I worried about my daughter Grace, at the time just 8 years old, would be traumatized by my absence while working in traveling carnivals and hitchhiking across the country for a year.
That concern was well founded, carnivals and hitchhiking can be dangerous and separation is reality. We had weeks when there were nightly calls but others when calls were less frequent. I wrote one story about her calling me from her secret hiding place in a tree outside her home near Chicago.
My ex-mother-in-law wrote me on Facebook that Grace was missing me terribly. I was working in Westchester, New York with the McDaniel Brothers at the time. Grace’s birthday was just a week away. So I went on the Internet, found the names of Chicago-area carnivals and began frantically calling and begging for work.
The Briggs family and Modern Midways agreed, sight unseen, to hire me and so I quit on a Tuesday and hitchhiked from New York to Chicago to be there by the time Grace turned 8 years old. Whether I made it or not, you’ll have to read the book.
My parents also could see the problem as I spent time with Grace in Chicago, during my off-time from the carnival. My carnival played neighborhoods I was a bit afraid to bring Grace to, at least at night.
When I landed a job at the Minnesota State Fair, my parents brought Grace up via Amtrak to see me as I worked the pool tables on the Mighty Midway, in the land of Minnesota Fats. It is the biggest state fair in America, by daily attendance, and this year USAToday readers voted it the Best State Fair in the USA.
Grace was in kid heaven.
When I returned from the year in carnivals, we spent time together at Christmas and she eventually moved down to Florida with her mom to be near her other grandparents. I moved near them and now work odd jobs until I get back on my feet, or sell “Eyes Like Carnivals.” (getting into carnivals is easy, getting out is tougher)
Then Grace told me she wanted to write a book. I was sure my year of being away would be the topic. After all, seemingly every time she wanted something she would say, “but you were away for a year and now this is our time.”
We went to the library and I began helping her write about a Purple Ninja who lives in the woods, half normal girl, half the greatest super hero who ever lived. She doesn’t use violence so much as she problem solves, anticipates, forms friendships and uses her “jumpiness” to get out of the way of lightning bolts from villains.
The book wasn’t about me. The trauma there was but not enough for a book. Instead, “Power of Purple” is the first in a series of books by a powerful new storyteller, Grace A. Comerford.
It’s an amazing, awesome book for middle grade readers and available now exclusively on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B016P2D86O
Michael Sean Comerford spent 2013-14 working in 10 traveling carnivals in 10 states, hitchhiking through 36 states between jobs and crossing into Mexico to see the “new face of the American carny.” It became a quest story, Americana on a full-throttled wild ride.
He was slinging iron and pushing plush across California, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia and Florida, where he worked a freak show. He wasn’t allowed on stage because they couldn’t see the inner freak in him.
In the meantime, he blogged along the way on this site and Huffington Post (at Michael Sean Comerford). He wrote essays for Northwestern Magazine (Northwestern University alumni mag) and Marquette Magazine (Marquette University alumni mag). He wrote a piece for Wand’rly on hitchhiking.
Eyes Like Carnivals is now being shopped by agent Tim Hays in New York City, please contact him with any offers at Tim@haysmedia.net