RUTLAND – Some stories emerge from real-life issues.
“The Sapphire Ring” did as well, but it took some time before the tale was ready to share.
Donna DeMaio Hunt said the story was created 10 years ago, and initially bore a different title.
“It sat in my computer files with a couple of others for a long time,” Hunt said, though that has proven to be a positive thing.
“I’m glad I waited to publish it, and I truly believe everything happens for a reason,” she said.
When she first put the words to paper, or computer file, her son, Ethan, was 5, “and even though he liked to draw, who would have known he would be blessed with an artistic talent like he has today,” Hunt said .
Her son’s artwork illustrates the book.
“The story is based on Ethan’s current challenge of getting to sleep at night, a phase we never thought he would outgrow.
“My husband, Bryce, had a collection of Green Lantern rings. He gave him this ring to sleep with, and most of the time it worked. My daughter, Faith, had one of her too, even though sleeping for her was not a challenge, ”Hunt said.
But mentioning a Green Lantern ring brought other issues to consider.
“We changed the title and the color of the ring for copyright purposes,” Hunt said of the change from a green ring.
“I had decided on the sapphire for its symbolic representation. As parents, a lot of children struggle, the same way Ethan did. We thought we would use our experience to help others,” Hunt said.
As an educator and a counselor, Hunt said “I am passionate about helping others and about teaching social emotional learning in the difficult world that we live in today.
“Kids certainly can use all the help they can get. In creating a series of four books altogether, I chose topics such as nighttime fears, loss of a pet, anxiety and divorce. Three out of four of the books are written through personal experience,” she said.
She will be following the new book with another four-book series focusing on social emotional learning, with topics of self-control, diversity and acceptance, healthy verses unhealthy friendships, and emotion management and mindfulness.
“These are all topics that counselors are bringing into the classrooms for all children, Pre-K through 8. In my experience, the Pre-K through second grade level learn best through books and discussion,” Hunt said.
“With my writing background and my counseling background, I thought, ‘Why not bring both together?’ ”
Hunt has also written two inspirational memoirs.
The first, “Reaching Out to the Stars American Idol Dreams,” was released in 2011. The sequel to that book, “Just a Small Town Girl,” will be released in February or March of this year.
“Both books are inspirational reads based on how we are influenced by the media, music, television, movies and celebrities, and the role it plays in our finding our own identity and following our dreams, finding our own path through inspiration and why it’s important to inspire others,” Hunt said.
“Ethan has also done the illustrations for ‘Just a Small Town Girl’, and Faith has done the photography,” she said of her family working together on the books.
Hunt has been writing since high school.
“I loved writing poetry and hoped to one day work for Hallmark.”
As a writer, she said, “The biggest challenge is definitely the publication process.”
With hopes that the books are picked up by an agent, querying can be monotonous, exhausting and frustrating.
“Being part of a company is the easiest way to market for people to know that your book actually exists. Otherwise, it is difficult to get the word out on your own. I did query about 20 (publishers) this time around and then gave up,” Hunt said.
“Also, I figured Amazon is about to rule the world, so that was the route I chose,” self publishing and selling the book through the online process.
“The independent piece is difficult, too,” she said. “There are many behind-the-scenes operations that need to take place, like the illustrations, the editing, the formatting. Timeless work goes into the piece, and it is super exciting when it’s complete, but you need to have a lot of patience. Thank God I am blessed with that.”
She said she did have some challenges with her illustrator, a 17-year-old senior at Wachusett Regional High School.
“Working with Ethan has been amazing, but he is still a teenager, so sometimes getting him to do the work when I want it done has been a challenge,” Hunt said.
“Being his mother is sometimes a disadvantage, so that can be a setback. In the real world, when it’s a boss, not the mother, there will be different expectations, which I explain daily.
“It’s a good life lesson for him though, as he would like to someday draw for Marvel or DC. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’.
“I think he has what it takes to make his dreams come true. I definitely think when he is illustrating within the world of superheroes, we will see significant growth, ”Hunt said of her illustrator’s talent.
“The Sapphire Ring” is available through Amazon. “This story helps parents to deal with their child’s struggle of going to sleep, in an uplifting way. This book serves as a vehicle to embrace the common topic of nighttime fears.”