We met at the Brookline Town pool in an aquatics class over six years ago. While running laps and working out, we struck up a conversation. When Ellen Gaffney learned that I am a survivor of paralytic polio, she told me about her involvement with the Free Wheelchair Mission.
Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian, faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides wheelchairs at no cost to people with disabilities living in developing nations. In collaboration with a network of like-minded partners, FWM has sent more than 800,000 wheelchairs to people in 91 countries, providing dignity, independence and hope through the gift of mobility.
Knowing how rampant polio was in developing nations leaving many children and adults without mobility, placing them at risk to be beggars or worse, my heart and soul resonated to this cause. We attended their fundraisers and were blessed to meet the founder, Don Schoendorfer and his wife at a brunch at Ellen's house several years ago.
She told me about this children's story she was working on. She showed me the black and white sketches and told me her story idea. She was exploring publishing options and was taking incredible time and care to bring her creation to life.
We lost contact ... until yesterday.
A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook asking if I had any connections to children's publishers. I googled Ellen to see if she published her book and how she finally published it.
From the Boston Globe, "Author's First Children Book is Inspired by Special Cause:"
In the fall of 2006 she stumbled upon a class on making children’s books at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. It was there that she decided to illustrate her book with collages.
By using tissue paper for shadows, paper bags for land masses, and pages from clothing catalogues for fabrics, she worked to capture the colors and textures she had seen in India. Some spreads, such as a street scene that shows the passage of time from day to night, took her more than two weeks to complete, working four to five hours a day. Less complicated scenes took three to five days to complete.
“It is a time-consuming medium,” Gaffney said. “You can do collage a lot more loosely but when you’re trying to portray things realistically . . . it’s challenging and interesting.’’
Gaffney did not go into the art process unprepared. A lifelong crafter and creator, she knits, sews, and has taken classes in enameling and Japanese painting, among others.
However, her lifetime of artistic endeavors was not enough to convince nearly 10 traditional publishers to take on “Wings for a Flower,” a book with limited commercial value whose proceeds would go to the Free Wheelchair Mission.
After two years of fruitless submissions, last spring Gaffney started to consider publishing the book herself. She contacted Three Bean Press in Jamaica Plain. By that time, she had a draft version of the book that had evolved during her years of work. Three Bean provided some editing and cleanup help, but was most helpful when it came to designing the final book, she said.
Eight years and a trip to India later, she did indeed publish "Wings for a Flower":
Wings for a Flower is a 32-page picture book based on the true story of Lotus Blossom, a girl growing up poor, but healthy in Chennai, India. When an illness leaves her unable to walk, her world becomes very small: she cannot go to school or play outside.
An unexpected gift inspires a new hope and determination in Lotus and results in an uplifting change for her. It is a story about the power of a small gift, coupled with a child's strength,told with grace and beauty, and will captivate audiences of all ages.
All proceeds are being donated to the Free Wheelchair Mission.
While publishers may have deemed "Wings for a Flower" of limited commercial value, to each person who receives a wheelchair through the Free Wheelchair Mission from proceeds of the book sales, the book is priceless.
You can order your copies by following this link.
"Journey Well" available on Amazon, is a book about resilience, strength, courage and how we are able to journey well no matter what conditions life hands to us. I profile the people who are Boston Stronger and share how 4/15/13 was a wake up call to me to return to my healing path from contracting paralytic polio at age 5 and 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent.
50% of book proceeds are donated to AccesSportAmerica where people of all ages and abilities achieve higher function and fitness through high challenge sports and training.