While driving one afternoon to visit her father who had experienced a paralyzing stroke, Lake Highlands author Kristin Crowell Ellis saw a flurry of fireflies in a field.
Even as doctors began to prepare the family for the worst, Ellis’ father always kept his hope.
The beauty of the fireflies and the positivity of her father inspired her to write this poem.
“Perhaps you may have noticed in the warm month of July,
while lolling in the dusky dark, beneath the starry sky,
a shimmer over soft green grass, alive with snails and slugs:
the bright and fiery light of the loveliest of bugs!
And have you ever wondered how they came to shine so bright
as they flip and flash and dip and dance about the quiet night?
The answer’s rather magical, so if you’d like to know
come with me and you will see…ready? Set? Let’s go!”
These words later became the prelude of Ellis’ first book, Firefly Fran’s Fran-tastic Day.
Firefly Fran did not take flight until some years later. It was not until Ellis’ first daughter was born that she decided to start writing the book and trying to get it published. Things really started rolling once her second daughter came along around in 2016.
As a speech pathologist, Ellis sees how family support and positive thoughts can affect a patient’s progress in speech therapy. Those who do not believe that they will get better and harvest negative energy will not put as much effort into recovery, Ellis says.
Ellis experienced how powerful a positive mindset can be when her own family went through an unpredictable rough patch.
The book release was delayed for two years because of the major shortages and shipping issues due to COVID. This was frustrating for Ellis but worth the wait, she says.
Firefly Fran’s Fran-tastic Day was awarded the 2023 Golden Wizard Book Prize and was a top finalist for the 2022 Hindi’s Libraries Females of Fiction Award.
When did your writing journey begin?
I live for writing. The beginning of my (writing) journey started in the third grade. My teacher told me that I was a good writer and put me in UIL Ready Writing, and I’ve loved it ever since. I love writing words on a page and being able to arrange them in a beautiful way.
Firefly Fran’s Fran-Tastic Day is the first book you have written and your first children’s book. What inspired you to write it?
It has always been a dream of mine to write a book. Firefly Fran kind of evolved naturally over a period of years. It started about 20 years ago, when my dad had a stroke while I was in college that resulted in paralysis of his left side. My dad was always just the most helpful person. He was just a gregarious guy who had the most infectious personality. He always seemed invincible, so when he had the stroke, it was a pretty big shock to our family. During the rehabilitation process, he always remained so positive and hopeful for the future.
While driving to visit my dad in rehabilitation, I looked into the distance and saw some fireflies. Then this poem came to me. It felt like it was given to me by God. I went home, wrote the words of the poem down, and after a few years of sitting with it, I decided to make a story out of it. That poem eventually became the prelude to the book.
Along with your dad, you were also inspired by the “power of positivity.” What does that mean to you?
I have been aware of the theory behind the power of positive thinking since I was a kid because my mom would listen to Norman Vincent Peale in the car and talk to me about it when I was having a hard time with something. What we focus on becomes our reality. If we get in the habit of seeing the positive at an early age, it can help ingrain that skill, help with overall resilience and cope with negative situations that are going to come. But it didn’t really hit home with me. I mean, I didn’t really realize how profoundly our thoughts can impact our reality until I had a real-life example of it during my dad’s fight to recover from his stroke, as well as everything he has overcome since that time.
Why is it important that you share the “power of positivity” with young readers and families?
I am not suggesting we should resist or deny negative feelings. Even negative feelings serve a purpose, and we have to acknowledge, feel and process those emotions. But it is also important to teach children that perseverating on negative events or focusing on negative circumstances that either have happened or that we fear might happen, do not serve us well and can ultimately make things even worse. Thought patterns become habits, and the longer a habit persists, the harder it is to break. If we can try to guide children to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, it could help them develop a better ability to cope with the ups and downs of life in a healthier way. People who are more optimistic tend to have higher self-esteem and are, not surprisingly, happier in general. And I think that’s every parent’s ultimate goal — that their child grows up to be happy and to like themselves.
What are some ways that your character Firefly Fran embraces positivity?
One of the ways the story of Firefly Fran demonstrates the power of positive thought is by highlighting the difference in the way Firefly Fran (the main character) and her fellow fireflies deal with change and uncertainty. At the beginning of the story, all of the fireflies believe that their light came from an outside source (lightning). When the storms pass, and the lightning goes away, all of the fireflies except for Fran immediately begin to anticipate losing their light. Because they are fearful of losing their light and are focused on losing it, that is exactly what happens — they lose their light. But Fran does not lose her light. Why? In the end, the story reveals that the fireflies’ light did not come from the lightning itself, but the joy they felt when they saw the lightning. Firefly Fran never loses her light because she remained positive and focused on the possibility that the fireflies could work together to find a solution. And in an ironic twist, that is exactly what ends up happening.
Firefly Fran’s Fran-tastic Day has received great reviews online and is already an award-winning book. How does it feel to know that people are reading and enjoying the book?
It’s really wonderful. I’m so glad that people are enjoying it, and I have gotten messages from people through Facebook that I don’t even know, and they were really impressed with the book and the message. It’s been really encouraging to see that people are loving the book and benefiting from the message.
Firefly Fran’s Fran-tastic Day is available at fireflyfran.com and The Store in Lake Highlands.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.