Robert Munsch, the children's author whose fertile imagination has produced beloved books including Love You Forever and The Paper Bag Princess, says he's been unable to create new stories since suffering a stroke four months ago.
"I try to do poetry and make up stories and it doesn't work, and [the doctors] told me that I should probably wait for a year for that to come back," he said in a recent interview from his home in Guelph, Ont.
"It teaches you to be very patient."
Munsch, 63, was unable to speak for two days after the stroke in August. He calls it an "excruciating time."
"When I realized I couldn't talk, it was: 'Well, that's that,'" said the author, who used to do about 50 storytelling gigs a year.
"I didn't know if it was going to come back or not — you know, put me out to pasture. Happily, it came back."
January reading to be last for time being
Munsch recovered enough to go through with a brief Ontario book tour in the fall. And he's scheduled to do a reading as part of the 11th annual Family Literacy Day on Jan. 27.
Once he's fulfilled that obligation, however, he plans to retreat from the spotlight.
"I just scrubbed everything," said Munsch, who has been involved in Family Literacy Day, organized by ABC Canada Literacy Foundation, for six years.
While on hiatus, he plans to edit the whopping 51 book drafts he had on the go before his stroke.
"I'm just reworking the stuff that I have. I'm not doing new stuff," said Munsch, who has already written more than 50 books, the first of which was Mud Puddle.
Stroke left storyteller speechless
The soft-spoken wordsmith said he didn't know what had happened when he woke up one day last summer and couldn't speak. His wife, Ann, drove him to the local hospital, where he stayed for just two days.
"It didn't affect me physically; there was no physio[therapy]," said Munsch, who was born in Pittsburgh and studied to be a Jesuit priest before he decided to work in preschools, where he got his start as a storyteller.
"I could even drive my car, it turned out. But what I couldn't do was talk."
His 28-year-old son, Andrew, flew in from South Korea to be with him, alongside daughters Julie, 32, and Tyya, 23.
"They were very upset," Munsch said. "When they came home and I couldn't talk, they didn't know how to deal with it."
The author said he'll probably have to take blood-thinning pills for the rest of his life, but believes things could be much worse.
"I was lucky enough to have the stroke in a bunch of nerves that connect the top of the brain to the bottom of the brain," he explained.
"The top of the brain is still all working. If I'd had it in the frontal lobes or the speech area, I could've had speech just wiped out — just gone."
Still, he can't push himself too much.
While on the mini book tour in the fall, "they would put me in a bus and I would sleep," he said.
"The need to sleep is one of the big things that a stroke does to you, so I have to be careful that I get enough sleep."
He also sometimes has trouble constructing his sentences — "mini periods of aphasia," he called it.
"But it gets lost in conversation," he added. "You don't notice it."
Munsch still wants to maintain his average of two published books per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The next title scheduled to hit shelves is Down the Drain, about a young boy who has a mishap during bath time.