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Capturing Genius | S.D. Henke

In the Fall of 2011, I listened to keynote speaker and award winning novelist Stephanie Tolan speak about giftedness at the Colorado Association for Gifted Children’s annual conference. If I had known how this moment would shape my future and the new path my life would take, I would have questioned my own sanity.

Now that I can look back and reflect on the experience, what stays focal in my mind is in the moment the idea for my first book came. Not just any idea, but the idea for IDEA33, a young adult Climate Fiction series. A book I followed up to write in collaboration with my students. The characters, the setting, and the importance of the number 33 and its origins were rooted in numerology as a key earth ambassador number. I knew at the time that this idea would matter. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this story belonged to this world. And like the young trio of hero’s fixation on uncovering the secret of their origins, I became obsessed with what this story could mean to young readers.

I realize now, in hindsight, how it was less important to understand what it was propelling me to write the story, but why it needed to be told. The ‘Why’ distilled out of a distinct knowing in the short timeframe I heard Stephanie Tolan speak. This was about kids. About the future in their hands and the reach I could have that transcends every story I’ve written since. It is a testament to the Why. And the easy answer, I write for them.

The wanderers, the stragglers, the kids who sit at the window of every secret garden we’ve yet to discover. They are the ones I hope to reach when I create my stories. I made a promise at that moment. A promise to deliver stories that don’t follow the map, that veer off course, that don’t see though cookie cutter lenses, and I will never lie to my readers. At their service, I will work to create raw, essential, and authentic stories that bend along with their questions. Stories that respect their inquiries. To pose the same questions I myself remember asking when I was young. These are the bigger whys they aren’t afraid to ask and I’m no longer afraid to write.

Recently, after the release of my Literary Fantasy, Story Bends, I was informed that one of my readers who had “good things to say about” my book was none other than my original inspiration, Stephanie Tolan. Humbled and honored by the exchange, I plan to reach out to her and let her know what a difference she’s made in the lives of young readers and in the lives of those who continue to serve those young individuals like me.

Call it what you will, synchronicity, fate, or just plain incredible, I am forever moved to shake the mold. I consider it my duty to bring a bold voice to the page for children who seek stories that make them think, feel and reveals more about who they are and their own contribution to humanity.

Despite our differing beliefs, we are all sensitive to the changes young people are facing and the future they seek to represent. Perhaps it means we are coming to wake. If that’s true, I’ve made my commitment to sit on the side of a brighter future, a regeneration of thought, awareness, creation, and capturing genius.

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