For her latest work, Lese Dunton found her inspiration where a lot of New Yorkers do, right here at home. “I was sitting outside one day eating lunch down by Brookfield Place and heard a father saying to a little girl, ‘So, you want to live in New York City when you grow up?’ And she said, ‘I think so.’” And from that New York moment, “Charlotte’s New York Adventure,” was born.
In the story, Charlotte embarks on a journey through Manhattan to such landmarks as the Bethesda Fountain, the Statue of Liberty and even Whole Foods. It’s then only fitting that the book is being sold at quintessential visitor locations such as the Statue of Liberty Gift Shop, Central Park’s Dairy Visitor’s Center and the New York Public Library Gift Shop.
An Upper West Sider, Dunton has a storied resume, including stints at the Village Voice, the Daily News and the New York Post. In 1990, she founded The New Sun, a newspaper that focuses only on the positive aspects of life, which is still being published online. She also started Dunton Publishing to assist writers in the self publication of their work.
When did you get your start as a writer?My first job was at the Village Voice, but I was too shy to write at that point. I didn’t really do any writing, but helped other writers a lot. So I guess when I was working at the Daily News and I began to write little features about people. And then, little by little, I’ve written for Edible Manhattan, NY Post and other places.
How did Dunton Publishing come about? Well, I wrote my own eBook and it was really a wonderful creative process. Out of the blue, people started reaching out to me, asking, “Could I hire you to help me with my book?” And so I thought, “Sure.” And it was just born naturally, having people ask me for help. So all of the sudden I had clients and a little publishing company was born.
Tell us about The New Sun’s mission and how it began.It initially got started when I was at the Daily News. I was enjoying it greatly, but did notice there was a bit of an emphasis on investigating what was wrong – murders, scandals, disaster, fear – that was all being done really well and thoroughly. So I thought it would be interesting to shift the emphasis over to what’s good about people and life. That was my motivation. So I left and started The New Sun in print first. This was long ago, before internet. We started that way and George Harrison was on the cover. And then some friends started mentioning this thing called the World Wide Web which would be the future of publishing. And I was skeptical and then when they said, “Free global distribution,” I said, “Tell me more.” So we’ve been on the web ever since. It’s been a great journey.
What stands out as a memorable story the paper’s featured?The very first story of George Harrison on the cover. He is such a positive role model for people. He shows that you can be deeply spiritual, successful and creative, and help a lot of people. He shows that you can have both, financial success and kindness and spirituality all mixed into one.
Did you base Charlotte off of anyone?How it came to be is I was sitting outside one day eating lunch down by Brookfield Place and heard a father saying to a little girl, “So, you want to live in New York City when you grow up?” And she said, “I think so.” And I was imagining that they had been walking around all day and he was saying, “Hey, you still like it now?” And I thought it would make a good story. Her little facial expression, she looked like she was thinking about and planning it. I don’t know who she is. I wish I could meet her again, but she started the whole thing.
The Statue of Liberty, Whole Foods and the Bethesda Fountain are some of the places in the book. How did you decide on which landmarks to put in?Well I thought that Charlotte would be dreaming about and making drawings about flying because that’s always a fun activity for children. So I thought if I were kid, where I would I like to fly? Or even as a grown-up, where would I like to fly around to? So I’d like to fly over Central Park and take a rest stop on the wing of the angel at Bethesda Fountain. These are all the places I would like or can imagine a child liking.
What are your future plans?I’m planning on turning the book into a musical and a movie. And I’m also writing part two of the book because in this first book she’s just beginning. It has a number of good messages. One is that walking around New York City can be really good for you and you never know what can happen as a result. And the other messages are about letting go of fear and self-doubt. Children have so many choices these days. You can be a princess or a fighter, but I thought it would be interesting to show a little girl in a leadership position who has lots of fun while using a variety of skills like kindness and imagination.