Writers and artists, I have found some simple truths we may have forgotten as adults. Truths delivered in the form of children’s stories, but that any adult harboring a welled-up dream inside would benefit from.
Truths like listening to that tiny whisper in your heart, or paying attention to what lights you up inside. Truths about that “what-if” monster, because what if he’s wrong? Truths about never giving up on yourself, and continually seeking out your “people.” You know, the ones who really like what you’re doing. They are out there somewhere. And of course, truths about not doubting who you really are… because it’s not about being special or lucky, it’s about believing you can have that magical life you’ve always wanted. You just can’t ever give up.
Today I met Michelle Nelson-Schmidt, author and artist. She came to the school I teach at to share her writing story and artistic process with elementary students. Embedded in her presentation were words of wisdom and inspiration, I couldn’t help but correlate to my own writing life. I agree with her declaration that she lives a magical life, because she created it that way. And she made sure that everyone in the room knew they could create their own magical lives, as well.
Michelle writes picture books for young children, though she is currently working on a novel for older children. Her books are not only painted with colorful dream-like images and written in playful rhyme, but laced thoughtfully with the truths mentioned above. As a teacher and a writer, I love the subtle, yet clear messages her stories deliver.
What struck me the most about her journey? This author had been told no for three years in a row. At one point, she was told her artwork wasn’t any good. This was after 800 clients paid her for her creative pet portraits, the same style of art that now appears in her books. She almost gave up. Thankfully, she took her own advice, and listened to that tiny whisper inside her heart. The one that had emerged at various times in her life. The one she finally listened to because she didn’t want to wait for some day, she wanted to start now. And, she didn’t give up. Soon after, she earned her first book deal, and then another, and another, and another… You get the idea. Today, Michelle has published six books, with plush toys to coordinate. She visits schools and libraries all over the country encouraging children to listen to that little voice inside their own hearts.
Well, my little voice soared right past whisper to stand-on-stage-and-sing mode! Her message wasn’t only contagious to my third graders, as they wrote her encouraging words in their journals, but to me personally. I think we often forget about dreams as adults. We know too much about the other side. The dark side of doubt and fear, or pure busyness that keeps us imprisoned. We need her book, Jonathan James and the What if Monster, because what if we can accomplish our dreams and goals? Michelle says you just need the courage to look for it, and then work for it.
To be fair, she did remind the children it wouldn’t be easy. She shared the unsuccessful points in her journey, but more importantly, how each of those low points led to bigger successes in her career. Now she writes for children and creates art full time. That sounds magical to me.
Magic. It’s what bubbles under my skin when I peer into the tiny greenbelt in my neighborhood. It’s behind stones on the ground that catch my eye. It’s the story in the shadows behind me that are aching to be told, if only I give them a voice. That’s the light bursting inside me. As I work at finding life for those stories, I keep running into roadblocks. I shared some of them in my last post… my day job, parenting, marriaging, adulting. I have health issues I’m sure I’ll share with you one day, but you know what? As Michelle made clear to every wide-eyed child and adult in the audience, we can never run out of stories. It’s never too late. Trust in who you are, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Here are a few of Michelle Nelson-Schmidt’s books you might enjoy:
Jonathan James and the What if Monster (dealing with doubt)
Bob is a Unicorn (finding your people)
Dog and Mouse (helping others can make you happy too)
Cordelia (being yourself sets you free)
I am not including my school location where Michelle presented, for the safety of my students. However, I am including Michelle’s website, www.whatifmonsters.com. I did receive her permission to write this blog post. I do appreciate her support in building my own dreams.
I encourage you to check out her website and books, regardless if you have young children or not. We could all use a little good news, some inspiration, and a dose of encouraging truths (just in case we’ve forgotten).
Categories: Thoughts on writing...