Joanna F. Marsh likes to fashion herself as a modern-day Renaissance woman. She still adheres to her high school motto, which is to “function in disaster and finish in style.” She lives near Washington, D.C., and has served as a writer and journalist for more than a decade.
Throughout the past year, I have wondered how “that woman” is doing. I don’t know her name, but I can see her face clearly in my mind: the brown eyes under thick eyebrows, the sharp nose, her black hair pulled back in a French braid.
I saw her regularly at the Washington, D.C., area gym where I worked out. She was chatty with the other women in the ladies’ locker room, often dominating the conversation. She cornered me once and asked whether I would take her into my house as a renter. She would be a good roommate, she said. Unobtrusive and tidy and responsible. Politely, I replied that I would let her know if I heard of anyone looking for roommates. She also worked in the childcare room at the gym, but my 6-year-old son didn’t like her and refused to come to the gym with me if she was going to be there. Was she mean? I asked. No, he replied, she just completely ignores us.
When Jennifer Trafton started thinking about her next children’s novel, she began picturing a young Don Quixote who saw the world a little differently from everyone else. And like Don Quixote, this character—an eight-year-old boy named Henry—would have a quest to fulfill: to share his vision and his artistic gifts for the benefit of the wider community.