In her late forties, Karen Franks started writing.
At 55, she is in the middle of a $4 million effort to put characters from her book series, Abigail’s Dream Adventures, on the screen.
It’s a “pinch me” scenario for Ms Franks, who loved writing as a child, but pursued a career in banking and, more recently, real estate.
“Being an author and now also content creator/producer of my animated TV series is unexpected, but exhilarating,” she said. “A combination of many things have assisted me along my journey. I always get asked: how do you do this all on your own?
“I’m a strong, passionate, driven woman. I was a single mother for several years to two amazing humans, Matthieu and Jonathan Richard. My life’s experiences as a working woman both here and in Canada have allowed me to hone my skills and utilise everything I have learnt; to bring it all along into being an entrepreneurial spirit.”
The third book in the Abigail series is due out this month. Like Abigail’s Dream Adventures and Abigail’s Dream Adventures: The Beach, it is centred on Abigail, “a precocious little girl” who has fun adventures during the day and “mystical, magical dreams at night that include her dream pal Pearl”.
The adventures — with children of different cultures and ethnicities — are a way “of bridging the gap of racial divide”, something she has also made the mission of her company ADA Group Holdings Limited.
“Behind [its] vision is a great respect and appreciation of cultural diversity. The brand values the promotion of the understanding of unique cultural and ethnic heritage,” Ms Franks said. “Our principles promote the educational needs of every child’s development, which is culturally responsible and holds responsive learning opportunities.
“ADA Group Holdings Limited also embraces various learning styles and is helpful with assisting children’s acquisition of literacy skills, different learning styles, and is supportive in providing knowledge to function in various cultures.”
She published the first book in 2015. A year later, after attending a book-to-screen pitch fest in New York, she realised how television and digital media could also help promote Abigail’s values of literacy, diversity and dream-building.
“I returned back home to Bermuda and knew that I wanted to be of service and to do more with the book series,” said Ms Franks, who held a virtual reading of her books at the children’s library last month. “Our mission is to inspire children to dream through reading, encouraging them to use their imagination and creativity to make all their dreams come true. Abigail’s message is one of inclusion, and that no matter what economic background you come from that you to can be a part of Abigail’s message and make your dreams a reality.”
It’s a message she has also shared with readers of her books in Canada, where she is also a citizen.
“The experience was amazing. There was such a demand from the schools to meet Abigail and hear her message of literacy, diversity and dream-building that I had to, unfortunately, turn some of the schools away,” she said of her experience with Ontario students.
“I couldn’t believe that there was over 27 languages in some of the schools and that they got along and that they were all excited to learn more about Abigail’s message and the benefits of inclusion. I even ended up at a polycultural immigrant refugee centre to speak to new residents of Canada.”
Her heroine’s “platform of diversity and dream-building transformed easily” into a message that resonated with people who had left home with big hopes of a new life in Canada.
“‘Dream, believe and make it happen’ is Abigail’s slogan,” Ms Franks said. “I spoke to them about following their dreams and read the story of Abigail’s adventures. Even though the group could hardly understand me, they followed along.”
She was thrilled by the response she got when they recognised “icons in the book of different countries around the world”.
“You could hear the gasps in the room, smiles and nods of appreciation as the group recognised their country of origin,” Ms Franks said. “It warmed my heart and I knew that I had to do more.
“While in Toronto my strategist and I came up with the idea of creating an educational platform mirroring the animated TV show and the book series connecting the ADA Group Holdings Limited vision to achievable learning outcomes that embrace the concept of my brand.”
Her planned television series is part of that. Ms Franks is in talks with “celebrity talent” for the project.
“I’m currently meeting with investors who are passionate about diversity and inclusion and I have received great support to date from Bermudians,” she said.
“For me, it’s really about changing the world and working with children. They think unconditionally and children get excited by my stories — you can see it in their eyes. Meeting children that use their imagination, like me, makes me think back upon my childhood. I remember sitting under my grandmother Mary Daniels’s piano and reading her National Geographic magazines and I would get excited when I saw beautiful children from all around the world and wished I could jump inside the pages and be there with them.”