“It’s Okay to be Optimistic”
The soul of A Long Way from Home is its optimism, which leads me to reflect a little bit about where that comes from in my own life. Some of my best memories growing up involved my family’s regular visits to Florida in wintertime. Not only did I love the sun and the beach, but like most kids, I couldn’t get enough of Disney World. There was something about Epcot Center in particular that captured my imagination. The combination of Walt Disney’s cheerful vision of a World’s Fair-style utopia and the regular shuttle launches from Florida’s nearby Space Coast has always stayed with me.
When I moved with my family from Madison, Wisconsin to Central Florida as an adult, I knew I wanted to explore what the future could promise, and what our role could be in creating some kind of real solarpunk society. Feeling inspired by the advent of SpaceX and the ongoing work of NASA, with its regular rocket launches visible from our front yard, I began writing A Long Way from Home in 2018. Though I’m not a scientist or engineer by a long shot, I thought a lot about the people who were making these launches possible—and the skills, dedication, and hard work these events required.
I’m lucky to count among my friends and family several engineers, whose abilities impress and baffle me. The best thing about being a writer is it gives me good excuse to pester them about what they do and why they do it. It was with their help that A Long Way from Home came to fruition. I hope if it contains any glaring inaccuracies, they’ll forgive me…or figure out a way for me to go back in time and fix them.
My wish for this book as it travels out into the world is that readers will get the sense that the events of history and the way that the future unfolds isn’t something apart from them or their lives. Each of us—as individuals and as pieces of a larger community—is engaged all the time in the act of creation. We create the kind of society we want to live in, which is why maintaining core optimism really matters. I believe it’s possible to make our world a peaceful and green one in which more than just a lucky few get to thrive.
It’s not my intention to sound Pollyanna-ish, but it is my intention to sound hopeful. I want to tell stories that inspire readers to make and do beautiful, astounding things in loving, fully participatory lives.
I also want readers to know that if they’re anxious or sad, they’re not alone and that it’s not forever. I see anxiety and sadness as part of being human. If we all talk about these feelings more and the ways we’ve learned to cope, we can be less isolated. Connection with others isn’t a cure, exactly, because there isn’t a cure. But connection is a way forward, even when it’s hard to find hope. I love the fact that Abby is changed by her time with Adam and Bix, and by the choices she makes in order to help them. Her new perspective on the enormity of the universe and the possibilities it contains breaks her malaise and puts her in the captain seat of her life. That’s optimism.
Other people (sometimes from very, very far away) can and do change us, usually for the better.
One of the best ways I personally deal with my feelings and fears is by reading a lot of fiction. It makes me feel better to know other human beings have grappled with tough situations or challenging emotions and grown as a result. Some of my favorite middle grade and young adult reads include:
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- Tangerine by Edward Bloor
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Some of my favorite authors these days are Andy Weir, Neal Stephenson, Stuart Gibbs, Emily Calandrelli, Jennifer L. Holm, Tana French, Kira Jane Buxton, Hank Green, Ted Chiang, Martha Wells, Becky Chambers, Emily St. John Mandel, Ali Benjamin, Samantha Irby and Ann Patchett.
There’s nothing like a great book if you’re looking to feel better.
Publishing October 4th, 2022 by Carolrhoda Books
About the Book: Twelve-year-old Abby has a lot to worry about: Climate change. The news. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And now moving to Florida for her mom’s new job at an aerospace company.
On the Space Coast, Abby meets two boys, Adam and Bix, who tell her they’re a long way from home and need her help. Abby discovers they’re from the future, from a time when all the problems of the 21st century have been solved. Thrilled, Abby strikes a deal: She’ll help them–if they let her come to the future. But soon Abby is forced to question her attachment to a perfect future and her complicated feelings about the present.
About the Author: Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida, with her husband and daughter, where she enjoys visiting theme parks and watching rocket launches from her front yard. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and twitter.com/teashopgirl.
Thank you, Laura, for this enlightening post!