Book lover Calvin Fisher’s favorite genre is fantasy.
Fisher’s fantasy — his dream — came true. He’s graduating from book reader to book writer.
It’s fair to say one of the best days of Fisher’s short life (he’s 18) occurred earlier this month, when he traveled here from his hometown of Stillwater to sign a sweet book contract with Yorkshire Publishing of Tulsa.
Maybe Fisher will someday become your favorite author. He doesn’t have his name on a book cover yet, but he does have his name etched in history as a “wish kid” whose unique request was granted.
Fisher was introduced to Yorkshire Publishing by way of Make-A-Wish Oklahoma. The organization grants wishes of children diagnosed with critical illnesses and tries like heck to make any do-able wish come true. A kid once asked for, and got, an elephant.
Wish kids often ask to meet a celebrity or visit a theme park. Fisher understands why wish kids would make those type of requests. Ask for whatever brings you happiness or provides escapism.
But Fisher went a different direction because he wanted a wish that is more lasting. A book is forever.
“It’s just a matter of longevity, if you will,” he said. “And I love writing. The idea that someone could read my book and find it enjoyable is weird, but also kind of exciting.”
What if, asked Fisher, someone read his book while in the hospital? That would be nice, he said. It would also be full circle.
Fisher, the youngest of eight children in his family, has long embraced books. He grew up reading with sisters and said “The Hobbit” was his first “big” book. His passion for reading shifted into high gear during hospital stays.
“He had four years, age 10 to 13, where he was in the hospital every summer and was not well most of the time,” his mother, Lisa, said.
Fisher was zapped by illness and the rigors of hospital residency. Saying others should be able to relate to this, Fisher pointed out that you don’t ever really sleep in hospitals if you’re battling something serious because of all the activity — lights, machines beeping, nurses coming in to check IVs.
Books became an “easy” entertainment option. When Fisher was too fatigued to read in his hospital bed, he would pop on a headset and listen to audiobooks. He said he tackled the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy that way.
What landed Fisher in the hospital long enough to experience a trilogy? XLA. That’s short for X-linked agammaglobulinemia, a rare genetic disorder that impacts the immune system. Your immune system has a “memory.” His doesn’t.
“Infections are a big deal,” he said.
“Something simple like a little skin thing can get big,” his mother said.
“It gets really scary,” he said. “They have to plug in the antibiotics whenever that happens. And I can get sick again. If I get flu, there’s nothing stopping me from getting it again just because the immune system doesn’t fight it — or it fights it, but it doesn’t remember how to fight it. Chickenpox could be very scary to get. Staph is a common thing.”
Not only is Fisher at a higher risk of infection than others, he also has a heightened risk of cancer, according to his mother. She said the only reason he isn’t in a “complete bubble” is because he benefits from a wonderful blood product collected for medical use. Home-schooled, Fisher will likely wear a medical mask and keep sanitizers handy when he attends college because he will be seated next to strangers.
XLA isn’t Fisher’s only medical issue, but it’s more than enough to make him eligible for Make-A-Wish Oklahoma. He mentioned the possibility of meeting a favorite author or becoming a published author during “wish” discussions. One of those things meant more to him than the other.
“It is not every day that a young man signs his first publishing contract,” Yorkshire Publishing President and CEO Roger Chasteen told Fisher during a contract ceremony.
“We feel like this is a special day for all of us. We are looking forward to working with you and getting this book published and getting it on the open marketplace.”
Fisher started work on the book (it’s a nonfiction tale in his preferred genre) long before he had a contract placed in front of him. He said he’s still writing and the book keeps getting bigger. How big is too big? “No ‘War and Peace,’” Chasteen said.
Asked why Yorkshire wanted to be involved in granting Fisher’s wish, Chasteen said it took about a millisecond to say “yes.”
“It’s right down to what we do,” he said. “We have been in business now for 19 years and we have published nationally and internationally. When we found out that someone had a dream to be an author, we were the ones excited. We were the ones that felt like we got the gift because we were able to help him achieve his dream. And we are going to pull out all the stops. Money is not going to be an object. We are going to ... make sure that he has the best of everything as we go through this. We look at this as not just a responsibility, but an honor that we can give back to our community and to give back to Make-A-Wish, which is just in our hearts.”
Fisher smiled and seemed pleasantly overwhelmed as Chasteen went over highlights of the contract. Fisher would have been happy with one copy of one book. Instead: Blown away.
Fisher’s mother talked about the reality that life could be short. It takes forever for some people to clear the hurdles to become an author. She appreciates that Yorkshire Publishing put her son in the express lane for his dream. She compared it to putting him on top of the mountain, even though finishing the book will still be a climb. Samantha Ryan, Yorkshire’s director of publishing, will assist him with the climb.
Fisher, after signing his name to a contract and posing for pictures, was asked how he felt.
“I’m a little shaky after all of that. I’m not going to lie,” he said. “And I’m a little tired. We had to go drop the dog off this morning because I had to get up a little earlier. But, other than that, I feel pretty darned good.”
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