After repeated PCS moves and relocations, Air Force spouse Kelly Campbell, kept coming back to one question: “How can I be my most authentic self at each new location?” She explores this question in her new illustrated children’s book “Bloom.”
The story is about a young dandelion named Bloom that is blown in the wind and goes on an epic adventure. The narrative echoes themes of anxiety and fear of the unknown and ultimately trust and self-resiliency.
As a spouse and mother of two small children, military life seems to be a series of redefining experiences for Campbell. She says that each duty station from Germany to Colorado to Okinawa, Japan to Mountain Home, Idaho, has been its own microcosm in terms of community and place.
“Who am I here at this location and what is my role going to be not only within my family but within the community?” she said. “How can I be my most authentic self and then re-find myself with each place that we go?”
These questions kept gnawing at her as time passed. Three years ago, after relocating to Japan, she sat down and the story just poured out.
“I wrote it in 20 minutes in my notebook,” she said. “Thinking, this is a great dream and idea but I put it in a drawer as I didn’t even know where to begin to publish a children’s book.”
A year later, she and friend were talking and the friend lamented that Campbell has such great ideas that she should write a book.
“Funny you should say that,” Campbell joked, “I already did. It’s here in my drawer!”
She took this moment to act, and decided to move forward with bringing the book to fruition.
After a Facebook crowdsourcing campaign, Campbell connected with a publisher in her home state of Delaware, found an illustrator and eventually brought the project to fruition. She says the process of publishing the book mirrored the story of itself and military life at large.
“You don’t really know what you’re doing, you feel alone, much like the young dandelion protagonist of the book. Does anyone understand what this feels like?” she said. “And then I realized, WOW! I am in fact supported, every step of the way, much like military life.”
Campbell believes that storytelling is a great way to connect with children to explore their fears about change. “Bloom” proved to be a great tool for her to have hard conversations that she didn’t know how to start with her own children.
“As an adult, we can sometimes forget that our kids are experiencing those first-time overs as well… My hope is that utilizing this story within the home can give families an opportunity to bring some of those conversations and topics to the table in a very organic fashion,” Campbell said.
“As much as this is a children’s book, with whimsical and colorful illustrations, I really feel like it hits home for adults as well. We can all related to those feelings of being right there on the edge and thinking ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do’ and having that push of ‘it’s happening either way,’” she said.
The story urges children and parents to have a mindset of resiliency and to tap into that inner courage. “I want people to say that ‘I can make it happen, I can make this thing a beautiful experience,’” she said.
As the book says, “Life is an adventure . . . You will love it out there. Just lean into the unknown.”
“Bloom” retails for $18.00 and can be purchased at https://kellycampbellauthor.squarespace.com.