Not only did they worry her diagnosis and treatment for a brain tumor would affect her wish, since it affected functions like being able to write and draw, but Piper had also been experiencing some writer’s block towards the middle of the book.
“My husband and I knew publishing a book is difficult, so we had no idea how Make-A-Wish Arizona could pull it off,” said Marina, her mother.
Enter Dr. James Blasingame, Dr. B for short, who is a creative writing professor at Arizona State University with 40-years’ experience and a focus in Young Adult literature.
“When I heard about Piper’s wish from a colleague in my department, I knew right away I could help,” said Dr. B, who gives individual writing sessions to help young authors with their own books. “Helping young writers make their dreams come true is exactly what I do.”
Make-A-Wish Arizona set up the initial meeting with Piper and her family, and it was a perfect match.
“Dr. B was so welcoming, charming and nice,” Marina said. “Our biggest fear going in was that we were going to be a burden on him. He made it clear right away that wasn’t the case. The way he took over the meeting, you could see he was as excited about the wish as Piper.”
According to Marina, Dr. B formed a “special bond” with Piper.
“She was immediately comfortable around him, which was rare for Piper, because she had always been shy. She had never let anyone read her book until she met Dr. B,” she continued. “They became friends instantly and he became part of our family.”
Piper and Dr. B scheduled weekly video calls to go over her progress. Every week since May, Piper wrote three chapters, and they discussed her work together.
“Dr. B is such a talented teacher,” Marina said. “He doesn’t sugar coat it. If he doesn’t like something, he’ll explain why.”
However, Dr. B also makes sure to let Piper know when she does something well, which happens more often than not.
“Piper is a whiz kid!” Dr. B said. “She is a very talented writer, but more importantly, she is extremely coachable.”
Piper’s book, Paradox, is now finished, with a release party set for this month. For Piper, this is the culmination of a life-long dream, made possible by her own hard work and Dr. B’s devoted teaching.
“I don’t think we could have done this without him,” Marina said. “I think we would have had to choose a different wish.”
In addition to helping her complete the book, Dr. B went above and beyond by arranging a couple of surprises along the way. Piper had mentioned to Dr. B that she was inspired to write by her favorite author, Rick Riordan, who wrote the best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Unbeknownst to her, Dr. B is friends with Riordan’s publicist, and he sent her a copy of Piper’s book. Riordan read it, and sent back a glowing review that will be used on the back-cover.
Marina fondly remembers sitting down and crying as Dr. B read the family the quote.
“Piper usually isn’t very outward or emotional,” Marina said. “But when Dr. B read the review from Riordan, she absolutely could not believe it. She was overwhelmed. I’ve never seen her so emotionally touched. She actually still gets exited talking about it.”
The second surprise was getting premier cover artist Tyson Powless to design her cover.
“People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in reality, we all judge a book by its cover,” Dr. B said. “Piper’s book is really good, and a beautiful cover design will get more people to read it.”
In addition to providing edits and a much-needed distraction, Dr. B also gave Piper something that no one else could - a massive confidence boost.
“Piper had always been self-conscious about her condition,” Marina said. “Around Dr. B, she doesn’t even think about. She makes jokes and laughs. She just has a good time and gets to be a normal kid. There isn’t another man on the planet that could have helped Piper the way Dr. B did.”
“Working with Dr. B on her book was her rehab. It’s been a supplement to her therapy and really helped her emotional state,” she continued. “It’s given her something to focus on instead of the tough news we often get from doctors and it’s truly helped her heal.”
But according to Dr. B, he’s gained just as much out of working with Piper as she did.
“This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Dr. B said. “Every week, I looked forward to seeing Piper. It was so delightful and a lot of fun. Watching Piper grow right in front of my eyes is something special that I will always remember.”