Normally theater is his creative outlet, but the pandemic turned Sherman Morrison into a book author.
Keene resident Morrison wrote his young adult fantasy novel, “When Willows Weep,” during his “year without theater” in 2020.
A freelance writer and editor “for hire,” as he describes himself, for the past decade, he had no energy left for his own projects after writing sometimes 10 hours a day.
With the extra time he had when he normally would been directing or performing with regional theater groups, all of which shut down last spring, he finally had time to pursue his dream of penning a book.
He is not a stranger to authoring his own creative work: he’s written and published two one-act plays, one of which won the New Hampshire Theater Award in 2007 for Best Original Play.
For this project, he decided he needed some support, guidance and accountability. He signed up for a structured 16-week online writing program for first-time authors called Creator Institute.
“You’re instructed to write and publish a book like a second-time author, not making the mistakes of a first-time author,” he said of the program. “It helps them get to the important milestone of a complete first draft manuscript, and they help you publish it.”
Morrison assumed his first book would be non-fiction, but a story inspired by his then 12-year-old daughter, Willow, took up space in his head five years ago and sat there.
His daughter was a 6th-grader at the Monadnock Waldorf School then and was taking a woodworking class that included a sword making lesson—the swords were to be part of a medieval ceremony at the annual May Day festival.
“Everyone was knighted,” said Morrison. “It got me thinking, ‘What if it were all a little more real?’”
The seed of an idea opened up a whole new world of fiction for him.
“It was hugely exciting and a bit nerve-wracking,” he said. “It’s so different from what I normally write.”
His daughter heavily influenced the story; in fact, the two of them would talk about it during the ride to school every day.
The story follows, of course, a 12-year-old girl named Willow who enjoys attending the local Waldorf school (with a different name here) who after discovering she has the divine gift of Sight becomes aware of a battle between the forces of light and demonic forces of darkness.
She also learns of others who have divine gifts, including the pastor of the church she attends and her Waldorf teacher, Mr. Retsof.
There is also Dr. Sosserie, who takes on the task of training Willow in how to use a second divine gift she’s found to possess: Fight.
When a third divine gift of Light emerges, Willow must join forces with other gifted people to protect and defend her school, the city, and the otherwise unseen fae (fairy) folk from the demon Gehenna and her vast horde of hell hounds.
Morrison was very familiar with the piece of advice given to first-time authors to “Write what you know.”
“I knew I could still write what I know in fantasy if my child is the protagonist and the school she attended is set in the town we live,” he said. “Then I could layer in fantasy elements to the world I already know.”
As he began to write, the story took him in directions he did not expect.
“I had the themes laid out in my head of good versus evil,” he said. “Willow (the character) learns in church how important it is to be compassionate. I wondered, ‘How does that work in terms of what appears to be evil? Does the evil person get a chance at redemption? What if you found out you had this gift of Fight—How would you reconcile combat and compassion? I thought it would be interesting to test some of these boundaries with an unlikely central hero of a 12-year-old-girl.”
Morrison is on track to publish his novel (now in paperback and online versions) in August, after which he plans to host a launch party and subsequent local author events. An audio book and/or hardcover version may come later.
He hopes the book, as stated on his Indiegogo campaign page (he met and surpassed his $5,000 fundraising goal to design, edit, publish and promote the book) “inspires reflection and fruitful dialogue.”
For more information about Morrison’s novel, “When Willows Weep,” visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/when-willows-weep-by-g-sherman-h-morrison#/