Posted on 01/20/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

When Linda Leslie passed away, it was months before her grieving sister, Cindi Elli, was prepared to sort through the papers and files full of thoughts, quotes, and insights.

She was rewarded, though, with an emotional discovery: the first three chapters of a book that Linda had talked about writing years ago.

Elli, a longtime journalist, was the right person to find those chapters, plus the outlines for several others. As a tribute to her sister, she has completed and published The Dream Travelers — From the Beginning, which is the first book in a trilogy for kids.

And if writing the book was important, creating a community around it was even more so. Elli donates copies to children’s hospitals and other organizations and invited fans to nominate a child to be featured as a character in the second book.

We recently spoke with Elli about her literal labor of love and what’s next for her.

Cindi (from left), her mother, and Linda.

SADYE: Describe the weekend trip that inspired you to finish Linda’s book.

CINDI: When our family flew to Colorado to spread Linda’s ashes, I read through Linda’s notes on the book concept and thought the storyline was awesome. I had my husband read it, and he agreed.

After Linda’s memorial service, it dawned on me that finishing the book would be a perfect legacy for Linda. She always wanted to make a difference, and I believed that this book could be the instrument to make a positive difference in the life of a child.

SADYE: What inspired the idea to donate the books to children’s hospitals?

CINDI: As soon as I finished the book, I knew I wanted to donate copies of The Dream Travelers to children’s hospitals and organizations. First, who could benefit more from the book’s “Dream On” message than a sick child?

Also, at one point in her life and career, Linda had been a detective in the Kansas City, Mo., police department. In addition to homicide and burglary, she investigated child abuse.

She told me gut-wrenching stories about children who she had taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. It was one of the first hospitals that I donated books to, in Linda’s memory and honor.

To date, I have donated over 300 copies of The Dream Travelers — From the Beginning, and will continue to provide books to schools, libraries, and hospitals throughout my travels.

SADYE: Have any children reached out to you after reading The Dream Travelers?

CINDI: I have received wonderful feedback from children all over the country who have read The Dream Travelers, but one little girl (who has been in and out of hospitals a lot) really stands out. You’ll hear more about her in the near future.

SADYE: How did you meet and pick your illustrator?

CINDI: Hailey is the daughter of one of my best friends, and I had admired her artwork for years.

She was in her senior year of college, majoring in art and design, when I wrote The Dream Travelers. I knew she’d do a fantastic job on the cover and illustrations, and I also wanted to give her the opportunity to have a published work when she graduated.

We stay in touch, and in fact, we’re currently collaborating on our next project.

SADYE: How is the next Dream Travelers book coming?

CINDI: The next book of The Dream Travelers trilogy is not completed, but I do have the outline, lesson themes and several wizard teachers researched. I have gotten a bit sidelined, as Hailey and I have decided we want to do a picture book for younger children. 

This idea hit me last summer when I was doing school visits in conjunction with our local Humane Society for Be Kind to Animals Week (I donated copies of the book to everyone who adopted a pet that week). 

Hailey and I are both huge animal lovers, so she jumped on the idea, and we’re working on it right now.

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Learn more about and contact Cindi Elli on her Amazon page, where her books can also be purchased; like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter

Categories: Author Interview

Tagged As: Author interview

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