Show-Off: Meet the man writing 365 children’s books in 365 days as a gift to his daughter. Yes, he also has a day job.

Matt Zurbo’s challenge, named after his daughter, Cielo, is an unconventional labor of love. Damien Cave from The New York Times tells Zurbo’s story. Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free right now!

EAGLEHAWK NECK, Tasmania — By the time Matt Zurbo plopped on the couch to write his 282nd children’s story, he’d worked all day at an oyster farm, laughed with his daughter on the beach, gone for a swim in the frigid waves and cooked a vegetarian feast.

It was just after 10 p.m., and his eyes were drooping. But not for long. Assisted by whiskey and a Venezuelan ballad, he finished the tale of a girl who loved to dance and published it online at 1 a.m., leaving just 83 stories to go before completing his 365-day challenge.

“The more kids love stories and love books, the better the world will be for my daughter,” Zurbo said. “Imagination trumps violence and ignorance, and always will.”

Many of us who are parents experience a similar flush of love for stories with the arrival of our firstborn. Some people (Hoda Kotb, Kelly Clarkson) even produce books inspired by their offspring. But Zurbo’s challenge, named after his 20-month-old daughter, Cielo, is a case study in creativity.

He’s not just a writer with four published novels, an oral history of Australian-rules football and eight children’s books. He’s also a hard-living adventurer with hands he can’t close into fists after 30 years clearing trails and replanting forests in the Australian bush.

Oystering at sunrise is his form of settling down. As for marriage and fatherhood? “Never expected it,” Zurbo told me. “I was waiting around to die.”

His book project, then, is best read as a burst of daily celebration — what might happen if an Australian Jack Kerouac had the child he’d always wanted, at age 50, with a Venezuelan architect who showed up at a logger’s pub one night.

Zurbo’s stories range from the joyous (Day 168: “Bare Feet”) to the absurd (Day 144: “Backwards With Billy Hanging”) to the lyrical (Day 7: “The World’s Smallest Sound”) and the personal (Day 133: “For Cielo”). None of them have been published, nor is there any marketing behind the project.

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