When I was a little girl, there were monsters all over my room. I literally sawed the end off a broomstick and nailed it to the door frame of my closet so I could lock my closet door. This wasn’t a fear my parents understood, but what they did understand was that I believed the monsters existed.
For whatever reason, our fear of monsters seems to go away on its own as we mature. The memories; however, never leave us. By the time I was sixteen, I was a junior in high school and I was working after school for a daycare. After graduation, I continued to work for the daycare, believing I would go to college for a degree in working with young children. That, like the fear of monsters in my room, also went away on its own. My love of writing and the written word–ever present in my heart–would stamp out that thought as quickly as it came. Instead, when I was nineteen, I was promoted to caring for the toddlers and children up to age five.
Nap time was a challenge most days, and there were a few children in my care who were very much afraid to go to sleep. They explained as best they could that the monsters in their room would find them when they slept and they would have nightmares. I got them to nap by telling them that I would stand watch over them and make sure no monsters could find them. It worked to a certain degree, but the fear was there. I wasn’t going to go home with them, was I?
One afternoon that same year, I sat down on my living room floor and I wrote the text for what would become “There Are No Monsters Here.” I imagined a child who was afraid of going to bed and who believed monsters lurked in all the available space of his room. I asked myself: How is this child going to overcome his fear? About that time, a spider came crawling toward me. I screamed bloody murder (I’m 100% an arachnophobe). My mother, who was just down the hall in the kitchen, inquired about the reason behind my scream. I commented on the presence of a huge spider. She came out of the kitchen with a paper towel, calmly gathered the creature up in it, and placed the eight-legged monstrosity outside. My eyes were still the size of saucers when she came back inside, and as she passed me, she reminded me that the poor spider was likely more afraid of me than I was of it. I highly doubted that observation, but it did give the answer to my question.
What if the child in my story made the decision to find the monsters in his room so that he could face his fear? What if, when he went searching, he didn’t find them? And, what if, he made the brave decision to call out to them and tell them not to be afraid? What if, then, the monsters appeared all around him, but they weren’t at all what he had imagined? And what if having the courage to reach across the unknown was the best way to make a friend? Once I thought about that, the story wrote itself. In the weeks which followed, I read the story to the children at the daycare. I went so far as to create a coloring book for them. On the page where I mention the ugliest monster, I left that page blank so the children could draw and color their own. I received praise from the parents who reported back that their children were having fewer and fewer night terrors. It wasn’t an end-all solution to their night terrors, but it did help.
Many, MANY years later, I was sitting next to a friend and telling her about this story. For no reason I can fathom, she mentioned it to her father. And, for no apparent reason, he made a drawing of a child’s bedroom with cuddly monsters hiding all around it. She showed it to me and I immediately asked if he would like to illustrate the book. He agreed to illustrate it, and within six months, “There Are No Monsters Here” was available in Amazon and Barnes and Noble online bookstores. I’m very proud of this book. It was the first thing I had written that I could imagine being published, and that is why I chose to publish it first.
I was blessed with the opportunity to read it at the local Barnes and Noble during their story hour, and I was further blessed with a sell-out of “There Are No Monsters Here” within an hour of my reading. Those who have read it to their children who suffer from night terrors have told me their children are no longer afraid of going to bed. And those whose children did not suffer from night terrors have told me how much they simply enjoy the story. I am honored and humbled by their words and I am so glad something I wrote made a difference.