This month, I’ve been lucky enough to visit schools and talk to students about THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, and each visit has been wonderful! But as much as I enjoyed talking to the hundreds of kids in each group about my book, the most precious moments have been the ones where kids have asked me questions of their own.
As part of my presentation, I tell the students that, just like the boy in my book, I have dealt with beasts, outside and inside ones. Outside beasts leave us with negative feelings about ourselves. These can be bullies, but also these can be well-meaning people who tell us we can’t achieve something or should aim for less than our dreams.
I tell the students that when well-meaning people told me I shouldn’t be an author, I took that to mean I wasn’t good enough to be one. Those thoughts and the negative words from bullies gave me an inside beast that repeated those same ideas: I’m not good enough. I will fail. I shouldn’t bother to try.
Stories helped me. I learned to brave by seeing characters in books be brave. And I realized that if I could change the story I told myself, I could start believing in my own happy ending. I still use this tool today, and I show students how the boy in my book defeats his beasts with stories he tells himself.
After my presentation, it has been amazing to see kids open up.
- One girl came up to me privately and asked how I stop my inner bully because she has one too and it tells her she’s awkward. I told her it’s hard not to listen to your inner bully, but there’s nothing bad about being awkward. Awkward is just different and it doesn’t mean she’s any less than anyone else.
- Another girl said her family is very poor and she didn’t think she could do anything because she was poor. She said she’d been you have to be rich to be the President. I told her she didn’t have to be rich to be the President. I told her that if she believed in herself and worked hard, she would be able to find a way to make her dreams come true.
- A boy told me he had a lot of anger because of hearing negative things. I told him the boy in my book gets angry too but that anger doesn’t have to control us.
- Another boy told me he has been writing stories for a while, and he writes them because he’s lonely. I told him that I do the same thing.
While kids are trying to figure out who they are, what they can do and what they want to become, negative thoughts can be debilitating. And those thoughts can grow until they’re strong enough to stick around when that kid is an adult too.
But stories can help, ones we read and ones we tell ourselves.
Writing THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST has helped me realize the negative thoughts of my inner bully aren’t truthful — even though that wasn’t my goal when I began 🙂 — and I hope my book and author visit presentation are helping these kids, as well as the fun exercises in the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy Project.
But I have to say that the honesty and enthusiasm of the students in the schools I’m visiting is one of the best medicines for negative thoughts, especially the boy in one school who, when I told him I wasn’t anyone famous, replied with, “You’re famous to me!” Thank you, Gabriel. 🙂
Here are some more pictures from recent visits… And if you’d like me to come talk at your school, contact me. I’d love to meet your students too!