A University of Central Arkansas alumnus and former University of Arkansas Associate Professor for Medical Sciences has released a new book, co-authored with his 12-year-old son. Dr. Mike Wiggins, an ophthalmologist now living in Florida, and his son Jack, released “Magical Arkansas Tales,” a collection of short stories for children, in May.
In an interview with Log Cabin on Monday, Wiggins, a native of Booneville in Logan County, and Jack said the stories spanned 100 years in Arkansas contexts like Faulkner, Pulaski, Lonoke and Logan.
Describing the book as “something good to come out of [the] COVID-19[feminine] [pandemic]”, said Wiggins that the idea for the book began while he was working on a novel for adults that Jack asked to read.
Finding that the novel was not age-appropriate, Wiggins wrote his son a short story, “Ghosts of the Arkansas River”, which became one of the stories in the book.
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Jack’s schools closed, Wiggins said, and to get him out of the house, father and son began taking night walks during which they created fantastical stories that blended a variety of genres with one ultimate goal – tackling issues affecting children today.
Topics covered in the stories in the book include bullying, in-laws, friendship, prejudice and more. Jack said using creative writing like magic, science fiction and fantasy to address issues affecting children today makes topics and stories more relevant to readers.
“[Writing about topics that affect children] allows children to identify with it and imagine themselves as their favorite characters,” said Jack.
Wiggins said he started taking notes of the stories he and Jack made up on their walks after they had several and started writing them down.
“Thank goodness I had a kid telling me what to write,” Wiggins said.
Since the release of their book, the father and son have embarked on a book tour and a series of book signings in the south. Wiggins said Jack embraced the tour and spoke to readers inspired by his songwriting ability at such a young age. During their travels, Wiggins added, the two learned that readers find the book enjoyable for both children and adults.
For Jack, a voracious reader who said he loved “creating a whole world based on books”, he is now part of a writing group with his friends and said he might want to be a writer when he will be big.
Jack said the process of writing the book with his father made them closer and spent more time together, a point his father agreed with.
“It was great to watch [Jack] mature and grow through this process,” Wiggins said. “These walks we did in 2020 are memories I will cherish forever.”
“Magical Arkansas Tales” is available in print and electronic form on Amazon, as well as at Barnes and Noble.