Tomorrow my paperback releases. Several months ago, I asked my editor if I should be planning some kind of launch party. He replied with an emphatic yes, that this was an accomplishment worth celebrating. I worried a little bit because I knew that at the time of my release, I wasn’t going to be at home—I was going to be several hours away in Great Smoky Mountains. I couldn’t really throw the kind of party he was thinking of.
But tonight something wonderful and spontaneous happened. A whole bunch of us rangers got together for a bonfire and s’mores, swapping stories of other parks we’d been in and geeking out about interpretation. And then, in a sort of spur of the moment kind of decision, several of us decided to drive to a nearby trailhead, where we’d heard reports that our native synchronous fireflies had been flashing.
Woodwalker is set in a fantasy southern Appalachia. The Silverwood Mountains are the Great Smoky Mountains. And to Mae and her folk, firefly season is a sacred time full of celebration and reverence. So it struck me, as I walked up the trail in the dark with my fellow rangers, that this was, in fact, the greatest way I could have chosen to celebrate Woodwalker’s release. We reached a bend in the trail, near a patch of that damp, open woodland the fireflies like so much, and we were met with a dazzling wave of synchronized light flashing through the forest. Six, seven, eight bursts of coordinated flashing, and then darkness, like the flick of a lightswitch, and then a few seconds later—they began again. And the evening fireflies were out, swooping yellow with each blink. The flashbulbs were out, their strobe-light lanterns so bright they cast visible shadows on the path. And my favorite—and Mae’s favorite—the blue ghosts, were out, drifting gently among the flickering and flashing, glowing that soft, moonlight blue.
I am filled with gratitude for everyone who has helped and encouraged me along this journey—my family, my friends, my agent, my editor, my publicist, my fellow Harper Voyager authors whose camaraderie means so much to me. And I’m filled with gratitude simply to this place, and to these bugs, and the pillowed moss and the curling mist and the tumbling creeks that have saturated Woodwalker with so much life. Magic exists, and it exists here in these hills.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator