As the COVID pandemic began to upend life as we knew it last spring and provided some people with extra time on their hands, many of us made resolutions to tackle new hobbies or big projects.
For Special Olympics Wisconsin athlete Keira Thompson of Brookfield, quarantine may have just helped launch her career as a children’s book author.
With schools closed in the spring, the then-13-year-old used her unexpected free time to take online courses on how to become a children’s author, a longtime dream of hers. By November, Thompson was officially a children’s book author as her book Mila and the Too Hard Hoop became available on Amazon.
“I started a class on how to write a kid’s book and I loved the teacher,” Thompson said. “Then I started thinking of ideas and things I struggled with that I could talk about.”
From that class in May, Thompson worked double time to make her dream a reality. After workshopping ideas with her family, she homed in on a story of perseverance featuring an adorable monster named Mila who struggles with not being able to make a basket in basketball. Thanks in part to support from friends and family, Mila doesn’t give up and ultimately “learns that even though things seem hard sometimes, they are not too hard if you believe in yourself.”
Thompson then reached out to a teenager who had been her teacher in a design class, MiguelAngel Rosales. He became the illustrator and together they began sketching out the visuals via Zoom meetings to bring the story more and more to life.
“It was amazing how hard Keira and Miguel worked on this through the summer,” Keira’s mom, Beckie Thompson said. Her teacher told her to expect it to take two years or more.” Despite that daunting estimate, Thompson published her book in a remarkable six months.
“I’m proud to have my first book on Amazon and that I got to bring this character to life. I want to teach people to never give up and to believe in themselves.” – Keira Thompson
As is the case with any good artist, Thompson took inspiration from her own life experiences to create Mila’s story. Delaney, Mila’s stuffed dragon friend is based on Thompson’s own dragon stuffed animal who has been a constant companion to her for years.
Likewise, the basketball aspect of the book stems from Thompson’s love of the sport. It was still fresh in her mind when she began writing the book because her season was sadly cut short when Special Olympics Wisconsin basketball was canceled as the pandemic brought society to a screeching halt.
“Since basketball was canceled, working on this book gave Keira a little basketball in her life,” Thompson’s mom, Beckie added.
Even though this may have begun as a COVID project of sorts, that doesn’t mean that Mila’s story is complete now that it’s on Amazon. For Thompson, this is just the beginning of Mila’s story, and her own story as an author. She has already written the second book of the Mila series, and they’re currently looking for a publisher who can give them a bigger platform so that Mila can reach even more people with her important life lessons.
“I’m proud to have my first book on Amazon and that I got to bring this character to life,” Thompson said. “I want to teach people to never give up and to believe in themselves.”
“I’m so proud because it shows the power of people with special needs and how much they can inspire those around them.” – Thompson’s mom, Beckie
It’s a lesson that Thompson has taken to heart. She believes in herself and in the character of Mila. Dreaming big, she even hopes to one day see her creation of Mila become a brand with her own stores and maybe even a theme park.
Whether Mila becomes a household name or not, Thompson has a lot to be proud of. Her friends and family are excited for her as well.
“I’m so proud because it shows the power of people with special needs and how much they can inspire those around them,” Thompson’s mom, Beckie said.
And while the theme park may be a few years down the road, Thompson is definitely inspiring people right now. They have received great feedback on the book, especially from parents of children with special needs. And on March 23, Thompson will be reading her book via Zoom to some of our Young Athletes during our new Young Athletes Storytime.
“I’m a little nervous because I don’t usually read out loud for people, but I’m excited to share my message with the kids,” Thompson said. Although it may take Thompson out of her comfort zone, we all know she’ll do great.
After all, she’ll have Mila with her to remind her that things aren’t too hard if you believe in yourself.