I did a talk for a group of kids, teachers and parents at a school I have visited numerous times not far from my house. It was a pleasant evening as I mingled in the library and then was eagerly greeted by a young girl who clutched her copy of Ol' Lady Grizelda, which I had signed for her five years ago, when she "was a little kid, in 3rd grade" and now she was in middle school and "still really liked the book". She insisted I update her copy with another note and signature and then informed me my signature had changed (aka, gotten sloppy) and said, "See you in another five years." after we talked about the fact that she wanted to be a teacher. I envisioned another five years which meant I could see her again when she was student teaching in a classroom. WOW, time does keep ticking... I imagined her copy of Ol' Lady Grizelda going from a bedroom bookshelf to a classroom bookshelf and smiled. Maybe I would work on my penmanship, so my third signing of it would show improvement?
Soon we gathered in the music room where I told some stories, primarily stories upon which my books are based. As I explained the GP series and where the ideas came from I talked about how my main character Gabriel Peters (GP) begins in book one, Go Ask Mom, with some "strikes" against him, mostly physical, which draws attention and wrath from some school bullies and as a result Gabe is bullied and must find some solutions.
As I told the story I became quite aware of a young man sitting in a wheel chair listening intently to me talking about physical "shortcomings" that were causing Gabe some problems and wondered what he was thinking. He was holding a copy of Go Ask Mom so I knew he was very aware of the conflict in the book. He nodded in recognition as I told stories about Gabe's narcoleptic cat, his mean big brother who Gabe chased out of their shared bedroom one night with nothing more than a lot of imagination and a good, scary story and other adventures.
At the end of my talk it was question time and then it was time to go back to the library, to the book fair, to sign some books. My friend on wheels chimed in as did his mother, but more one on one as the others filed out to go back to the library. He, a really good-natured boy and a social ease recounted parts of the book he really liked. Mom and son both told me how reading Go Ask Mom together had brought them a lot of good times, where mom could recount her neighborhood adventures and how similar they were to Gabe's. My young friend told me how he had used the idea Gabe used to do something different to catch a bully of guard, using his words "like Gabe" to baffle. He simply said "sparkly wheels", because his wheelchair has a cool lighting gizmo, kind of like those tricked out cars that light the undercarriage at night and the bully didn't know how to react. He continued to just say that simple phrase whenever the bully would approach and it seemed to properly keep him off guard because soon it appeared as thought he bully wanted to befriend instead of be mean.
Later in the library, as they had me sign a copy of the sequel, The World According to Gabe, mom told me more stories about how they had connected to Gabe and she thanked me numerous times for writing the book. It seemed at that moment as if the reason for writing that book had been to help a young man in a wheelchair learn how to make the world work a little better and I felt a sense of pride nothing else could have brought. When my young friend wheeled up eagerly holding several toys (does every kid in the world think the book fair is a toy fair?) he was delighted to see mom had already had me sign the second book for him.
As he clutched the book close, he wheeled away, but over his shoulder he said, "I can't wait to see what happens next." I thought he was going to burst when I told him The Gabriel Book of World Records was coming out next week. I imagined mom and son cracking open his new prize at bedtime in just an hour or so and the "new" adventures of Gabe once again filling his bedroom.
As I drove home in the dark, with probably the last of summer evening warmth flowing over me, I was filled with a sense that I was really doing what I was put here to do: Writing stories, telling stories, living stories.
You never know when something you share with the rest of the world is going to make a difference. So, what story do you have that could be shared that would change someone in a small or big way?