The Story Plant blog is a sounding board for our entire community. In addition to our authors and our staff, you’re going to be hearing from many other voices. Here’s the first post of this sort, from blogger and author advocate William Bentrim.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness month. A friend just told me today, on Facebook, that I should promote my book on bullying with October in mind. Instead of a flat out promotion, I would like to write about why I wrote, Short or Tall, Doesn’t Matter at All.
The back story is that I am an obsessive grandparent. I dote on my grandkids. My oldest grandson was enrolled in both before-school and after-school programs due to both his parents working. After I retired, I had the time to be able to meet his school bus after school in order for him to come home with the other kids. This allowed him more time to hang out and enjoy his friends. I became a regular feature at the bus stop and got to know many of the parents and kids in the neighborhood.
That is how I met Rachel. Rachel is a delightful and diminutive young lady. At the time she was the shortest girl in fifth grade. Walking home from the bus stop she confided in me her frustration with short jokes, being picked last for games because she was the smallest, and the general treatment she got from some of the bigger kids. She wasn’t being physically bullied, but she was being bullied emotionally. I was dismayed at how this constant reference to her size was demeaning her self-esteem.
I wrote her a story and illustrated it myself. (I am not an illustrator and it showed.) I printed it out on my inkjet, folded and stapled it, and presented it to her at the bus stop one afternoon. We sat on the wall in front of her house and we read it and discussed it. I received my primary feedback from this book at that very moment when I got a hug, a kiss and “I love it!” from Rachel. The next day I got a hug and a kiss from her mom, who told me that Rachel was really tickled with her book. She encouraged me to get it published.
Being a regular at the bus stop got me invited to a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party. At that party, Rachel’s best friend’s mother pulled me aside and told me that she had seen a remarkable improvement in Rachel’s self-esteem. She asked Rachel’s mom what she attributed that to and was told that my book had put her on a path to feeling better about herself.
The next day, New Year’s Day, I started getting the story into production. I have a friend, Jan Button, who is a fine artist. I talked her into illustrating the book. She took copious photos of Rachel, her street, and her school bus, and then painted what she had seen. I put everything together and published it through CreateSpace.
In my mind the book is a success because it helped one child feel better about herself. My hope is that Short or Tall, Doesn’t Matter At All might make other children feel better about who they are. If it helps one child who is a bully recognize that their actions are hurtful, that is a bonus.
William G. Bentrim authors books for children. He founded, owned and operated food and technology businesses. Teaching school and counseling from fifth grade to college and from Appalachia to urban suburbiahelped define his identity. He is most proud of being a husband, father and grandfather. As someone who cares about the people around him, who wants to improve the society we all live in, who hopes on a daily basis to leave the planet a little better than it was the previous day, William is cognizant that the impact he has on the world is minimal. Tilting at windmills is a part of his character as is a deep love for all those who need to be loved. In his own mind he is a complex, multi-layered, unique character in the kaleidoscoping drama of life. Go to www.bentrim.info to see his stories and links to his blogs.