Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
LAMY – When Marc Romanelli was working on his young adult novel “The Imagination Warriors,” he came down with a case of writer’s block. Then, one day when he was driving around town, he found himself behind a llama standing in the back of a pickup truck.
For Romanelli, it was a eureka moment. “This was inspiration incarnate,” he said.
Suddenly, the author knew what would come next in his book: Enter Rama the Talking Llama.
Rama is just one of the characters in “The Imagination Warriors,” which is about travel through time. There’s also Philomena, a feisty nine-year-old who joins forces with Noshi, a fiftysomething hermit who lives on a mountain, and Daisy, a psychic cat, to decode mysterious paintings created by Mr. Temporani during the Renaissance.
Philomena was inspired by Romanelli’s real-life daughter of the same name who is now 13 years old. There was also a real Daisy, but the feline went to her eternal rest after 22 years.
Romanelli’s self-published book may not be flying off the shelves, but “The Imagination Warriors” recently won two top honors at the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards – best juvenile book and best cover design-fiction (6 by 9 inches). In 2018, the year the book was published, it received the Silver Award from Mom’s Choice Awards.
The cover was created by local artist Odessa Sawyer, who used a painting by Romanelli’s brother as a backdrop. Sawyer also did 13 illustrations for the book.
A professional photographer for 40 years, Romanelli is an “imagination warrior” himself. Writing his book, which exists “out of time” and does not include any references to digital devices, allowed Romanelli to explore the creative process.
He took some of the lessons he’s learned to fifth- and sixth-graders during a recent talk at Turquoise Trail Charter School. Romanelli believes that creativity and intuition are underused forces. “They’re not valued because they’re invisible,” he said. “They’re being crowded out by the firehose of digital media.”
He also talked to students about the importance of urgency and intention. As a photographer, Romanelli said, “If I don’t have urgency and intention, I’m not going to be able to pay the bills.”
After his talk, Romanelli said he presented books to two students – one of whom is the great-greatgranddaughter of the poet Robert Frost. The other was a girl named Eliana who confessed to Romanelli that she is at work on a book of her own and wanted a copy of “The Imagination Warriors” to inspire her.
Romanelli said the process of writing the book forced him to slow down. One way he finds access to “pockets of stillness” is by walking his German shepherd Bella on the railroad tracks in historic Lamy, whose train depot and Old West appearance have made it a popular movie set over the years.
In his young adult novel, it’s Philomena who walks the tracks and looks around town for fragments of dishes from the El Ortiz, one of Fred Harvey’s historic destination hotels for train travelers. Philomena’s father is a paleontologist and she dubs herself a “Lamyologist.”
With the help of Noshi, Daisy and Rama, she travels back in time to two different places at different periods in history – the Great Depression in Lamy and the Great Plains during the 1830s. Through Philomena’s investigations, it becomes apparent that an “important gathering of souls” is going to take place at the former Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe.
That meeting will take place in Book Two of “The Imagination Warriors,” a series that Romanelli anticipates will have three installments.
When the book was released last year, Romanelli gave a talk at Collected Works bookstore and was interviewed by local radio broadcaster Richard Eads for his eponymous talk show on KVSF 101.5 FM. The book was also in the “swag bag” handed out earlier this year in Chicago to attendees at the Minard Guild summit, a closed-door meeting where 100 high-powered finance executives share ideas.
In between working on Book Two of “The Imagination Warriors,” Romanelli helps his wife Ahdina take care of their two children. Driving Philomena and Redford, 6, to and from school each day gives him a chance to tell stories and see the world through a child’s eyes. “My muses are my children. Philomena has gotten her book and Red will get one too,” he said.
Those interested in buying a copy of “The Imagination Warriors” can do so at Romanelli’s website, www.littleromanpress.com.