By Kathleen Swift

Writing and painting have become creative outlets for Laura Wright, a former US Marine. After being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome following two tours of duty in Iraq, Wright turned to art. Through the creative process, Wright created her Brave Mee books as both author and illustrator. It is a series of children’s stories that explore anxiety, stress and the search for happiness.

SMTO: What is important about creating and the Brave Mee stories?

Wright: Writing and painting are therapeutic for me. I was able to talk to children I know about their anxieties, so the Brave Mee books are written on their level. It was important that Brave Mee be relatable to everyone, so Brave Mee is never given a gender. This allows readers to internalize Brave Mee as themselves. Brave Mee can connect to everyone, so kids can read the books and relate and not question themselves.

SMTO: Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Wright: Sometimes I have an idea that I explore, but sometimes a story just comes to me. I just start writing and see what comes.

SMTO: You use animals in your books as guides. Why animals?

Wright: Because Brave Mee is a fluid character, I wanted to include animals because they are solid things kids can connect to. Besides, everyone loves animals, and they are fun!

SMTO: What influenced your first story?

Wright: In the Marines, we did a lot of good, but I had to deal with a lot of misogyny. I was also experiencing issues with my extended family at the time. In Brave Mee and the Forest of Tangled Lies, the Mee is also going through family issues. Kids go through things, too, and can get negative feelings about themselves. I felt the need to empower children. A lot of that story just came to me. I have seen too many people live in the negative past, and I want children and adults to know that you can leave that behind and focus on the positive.

SMTO: You illustrate your books. Have you always painted?

Wright: I did some painting in high school and loved it. After my career in the Marines, I started painting again. I started painting old wooden cigar boxes but soon began painting on bigger canvases. I became a member of Art Forms Gallery in Pittsburg, Kansas, where my work is displayed.

SMTO: Does writing and painting come easily to you?

Wright: Finishing and following through are sometimes hard for me. I have to have faith in myself that I can do it. Two years ago, if you told me I would be doing this, I would have said no way. I have had to grow into the right head space to do it. I have learned to empower myself to just get up and do it.

SMTO: How do you view creativity?

Wright: Creating is something I love to do. Painting, in particular, is therapeutic for me. It has helped me see the world and the beauty around me. I see beauty in things that may have gone unnoticed in the past. I just want to pass along the beauty I see and the lessons that I have learned along my journey.