More About the Background of My Novella Sally and Billy in Babyland

Sally and Billy in Babyland is a political satire told in the form of a fable. It also borrows elements from fairy tales. In particular, it borrows the setup of the Grimm fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. In my story, Sally and Billy are two children abandoned in the woods. But beyond that, the story is not like the Grimm fairy tale (plot spoiler: they are not eaten by a witch).
The world that Sally and Billy encounter, Babyland, is cult-like. I live in Michigan and there have been a couple of well-known cults here. So that was somewhere in the back of my mind as I played with the design of this story. The most notorious cult (well, technically, it’s a religion) is arguably what happened on Beaver Island.
What happened on Beaver Island, you ask?
Beaver Island is an island in Lake Michigan. It’s part of the state of Michigan, and in 1848, James Strang, a Mormon who claimed to be Joseph Smith’s successor, moved there and declared it a sovereign country, naming himself the monarch of the country. For quite a few years, he lived just a little bit like a king. It didn’t end well for him.
But once I got the story of Sally and Billy rolling, I didn’t work anymore of those parallels into it. The story began to tell itself as I grew to understand and care about the characters. I even cared about the characters I didn’t like very much (we all have a role to play) but I admit it was a relief to see some of them go.
And I was worried about the welfare of Sally and Billy as well. It’s not easy to be abandoned in the woods. If you survive, it can really build character. But I don’t recommend it.
I mentioned that Sally and Billy in Babyland is a fable and animals play a prominent role in the story. It’s also a satire, so there are some ridiculous elements in it, as well. But I think you’ll agree that, as a satire, you can recognize the truth in the story.
If you read it, I hope you enjoy it. Either way, I hope you’ll let me know.

My Inspiration For Sally and Billy in Babyland

I have always been a big fan of satire and absurd stories, such as Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland, and Life of Brian.

Several years ago, I was brainstorming ideas for a story to write. I was attracted to the idea of a story about two kids who end up in a bizarre world. But I couldn’t get progress with the story because I had nothing to drive their journey. All my ideas were about two kids, probably siblings, arguing about how they got here and what are they supposed to do. I had ideas for wacky things to happen, and for wacky people for them to meet.

But I had no story.

As 2016 came to a close, and we elected the new president, I found myself deeply upset. At first I was despondent and didn’t know quite what to do. Then I got busy and became more involved with politics than I ever had been before.

I was motivated because I was worried about my daughter and how women, minorities, and migrants would fare under this new regime. As I tried to find projects to make the world better through politics, helping people directly, and using my talents, I tried to think of something that would use my talent for writing.

At some point I remembered this story I had tried to work on many years ago about two kids who find themselves in a bizarre world. Now I was able to connect the bizarre world I sought for the story with the bizarre world we were living in. And I was able to connect the two kids in the story with my own two children.

My worry for the children in the story parallels my worry for my own children in this world.

I don’t think this story I’ve written will change the world directly. But I do believe that sharing stories about the world in which we live is how we come to a deeper and agreed-upon understanding of the world. And maybe once were all in better agreement, we can do something about.

How Our Fear of Abandonment By Mom and Dad Can Inspire Us to Survive the Bad Things We Must Face in the Woods

Illustration and cover design by Michael Reibsome

I told a story about two children abandoned in the woods. It is an homage to Hanzel and Gretel, a fairy tale told in the time when children were frequently abandoned in the woods when families had too many mouths to feed, and parents had to choose between leaving their children to die alone in the forest, or watching those children starve along with their siblings.

But my story is about us, today, in America. The idea of children abandoned in the woods by their parents stuck with me because that’s how I feel our political parties treat the people they supposedly represent. We have become something of a burden to their plans and, not knowing what else to do, they have left us to fend for ourselves.

In my story, Sally and Billy, the abandoned children, are terrified as night approaches, and bear witness to an atrocity. Their lone glimmer of hope comes in the form of a kitten they rescue. But just as they figure out how to comfort each other, the kitten is stolen away.

The children do everything they can to save their poor little kitten. They do this with a pure desire to do the right thing, and they help each other figure out how to overcome the obstacles in their path.

They do this in spite of being abandoned by their parents.

I believe that is what Americans will do for each other, even as we bear witness to atrocities on a daily basis, and in spite of what our political parties have done to us.

Yes, I realize that we constitute the political parties, and that many of us, individually, do not like other Americans. But, taken as a whole, we have a desire to do the right thing for each other. When America welcomes and supports those with the greatest need, it benefits all of us. Supporting each other strengthens our communities, helps us improve local government, and, ultimately, gives us better state and federal lawmakers.

But it won’t be easy. We are pretty deep in the woods at this moment.

Fight or Flight

Sally and Billy must overcome great challenges and personal hardship. They are accosted, in the story, by Big Baby, a narcissist despot who doesn’t like to share.

We also must survive a leader who doesn’t like to share.

A novella may not seem like a significant step towards solving the worlds problems, but it’s all that I have to offer at this time.

Sally and Billy in Babyland is a fable for our times, a political satire that offers a view on the world through the perspective of children abandoned in the woods who cling to the hope of a better future.

So may we all.

If you’re interested in this political satire/fable, it’s available right now on Amazon. If you like it, I hope you’ll leave a review.


This post was originally published on Medium, where I write about writing, creativity, and productivity.