THE SHORT STORY: INSPIRATION AND JOURNEY
Hi! My name is Lori Nawyn.
I was lucky enough to grow up in America’s Rocky Mountain Heartland, where home is where the heart is. That verity was imprinted on me at a young age when I started spending summers on my grandparent’s farm. My grandfather, one of the first three men to enter Yellowstone National Park in the winter via mechanical means, was a legendary adventurer and innovator. His contributions to the development of crafts known as “snowplanes” transformed winter travel in the west. He built over 90 of the machines, even shipping some to Alaska where they helped transport Eskimo school children through snowbound regions of the state. Grandpa spent summers working with his horses and cattle, piloting his airboats on the waters of the Snake River, and acting as host and tour guide for dignitaries who wanted to see what life in the mountains was all about. Yet no matter who he met or where his adventures took him, returning to home and family was my grandfather’s greatest joy.
I am deeply grateful for time spent with my grandparents, and for their examples of hard work and perseverance. One of my greatest blessings in life has been the gift of relating to art, and using art to express my rural roots.
THE LONGER STORY...FROM THE BEGINNING
When I was in fifth-grade, my teacher asked the class to write an essay about something that was important to us. My heart thudded in my chest. I was a socially backward ten-year-old filled with fears and self-doubt. Was it really okay to reveal my innermost feelings? After starting and erasing several times, words finally spilled out onto my paper. I wrote about a kid who was generally obnoxious. A kid who couldn’t sit still during class; who never seemed to know the right answers to questions; and who, in frustration, would often stick their tongue out at others. I took a deep breath and added—in fifth-grade level prose—that said kid just really needed to be loved and valued.
I ended my essay by urging everyone to be friends, even with their arch nemesis—who for me was a girl named Becky. Becky was well behaved, always knew the right answers, and never stuck out her tongue. She was everything I felt I could never be . . . yet, secretly, I admired her and would have liked to have been her friend. To promote my idea of friendship, I drew two stick figures holding hands and used the drawing as a cover sheet for my essay.
As the first row of kids stood by the chalkboard and read their essays, I slid down in my seat until my chin touched the top of my desk. As much as Becky was recognized as the smart kid in the class, I was known as the class clown. How would everyone react to me being serious? When my turn came, you could have heard a pin drop. But as I finished reading and held up the drawing, my teacher and classmates began to applaud. Becky even told me I did a good job!
Yes, you've likely already guessed that the obnoxious kid I wrote about in my essay was me. Magic happened that day. I discovered a catalyst for processing the fear and self-doubt that churned inside of me. And I found out how good it feels to touch the lives of others for the better with words and art. I decided I wanted to grow up to become an author and illustrator. My fifth-grade aspirations continue to this day. I want to share the power of hope and help others celebrate their own inherent worth and abilities.