Today is my 28th birthday and tomorrow I’m coming out with a book. Pretty surreal, right?

All it took was that first email. That first email after the writing course ended asking if I could still contribute a story to a book that could potentially get published… because that would just be so cool! It was the first of many, many emails and other exchanges over the next year and six months.

September 30, 2015

Hi Jaya,

My name is Danica and I’m a fellow student from Prof. Comer’s writing course. I wanted to ask you if this offer of yours is still on the table. I saved what you said in the forum:

Here’s an idea my dear fellow writers.

I have been meeting so many of you, from so many different parts of the world. I have been thinking how similar  we are in our hopes and aspirations, in our struggles, and in our dream for a better future. There are so many untold tales waiting to be written – from the foothills of the Zagros Mountains IRAN-IRAQ), to the mouth of the Zambezi River (ZAMBIA), from the bazaars of Casablanca (MOROCCO), the tea gardens of ETHOPIA. From the hot weather of PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN  and INDIA to the temperate regions of RUSSIA, UKRAINE and CANADA. From the outback of AUSTRALIA, across the great wall of CHINA… Why do we not all come together and collaborate on a book of short stories that tells the universal story of mankind? Why don’t we celebrate our similarities for once and give world peace a chance?

If you like the idea, please leave your name here. One short story from each of us can make such a fine book, don’t you think?

Thank you. 

Let’s concentrate on the course first. We don’t want to let Dr. Comer down. This is something to mull over till then.

Only after the course is over send your stories to ————–

Subject should contain your name and the place of origin. 

Word count: 2,500 words (max)

Theme: Something to convey the flavour of your country as well as something universal

I would be very interested to contribute from Canada! I am thinking about writing a story about my car accident several months ago and ongoing recovery. The theme would be on the struggles of injured/disabled people. I started a blog about it this month.

www.dpleblanc.wordpress.com

Please check it out if you have the chance! I would appreciate your feedback very much.

Like I said, I had just started this very blog at that point. Almost all day every day I was documenting and describing everything I had gone through since my accident – five months worth of hospital, halo, and Minerva jacket exploits! I was basically a full-time blogger. I wasn’t getting paid a dime, but the catharsis from writing was satisfying enough.

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Day 5 post-op. Day 1 blogging!

The deadline for our first draft was set in late October and I had about a month to cobble up ideas for my story.

I wrote my first draft. I dug up musings I saved on Word months ago while I was recovering in California. Tears were involved. There were parts that I found too sad or painful to remember, nevermind write. My first draft came to 3,000 words, when I should have had only 2,500. I cut, revised, cut, revised, and proofread over and over again! I read and re-read my submission so many times to perfection that I had almost every word memorized!

Then came the feedback. I sought feedback from everyone – those involved with the book project as well as my friends and family. I took each piece of advice seriously and incorporated it into my work.

I was one of the 50 writers who submitted a story. We agreed to call our project “The Magic Diary,” with the book acting as a traveling collector of short stories from around the world. Jaya, the project coordinator to whom I initially wrote, asked me to help edit and critique submissions after noticing the work I had done on my blog.

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Our manuscript, Version 1
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Editing stories from the U.S. I also edited stories from India and Pakistan
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Looking busy doing work in a coffee shop (check out my battle scars!)

I couldn’t go back to work at my job at the mine but I certainly kept myself busy that fall: French school, cooking classes, writing in my blog, and now the book! It was a pretty fulfilling time despite being disabled in a neck brace, if you ask me.

We envisioned a coffee-table book filled with all these unique, varied stories from people from all walks of life. By December 2015, we had a 100-page manuscript with 33,200 words. At the same time, I just got my last neck brace off and was starting a brand new life brace-free. Jaya, who herself works for a publishing house in India, tirelessly searched for a publisher for us, writing letters upon letters to different companies. Even after months of persistence, no one would accept our work for one reason or another. Although we dreamed having our work in print, the option of self-publishing an eBook was a close second.

After an entire year of emails, Dropbox shares, and Facebook messages to further refine our passion project, Jaya announced on January 7th, 2017 that our book was going to be available on Amazon on February 14th, Valentine’s Day.

CONGRATS STORYTELLERS!

We have achieved our goal. Our book is up on Kindle for pre-order!

My heart skipped a beat when I read this on our Facebook group. I couldn’t believe it. It was like reading an email that you got the job you’ve always wanted!

 

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Also on amazon.ca under the same title

 

 

The book was named “A Pocketful of Dreams” and the volume with stories from the Americas and Australia is the first to be released. We needed to promote the book and I spearheaded the website, magicdiary2017.wordpress.com. Without the experience of working on my blog’s WordPress platform, I wouldn’t have been able to do that at all! I didn’t have much spare time now that I was back to work and had my pre-accident life back and more, but I tried to squeeze in time between flights to and from work and downtime at home. Sometimes I dedicated blocks of time to get serious work done, like when I didn’t leave my apartment one Sunday to get the website functional.

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It wasn’t just me who had a part in this – everybody did. Everyone pitched in their ideas and feedback, with some of the more talented contributing beautiful artwork for the book itself. Because we were all writers after all (both amateur and experienced), many contributed content to the website’s blog. Even with everyone’s hard work, the publication of this book would not possible without Jaya’s overarching leadership.

The craziest part in all of this? The Magic Diary team has never met each other in real life! Our whole effort was carried out online – right from conception in our writing course to the actual execution of the final product as an eBook.

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Here are excerpts from five out of the sixteen stories from Volume 1:

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Here’s my contribution, of course:

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Please support our passion project by grabbing your own copy on Amazon for only 3 USD!

You don’t need a Kindle! You can read on any smartphone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle app.
All proceeds go to charities promoting literacy.

Volume 2: Europe and Africa and Volume 3: South and East Asia are coming out later this year! Stay tuned!

To think that I first got involved with this project with this atrocious contraption on my head:

Photo on 2015-06-17 at 4.40 PM

It’s pretty surreal indeed.



Follow The Magic Diary Project and our book “A Pocketful of Dreams”

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