Meet Barb Friskey, Support Coordinator. Barb came to BCFR eight years ago to begin her second career. After working as a special education teacher in Columbia for 30 years, she made the decision to retire in 2012. That plan, however, soon fell by the wayside.
“I realized after about 7 months of retired ‘bliss’ that I was actually bored out of my mind and missed my students,” said Barb.
A friend mentioned to her that BCFR had a Support Coordinator opening. She jumped at the opportunity and launched the next phase of her professional life. Her role as Support Coordinator has allowed her to provide support to children and families in a new and satisfying way. As the years passed though, something else kept drawing her attention. It would lay the foundation for yet another new path for Barb.
As a teacher, Barb found love in encouraging students to both increase their reading skills and find fun in reading. Books have played a significant role in Barb’s family history.
“My grandmother, Margaret Friskey, was founder and Editor-In-Chief of Children’s Press, a publishing house in Chicago that produced children’s literature and educational books,” recalls Barb.
Margaret was also a prolific writer of children’s books herself. As a child, Barb served as Margaret’s ‘beta reader’ and was the first to read many of her books.
“She always encouraged me to write,” said Barb. “I had gone to college fully intending to major in Literature and become a writer. This is until one day I volunteered for Special Olympics and fell in love with the kids. I never looked back.”
But Barb’s dream of becoming a writer never left her as “over the years my grandmother’s voice kept nagging the back of my brain.” Barb developed a love for fantasy fiction, which she noticed also resonated with her students. Over time, she began to develop a story idea for a young adult fantasy novel. She decided to finally heed her grandmother’s advice.
“I went out, bought a laptop and started writing Wren’s Dragon. It began as a way to deal with stress I was having at the time, but I fell in love with my characters and my time in bed with my laptop was one of the best times of my life,” said Barb.
The storyline was greatly influenced by Barb’s experience working with children with special needs. Wren, who has a disability, is given the task of raising rats to feed to the town’s stable of dragons. During the course of her work, she rescues a rare and beautiful baby dragon to save it from a superstitious ritual killing. This act unlocks a dark prophesy that hurls Wren into a leadership role she is hesitant to take. But she does, and her harrowing adventure is launched. She is accompanied by Tick, her dedicated pet gargoyle, who provides comic relief.
Barb described the book as, “A Young Adult novel but written mainly for the younger side of the category. It has some mild violence (think Disney) and the romance element is very Princess Bride.”
After writing, editing and re-writing, Barb completed the book in about a year.
“There is a lot of hard work and plenty of tears along the way,” she said.
Adding to the stress of writing was the declining health of Barb’s husband Dan, who passed away shortly before the pandemic started.
“My husband was my biggest support and after he died last year I almost just gave up on the book. I like to think he is still cheering me on so I had to get it back on track!” said Barb.
And that she did. Wren’s Dragon is the culmination of Barb’s continued career evolution over the years – special education teacher, Support Coordinator, and now…. Children’s Book Author. Grandma Margaret would be proud!
Wren’s Dragon will be available for order by the end of March 2021 at most book outlets including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, and Ingram. It will be available in hardback, paperback, and ebook format.