By Jennifer Lang
If you’ve ever set an idea aside only to wonder, ‘What if?’ then you might take new inspiration from Paula Kolins.
The Cloverdale author says her new children’s book, Turtle Has 3 Legs, was originally a story she wrote for her son to share with his kindergarten class at Martha Currie Elementary during show and tell.
He’s 18 now, she says with a laugh, holding a copy of her new book – her first.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” she says, explaining friends at the time encouraged her to have it published but she set the notion aside.
Kolins says the rise in bullying awareness and anti-bullying initiatives like pink shirt day convinced her it was time to pick up her manuscript again.
So she took a local course on how to get
published. Her instructor owned a publishing company, so after the course wrapped up, she submitted a manuscript for a children’s book for young readers.
“I just thought, you know what? People always say they’re going to do things and they never do, and I just really thought to myself if I don’t do this, I probably never will,” she says. “So, I just went for it.”
To her delight, the story was accepted.
Just last week, Turtle Has 3 Legs became available for pre-sale on Amazon.ca.
“I cried when I saw it,” says Kolins, a familiar face to patients of the Apple Medical Centre, where she works as the office manager.
“It’s one of those things, if you don’t try it,” she says, “it will never be.”
She says working with an illustrator on the book’s pictures took the longer than she thought.
She wanted the images to be realistic but kid-friendly – not cartoonish. “So we kind of went back and forth with that.”
She may have written the story many years ago, but the creative memory remains fresh.
When her sons were younger, she was “That mom!” – the parent who was always volunteering and getting involved at her kids’ school. (She blames it on separation anxiety – hers).
Turtle Has 3 Legs is a story about a “sweet little turtle” who’s different because he only has three legs and finds acceptance from a bossy beaver, a preening swan and other creatures with classroom alter egos.
Kolins was inspired by one of his classmates, a child with Downs Syndrome.
He wasn’t bullied or teased, but she couldn’t bear to think that might change as he got older.
“He was just a sweetheart,” she says. “That just got me thinking.”
She hopes the book will remind parents to encourage their children to make friends with other children with disabilities or differences.
“That is really the first step, accepting people, and teaching your kids to accept people.”
She aimed the story at young readers, she says, because “I think you have to start early. When your kids are in Grade 6 or 7 and being targeted, it’s not too late, but it’s almost as if you’ve missed a golden opportunity when they were little.”
Now, it’s her job to market her book.
She’s going to try to get it into book stores and school libraries, and will sell it herself at swap meets and other venues.
But first she plans to give a copy of the book – which is dedicated to teachers – to her son’s former kindergarten teacher.