far more than I knew it would be. The editing process was a whole new experience, backwards and forwards between Lucy and Bex, helping to nip and tuck the manuscript so that Miniphant’s story could be told in the best way possible. It’s all been one huge learning curve and I’ve loved every aspect of it. It’s been far from easy but so worth it and three times over. The bonus of being both author and illustrator means that you are a part of the whole process. You see and input at every stage, gaining amazing insight into how a book really is made from start to finish. Mind blowing. It’s wordtastic!
Originally, I wasn’t planning on doing the illustrations. But with the encouragement of CWR and family and friends, I embarked on an initial portfolio, bringing the world of my imagination to paper and completely taking over the boardroom table with colour and encouraging sound-words! It’s funny how sometimes just pressing on with a project can be such a powerful builder of confidence as you start to realise, ‘Oh, I really can do this!’ Using a mix media process means that I don’t see a final illustration until proof reading stage. I create parts of the picture with paint, textiles and photography, then photograph all the parts, put them into files along with a mock up picture of what the final illustration should look like and send the whole thing over to the incredible Jo and Si in CWR’s Design team, for them to then download and begin the amazing and time-consuming task of cutting out the parts and putting them altogether.
It’s a mix of nervous excitement when the end product is sent to me. Months of waiting, imagining and trusting are rewarded as suddenly the work of my imagination becomes an image on my laptop screen…does the theory work? YESSSS! Phew! Relief! Excited!
Can’t wait to be able to share them with you!!!!