How Writing a Book About a Black Girl and Her Anime Parka Fulfilled a Life-Long Dream

Ran Walker
4 min readJun 1, 2023
Now Available

My daughter was born two years after I published my first book, and a few years later, she asked me, “Daddy, when are you going to write a book I can read?”

I know many children have probably asked their writer-parents to create something for them, but I will say this from experience: if you are not already inclined to write for children, trying to do so requires Herculean effort. My first two novels were romantic comedies. My third was a blues triptych. I have had stories published in horror and erotic anthologies. In other words, I know my way around polite (and impolite) language. But even in all of that, I struggled to write something my daughter could read.

So it became a bucket list item. I would write a story for her (while she was still a kid), and it would be magical in the way that the books I read as a kid were. Still, for the life of me, I didn’t have any ideas about what to write. The thought of writing for my daughter froze me in my tracks.

Then something quite serendipitous happened in early 2022.

Out of the blue, I received an email from Matthew Garcia-Dunn, the Chief Narrative Officer at the video game startup Worldspark Studios. He informed me that not only had he read my book A Burst of Gray: A Novel in 100-Word Stories, he’d made it required reading for his company. An email with news that good quickly made me think I was on the receiving end of a con, but I still followed up with him. I figured, being a lawyer, that I would be able to sniff out anything suspicious, if it came to that. What did happen, however, was a wonderful conversation about creating characters in different universes and an invitation to come work at the company helping to develop the lore around the game. Worldspark, unlike other gaming companies, wanted to present positive characters and storylines, devoid of violence and hyper-sexualization. In short, they wanted to create fun games and stories that would appeal to both kids and adults alike. Hopepunk, if you will.

After reviewing the amazing list of characters the narrative team had already created, I homed in on GloKat (brilliantly named by Emma Coats). Seeing this vibrant Black girl in her yellow and blue cat-like anime parka immediately put me in the mindset of my own daughter, and I knew I wanted to be the one to help tell that character’s story.

Much to Worldspark’s credit, they saw the value in publishing a book around one of their key characters, and that began the process of working on the book with the Narrative team, Matthew Garcia-Dunn and Abigail Harvey. The team allowed me to write the book I had in me to write, which was surprising, as I had been struggling to create stories my daughter could read. Now, suddenly, with a team of people completely invested in these characters, I found that something inside of me “sparked,” and I began composing this book using a form I had pioneered with A Burst of Gray: writing a 100x100 micro novel, which is essentially a novel written in 100 chapters containing 100 words each.

The goal was to create something in the realm of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, except through the lens of Black Girl Magic and Afrofuturism. I would use other characters from the gaming universe, and write a story that would allow fans of the game, as well as those who were purely interested in the story, to enjoy the story. Even more, I saw in this book something my own daughter could read — better yet, something I would be both proud and honored for her to read.

So that’s what I did. And GloKat and the Art of Timing: A Novel in 100-Word Stories was born.

A book is only as good as its editors, though, and having both Matthew and Abigail believing in the project and pointing out areas that could strengthen the book made the process (not just the writing itself) pleasantly memorable. Even more, the larger Worldspark team was enormously supportive, especially Chandler Thomlison, the company’s founder and CEO.

Finally, Alvin Lee, the legendary comic book artist and principal artist at Worldspark, designed one of the most beautiful, vibrant covers I could have ever imagined.

When everything was completed and published, I stared in awe at this small book, this representation of something I had always wanted to write. I had finally written a story about a Black girl on a quest to find her father, while simultaneously seeking a way to save her Earth from becoming completely uninhabitable. It literally gave me goosebumps to hand this book to my daughter.

She read it in a single day and loved it! Since then, many readers have journeyed with GloKat through Sparkadia. (Have you?)

My daughter’s signed copy now sits on her bookshelf, next to other books she’s read. This one is special, though. It is the only one there that was written by her father, the only book among the group that was written especially for her.