But unlike other children in the neighborhood, Mei exists only in Franco’s imagination. She is the central character in a new online children’s book entitled Mei’s Flying Dream. Five years ago, television journalist Franco decided to challenge herself to create a book and character based on the very best traits of her friends and family.
“The way I developed Mei is that in every story she is looking for a balance in her life,” she says. “She’s looking to achieve things, overcome obstacles and become a better person.”
Like her own character, Franco has faced obstacles of her own and has struggled for find outlets for her work. As a graduate student in media studies at the New School, Franco is committed to making children’s publishing more democratic for illustrators and writers.
“Usually to be published, you have to have an agent and have all these credentials. Plus it’s a small market and it’s expensive to produce books,” she says. By using the free Prezi format, she hopes to combine the feel of traditional book with the flexibility of online multimedia.
Turning a profit isn’t Franco’s immediate goal.
“The best way people can support the book is to show it to people. Pass it around and talk about it,” she says. “Mei is not only my character. I have a lot of other characters and stories to tell. I want people to keep an open mind that a physical book is not the only way to go.”
Top: Widad Franco with her character Mei on Midwood Street