Saturday, 25 May, 2024

Overcoming the Challenge of Story Writing


Reading Time: 3 minutes

Good day everyone!  Welcome to “Overcoming Challenges.” I am Michelle Kaiser, author of a series of children’s anti-bullying books featuring a real-life special needs calf named Special Ed, born on our ranch here in Cross Plains, Texas. My series of books is titled The Adventures of Special Ed and focuses on inclusion, kindness, and acceptance. In the books Special Ed faces challenges because he is different. Today I am going to focus on a different kind of challenge. This one hits close to home for me even today and that is – story writing.

First, unless you are as talented as James Patterson, writing doesn’t come easy. For most of my adult life I have been an aspiring songwriter, but I never had anything published. I keep trying though, because if you give up, then you will NEVER succeed. I have written a few stories and anecdotes, but I never thought about writing a book. Sometimes we just need the right story to inspire us. Such was the case with Special Ed.

At the Cross Plains Public Library I have met many authors who come to speak at various events. I approached several of them and relayed the story of Special Ed. I asked them if they would be interested in writing a children’s book about his unusual life. Each of them turned me down for various reasons. Author Carol Kjar told me, “YOU knew Special Ed, and this is YOUR story – only YOU can tell it.” This idea rolled around in my head for the next five years, but my excuse was I was just too busy.

Then COVID hit and most of us were homebound. I didn’t want to come through the months of COVID with nothing to show for it, so I seized that opportunity to start writing.

If Special Ed had been human, he would have been bullied for being different, so I chose to use him as a teaching tool. I took some criticism for using the name “Special Ed” in these books. In current times the term “special ed” has a bad connotation. So, I enlisted friends with special needs children and teachers who taught special needs classes for their input in guiding me on this sensitive subject. One publisher refused to even consider looking at the book unless I changed Special Ed’s name. Sadly, some teachers feel the same way and won’t allow my books in their classroom, but I don’t let their negativity deter me. I have an important message in my books, and I want to share it.

​In a pure stroke of “genius,” I put a special play on the word “bullies” spelling it BULL-ies. Since Special Ed was real, I didn’t have to make up much about his life. I added characters that would reflect human behavior – the protagonist bull-ies: Brutus and Thor, the friends: Betty & Bandit, the strangers who stood up for him: Addi & Harrison, and his mother, Runaway, whose catchphrase was “We are each special in our own way.”

There were so many choices to make about the characters and the illustrations. And always keeping in mind to be aware of my audience and offend no one. Imagine my shock when one reader pointed out that the bull-ies were both black and that THAT might be considered racist!! We raise Black Angus and Black Baldy cattle, so I was just modeling them after my own cows. Plus, Special Ed’s momma was also black, and I made her character kind and loving and very wise. It bothered me that someone was so quick to make assumptions about things that were very innocent.

I wish now that I had begun writing when I was younger. Although I am still as busy as ever, I make the time to sit and write. This fall, I plan to release another Special Ed book. Until then you can visit my website at www.MichelleKaiserLLC.com and read more about the real Special Ed and get tips for keeping your kids safe. And don’t put off the things you want to do, whatever they are. . . tomorrow may be too late.

Join me next time when I will be commenting on the challenges of singing our National Anthem, and of changing our National Anthem – a challenge we might never overcome.

 

Michelle Kaiser and her husband, Jim, live on a cattle ranch in Cross Plains, Texas. She travels to area schools and libraries to share the story of her real-life special needs calf named Special Ed and the antibullying message his life conveys in her writing. Michelle hopes to teach children kindness, empathy, and inclusion in her book series, The Adventures of Special Ed.

You can visit her website at www.MichelleKaiserLLC.com to read more about the real Special Ed and check out her resources for parents and kids at www.RockChalkRanchPublishing.com/resources.

 

Check out more lifestyle stories here. 

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