One month in!

I had a clear lightbulb moment on November 8, 2016. I know the precise date because it was election day. But this story has nothing to do with the election. Or does it? 

On that fateful day I was talking with Pete Cowdin from the Rabbit Hole KC who'd just given a fascinating talk at Hallmark. I was walking him out of the building. We talked about the Rabbit Hole. We talked about my job. Something Pete said gave me an idea. I walked away from him saying to myself, "I think I just got an idea for a Barbara Marhsall project." 

For the 15 years that I've worked at Hallmark I've been in awe of the winners of the Barbara Marshall Award, which grants one member of the creative community a 6-month sabbatical to pursue a personal project. 

I'd never before had an idea that was remotely worthy of a BMA proposal. So I wasn't sure if this new idea was legit. I spent a good 12 months thinking about it, refining it, and seeking input from my cleverest confidants, my wise mother, past BMA winners, and Rabbit Hole Pete, too!

Finally, after much refinement, this January, I pitched my idea. And - spoiler alert! - I won. 

designed by John Dunne - illustrated by Lynn Giunta

designed by John Dunne - illustrated by Lynn Giunta

I'm now one month into my sabbatical and have been blown away ... both by the excitement I feel as I explore the breadth and depth of children's picture books ... and by the disorientation I feel because, let's face it, I don't have any idea what I'm doing creating a brand new podcast from scratch! 

It's a huge shift to go from knowing just what to do to being so entirely clueless. Even when I get a nebulous assignment at work - I at least have some framework to guide me and amazing colleagues by my side with whom to figure things out. 

Here I am now - all by myself - making things up as I go along. Not unlike Harold and the Purple Crayon. 


Faced with an empty page, I am creating the world for this project. Creating something where there was nothing before. As long as I don't run out of imagination (or crayon) I should be okay, right? 

It'd be easy (and discouraging!) to keep saying to myself, "I don't know anything about anything" - but I've challenged myself to say instead, "I'm going to learn so much." And so far, I am. 

I'm grateful for that day in November when a happenstance request ("Emily, would you show Pete around the building before he leaves?") and a quotidian question from Pete ("What is it you do here?") led me down the path I'm on now. 

As for the election results? Well, I think we'd be wise to consider that perhaps an important step towards ameliorating the problems that are breaking our hearts today is the foundation of empathy, imagination, understanding, and love that can be delivered so powerfully and poignantly to our next generation through books. From right here in our own homes. Right here in our own laps. 

I would love for you to join me on the journey and send me YOUR stories of the powerful way reading books with your kids has made a difference for you. 

Emily Akins2 Comments