Turning child's play into a book

Catonsville father puts his own imagination to work

July 30, 2004|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,SUN STAFF

Nick Ruth, 44, is a realist, a doubting Thomas who has trouble suspending belief. For a long time when his son, David, was small, he resisted play. He wasn't any good at it. Who can outlast a child pretending to be a pirate?

Then one day, after seeing David's reaction to a performance of Sesame Street Live, Ruth was inspired to take some old boxes and build a Sesame Street stage set that took up half the boy's room. A few years later, in 2002, when David was so crazy about Harry Potter that the boy wizard's story became the theme of his birthday party, Ruth spent the afternoon of the party hiding under the dining room table to answer questions that the kids wrote in the diary of Potter character Tom Riddle. Ruth had taken out a table leaf and rigged the hole to hold the diary so that kids could watch it seemingly answer their questions.

The more the dad who usually analyzes computer data at the Social Security Administration watched his son play, the more he was captivated by David's world and how the child embellished games by adding rules and scenarios.

The actions became fodder. Maybe, Ruth thought last year, he could write a 10-page story as a surprise for his son. Something about a wizard in the form of a caterpillar they found on a milkweed while raising Monarch butterflies together.

Every night he worked on his laptop. Soon the wizard was taking a boy named David into the world of dreams. There was evil there, and David had to stop it. After five months, Ruth had written 200 pages and gradually showed them to his wife, Sheila. She was stunned; a Web site designer, she thought she was the creative one in the marriage. The story had to be published, she thought. At Social Security, the reaction was similar: Could Ruth write anything that wasn't technical?

Those who knew more about him - about his love for music, for example - weren't completely surprised. One of those colleagues used to doodle in long meetings to stay awake, and Ruth had reached over once to addto her work. He thought of her now: Could Sue Concannon illustrate some of his ideas? Yes; from his description she could picture exactly what to draw. Soon there were 17 pencil sketches of the land of Remin, then a national distributor, and a theme song.

Now, 3,000 copies of The Dark Dreamweaver are in the Ruths' Catonsville basement in the hope that other people, too, might find the story interesting. Books can be ordered on Amazon.com.

Tomorrow, at Port Discovery in downtown Baltimore, Ruth will read all day from his self-published book. He and David, 8, will release live butterflies outside at noon.

In the book, intended for kids aged 9 to12, a boy discovers that his imagination is all the power he needs to make magic.

Is that what happened to the man who wrote the book, too?

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