Writing your own story

. September 20, 2012.

”No one’s going to buy a book that doesn’t have a happy ending,” muses Mike Terrian. And Terrian, author of the new children’s book Charlie’s Brand New Coat, is intent on giving the chance at that happy ending to as many children as he can. A resident of the Findlay area since the age of three, Terrian has owned and operated Athletic Team Performance, a personal training business, for 16 years. He brings the same passion that he has brought to fitness to his new passion — fighting bullying.

Childhood roots

Terrian seems fiercely confident now, but as a child, he freely admits, he was awkward. Thick glasses. Big ears. A family that couldn’t afford the latest fashions or the nicest shoes. He underwent his share of bullying, particularly during his middle-school years. Like most people, he grew up and got past it. But the steady drip of media stories in recent years focusing on the problem of bullying — particularly stories of teen suicide — triggered something in Terrian, himself the father of two children. He believed he could make a difference. “After awhile,” he remembers, “I said ‘either sit here and get mad, or do something about it.’”

Charlie’s Brand New Coat was the result, and with it a series of speaking engagements in schools, churches and to community groups. The book follows Charlie, an awkward youth who struggles with bullying from his school’s popular clique, but eventually wins acceptance. As envisioned by illustrator Joe Lee, Charlie and his classmates are drawn as humanlike mice, but in other ways he’s not so different from the author — who freely admits some of Charlie’s troubles are directly based on his own.

Terrian is proud of the book, but it’s speaking directly to children, teachers and parents that truly igniteshis enthusiasm.

Taking charge of the narrative

“When I go into schools,” Terrian says, “I tell them ‘Listen. Some of you feel that it’s never going to get any better, that life is so bad right now. But here’s what I’m telling you — 100 percent of you have a brighter tomorrow. Because you are all writing your own story, and you get to write your own ending.’” He emphasizes the importance of peer groups — that “innocent” bystanders have the ability to empower bullies or to stop them in their tracks.

To future teachers at places like Owens Community College, he emphasizes the importance of unconditional love, of supporting troubled students even when it isn’t convenient. And to parents, he urges direct involvement in children’s social lives, particularly the electronic lives that many parents never see. “Right now the number one avenue for bullying is through text messaging and social media,” he says. He stresses that parents shouldn’t let misguided concerns about “privacy” keep them from noting troubling behavior in their children. “You’re the parent,” he says, firmly. “You can say I’m overreacting; I say that’s my job.”

Terrian has an online presence at www.iwillbethe1.com, and is available for speaking engagements. Copies of Charlie are for sale at DorAnne’s Gifts and Gourmet (327 S. Main St.) or through www.authorhouse.com.