Students at Pablo Elementary School made a pinky promise with book author Michelle Nelson- Schmidt to follow their hearts during a school assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Nelson-Schmidt traveled from her home in Atlanta, Georgia to talk to the kids about how she worked hard to fulfill her own dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books. She travels all over the United States sharing her message.
“I want to tell you all about my magical life,” she said to the kids. “Everyone in this room can have a magical life. I’m not special. There is nothing about me that isn’t any more special than you.”
Her story started when she was in the beginning years of elementary school. She got in trouble — a lot. One day, she found a box of her mom’s art supplies and she started drawing. She practiced drawing and painting for years. She went to college and studied art. She had children. After college, she took a job working with computers.
“I heard a little whisper that said you’re not supposed to be doing this,” she said.
She kept her job but also decided to paint colorful portraits of pets for people. “When people tell you you’re good at something it gives you confidence,” she said. “Then, I got brave.” She started writing and illustrating books after working at the computer job during the day.
“My heart said you know who you are supposed to be,” she said. And she spent more time painting.
“When you want something so bad, even when you are tired, it won’t let you quit.” She sent her books to publishers.
“They said ‘no’ for a long time. They said, ‘we don’t want a cat book, a dog book, and we don’t like your art. I ‘sorta’ started feeling broken inside.”
She felt like she wasn’t good enough.
“People were telling me ‘no’ to my big giant dreams, but the little whisper said ‘don’t quit.’”
Finally, a publishing company loved her dog book and her cat book.
“I want you to start right now today following the whisper to get your magical life,” she said. “Try new things, make mistakes, messup.”
She used her experience to write children’s books about clearing out the “what ifs” and “trusting in yourself.”
Following that whisper doesn’t mean life will be easy.
“Life doesn’t get perfect and it doesn’t mean you won’t have problems, but you can’t give up on yourself,” Nelson- Schmidt said.
She read her latest book to the kids as an example of what it means to follow your heart. In the book, Cordelia could fly, but she started to doubt herself, lost her ability, and life felt gray.
“Does who you are depend on what other people think?” she read. Rayna Tonasket, 7, thought about the author as she walked back to class.
“I want to be an artist right now,” she said. “I want to go practice.”
Nelson-Schmidt shared her story at elementary schools in Ronan, Charlo, and Polson.
Educational Consultant Shawn Kenelty said the Ronan High School Speech and Debate Team has used one of her characters, a green monster, to fend off the “what ifs” before they compete.
“They have really embraced this idea,” Kenelty said.
A selection of Nelson- Schmidt’s books will be available during Pablo’s Bingo for Books on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. She can also be found at: www.whatifmonsters.com