As a writer, there are moments that stand out since I published my first fantasy book, Angst. That first five-star review from someone other than my mom. A handwritten letter thanking me for my books. A reader coming to a con and saying, “You’re the reason I’m here.”

I have a new one to add to this list. I’ve recently had the opportunity to visit several schools and talk about writing, and Clod Makes A Friend. It was better than I could have ever expected.

Standing with students from Randall Elementary

I sent several early copies of Clod Makes A Friend to my buddy John, a teacher in Iowa who I’ve known since grade school. When he found out I was writing a book about bullying, he suggested I share it with his students. This an excellent idea and the feedback really helped me fine-tune the story.

In February, I brought copies of Clod Makes A Friend to Planet Comicon before the official release. Schyler, a teacher at Randall Elementary, purchased a copy. She had mentioned being a teacher, and I was grateful for the sale, but the significance didn’t hit me at the time. Was I in for a surprise.

Shortly after, she friended me on Facebook and told me that this book could really help her kids. She believed in the story enough that she talked her school into purchasing copies for the entire 5th grade class.

By itself, this was exciting. I had never expected that Clod Makes A Friend would be a part of any school curriculum. The fact that my story could possibly help someone is moving to say the least, but then it got better. Schyler invited me to visit Randall Elementary during their annual read-a-thon. At the end of March, I had the great pleasure of meeting the 4th and 5th grade classes at Randall.

More recently, I stopped by the school where John teaches, Woodward-Granger Middle School. During both visits, I read a short excerpt from Clod Makes A Friend and answered loads of great questions. We discussed writing, reading, and even Parkinson’s. (One of my favorite questions was from a student who asked if I was nervous, since I have a slight tremor in my hand. I loved that.) The students at both schools were amazing, and it was an honor to meet them.

After my visit to Randall, Schyler shared this message from one of her students. “You know when Mr. Pedersen answered my question and he was listening to me and agreed with me about some things I was saying? I really felt like I mattered. He made me feel important.” And that made me melt a little.

I’ve always had lots of goals as a writer, many of which include sales, and reviews, and movie deals. There’s nothing wrong with those goals, but this is what it’s really about. If I had to stop writing tomorrow, I wouldn’t be disappointed because it’s moments like these that really count.

A special thanks to Woodward-Granger Middle School and Randall Elementary for hosting my visits, and to the incredible students who made those visits so memorable. I would like to thank John for being a part of the creative process and coordinating that visit. I really appreciate Randall Elementary and the Independence School District for purchasing copies of Clod Makes A Friend – if my book helps just one student, it was worth the effort. Finally, I have to thank Schyler for believing in my story, and including me as the students progress through the book. You have all made it a great adventure!