Know Your Neighbors
Know Your Neighbors: John Wisor and Nila Hagood Turned Their Passions for Writing and Art Into a Fantastic Children's BookWritten by Anita Rufus
It’s the advice we’re always given by people who seem to have found a way to make their lives about following their passion: “Do what you love, and you’ll never feel like you’re ‘working.’”
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that luxury: We have mortgages, children to raise, car payments, spouses with physical challenges, fear of failure, and so on.
Every once in a while, we hear about someone who gave up the grind and, for example, moved to the hinterlands to play the guitar in small clubs, or creates blown-glass figures in his or her garage-turned-studio, or sold everything and plowed it all into starting a gourmet cake company about which he or she has always dreamed. Sometimes, those stories have successful, happy endings; sadly, most do not.
Thus, when I hear about neighbors who actually found a way to “do what you love,” I’m interested in how they got there.
John Wisor, 64, is a Palm Springs resident. He has a background as a health-care executive and management consultant. We’ve worked together from time to time in various nonprofit organizations, and I always noticed that when he shared his writing with me, his eyes would light up. John began by doing free-verse poems and tributes for friends on special occasions—weddings, anniversaries, deaths. He would print them on parchment and give them as special gifts. His work was gentle, hopeful, idealistic, warm and loving.
Then John wrote My Husband Is The Same as Yours, a tribute to the foibles of coupledom, straight and gay. He married Edward two years ago after 15 years together, and John’s comparison of relationships was his attempt to enable opponents of gay marriage to recognize the similarities rather than focusing on the differences. It’s also very funny; John’s sense of humor is infectious.
As writing increasingly became an outlet for John, he began developing tales and fables of the adventures of Iam, a small black squirrel who travels The Dream Realm, visiting places like the Land of Dreams Come True and the River of Wisdom—as told by the wise old Grandpa Grey. The stories were inspired by the joy he used to experience when reading to his former stepchildren.
“I don’t think there have been new compilations of stories that grandparents can gift and read with their grandchildren since maybe Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen,” he says—with that light in his eyes.
Enter Nila Hagood, 64, of Palm Desert. She’s the CEO of WillaB Productions, her videography and DVD production company. She’s been married to Jerry for 38 years, and her background included real estate management and insurance, plus writing newspaper columns and working with community nonprofits. However, her dream was to pursue art when she retired. “I was finally able to do everything I needed to do to survive: sculpting, crafts, needlework, painting and now videography,” she said.
Nila and John Wisor met while he was director of the Cathedral City Center (formerly the city’s senior center), and she was delivering food for those in need.
“The first thing he gave me was a compliment,” she says, “which always works!”
As they became friends, John shared his stories with Nila. “I wanted to help,” she says. “I asked John if he would mind if I took the stories and added to them. He had the ideas, and I could do illustrations.”
John was very open to Nila’s help. “She got my stories to another level,” he says. “Previously, I had always written for myself and for friends. But this is a way for a story to reinforce what kids should be learning, (lessons) that seem to be missing today, the values we grew up with. Nila wove the stories into a cohesive narrative.”
Says Nila: “What John has done is magic. The stories are unique and beautiful. Most fairy tales involve scary characters, witches and soldiers and violence, with children at risk. These stories are imaginative and intelligent, with a moral in each story about right and wrong, overcoming fear, using one’s imagination to solve problems, and how to live life and follow one’s dreams. Plus, children often don’t have exposure to how we’re all interrelated, and these stories provide that.”
Nila is a self-described “Internet hound,” and she researched the many ways to get published. As more and more individuals are now doing, they turned to a self-funding site, Kickstarter, to try to raise enough money to get the book into print. They raised more than their $3,000 goal, using a video Nila produced.
The soft-cover version of the book is now available on Amazon, and they expect it to be in hardcover this spring. Their marketing plan includes exhibiting at literary fairs and promotion via social networks, like Facebook, as well as through their website.
“I hope these tales and fables can teach us all the magic and wonder found in each other, and how we can learn from living life in this world we all share together,” John says. “Grandparents often only have moments with their grandchildren, and I want to help them make the most of it.”
I remember the books of my childhood; even as an avid reader throughout my life, I am forever tied to Stuart Little. I can still see the picture in my mind’s eye of that little mouse setting off to find his true love. His sense of optimism and hope infused my imagination and actually sustained me through some dismal times.
What’s your favorite book from childhood? For Nila, it’s Bambi. For John, it’s Little House on the Prairie. What do you want it to be for your grandkids? John Wisor and Nila Hagood hope it will be Grandpa Grey’s Timeless Tales and Fabulous Fables. For both of them, it’s been a labor of love.