I, Matthew Kenslow, went from hearing “Go Away! You’re not our friend!” and other forms of name calling to hearing “One of the best new Autism books…”
By Matthew Kenslow
“Go away, Matthew! You’re not our friend!” two fellow Kindergarteners yelled at me on the swing set with such bitterness in their eyes. There have been many more innuendos of discrimination from grade school to my college days.
This is a story of perseverance and overcoming. Not caving in to what people have verbally beaten me with, I got to where I am today: a person fighting hard against discrimination. Especially Autistic Discrimination.
I made friends, but how often would I “hang out” with them? Not that often. Some of my acquaintances were nice half the time and mean the other half. Even when I was around friends, I felt pressed against the wall, nervous to make any form of communication…unless they ask me first how my day is going. I love talking, but not intruding.
Throughout my life, I recognized a set of catharses to help me make light of these situations. They included art, juggling, piano playing, and a couple more. I made up jokes and memorized the presidents just to be liked (besides, it was easy to memorize the president’s birthdays, death dates, and term dates by number). However, of all the catharses that took me far, creative writing has always been one of the big ones.
I used to get in a heap of trouble just for writing too much back in early grade school. Give me a one-page creative writing assignment, and I will give you a novella…with my own illustrations too. I written a 32-page story in tenth grade. I loved creating stories and adding as much detail as possible. When I got older, I would append hidden meanings behind names and places, as well as utilize various archetypes such as colors to enhance the underlying messages.
Writing became an art piece. I would always come home from elementary school (later middle school and later high school) and just type for hours. I written small story books and movie scripts. I intended for each of them to be published, but I worked to no avail. About ninety-nine percent of the thousands of hours I worked on writing and art projects (as well as piano and juggling practice), I realize I spent alone, in retrospect. My only social time with peers were at school. By late high school, I became discouraged because I still could not find the strength to go up to a person and initiate a conversation. I always stood there waiting. Sometimes, they started the conversation, but it only lasted all but a couple moments.
And then…high school graduation. June 20, 2013. That was it. It is too late. I spent my entire 14 years from preschool to 12th grade spending time by myself and I can never go back to change things for the better. Even in the middle of elementary school did I want to go back in time to change my life – and every single academic year since.
Nevertheless, I still loved creative writing – and it gave me release from some of the sadness I constantly faced. (Mostly, I hid my sadness from everybody; hundreds of people just believed I am a happy, smiling person.) At least I have all the friends I did make, even though I hardly spent any time with them.
In my first semester of college – the fall of 2013 – I began writing again. I decided to let the main character have Asperger’s Syndrome. It was originally going to be a series of short stories and simply published one at a time. Ultimately, it turned into a novella, which turned into a novel, which turned into a hyper-novel, which turned into a trilogy. I sugar-coated a lot of things. I did not want to use my gift to write to get back with people. I was so concerned about others (even the welfare of my past bullies/teasers). As the years and years went by, I could neither handle all the current discriminations, nor the painful memories of the past. I ultimately felt that it was my duty to make allegorical stories to expose what happens to people like me, even though we cannot help it. People just pick on us when there is not a single reason too.
Is it really funny when we cannot talk like you? When we cannot walk like you? When we are not as fast as you? If we look differently? If we are more “intelligent” or “skilled”?
Still, I would never name names or anything, but just an apology should suffice from these bullies around the world. In the interim, I encourage children to realize they have a purpose and to not let what others say get to them.
At the very start, I was haunted by my past: hours and hours of work that did not amount to anything. This time, I made it my mission and business to go through publishing this no matter what! I previously made a few contacts with a self-publishing company in 2015, but by 2016, I looked into getting published more professionally. I contacted a couple of agents and one from Pennsylvania got back with me. I sent him my manuscript for the novel and he later called me for about ninety minutes. He encouraged me to go back to the “short stories” idea. In lieu of one big, long novel (which I have a tendency to write), I should just write a series of short stories where each story is an attribute of living with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Hence my anthology, Juggling the Issues: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome was born!
I got right to work in July of 2016, only to get caught up with pre-studying for my upcoming fall semester. By early 2017, my depression and loneliness took a toll. I suffered an academic burnout and had to drop the entire semester. I took a month and a half to recuperate and began writing nonstop my anthology. On July 17, 2017, I mailed in my anthology and my current edition of the trilogy to the aforementioned agent. Now came the hard part: seemingly-endless waiting. Mid-July to late-August 2017 was perhaps one of the worst periods of my life. In the midst of dark despair, I began my YouTube channel (officially), but that’s another story; in short, my YouTube channel has given me confidence and a platform to encourage others.
Finally, I got something back that October 2nd. The agent said it is too long for such an autobiographical piece. After cutting and cutting tens of book pages from my manuscript, I could not take out any more. By mid-November 2017, it was done! It was ready! My agent said that he will make an electronic package for me and send it off to various royalty publishing houses.
And then it happened!
On March 2, 2018 – after months of waiting (this time, more optimistic than before) – I got a congratulatory letter from my agent. He forwarded me the contract to Axiom Press of Mobile, Alabama. However, that joy suddenly faded. I did not know how much publishing a book cost. From elementary school to the present, I always heard that you send your work to a publisher and that they will just publish it and send you royalties. Nobody told me it costs. I was never employed before. I made it a learning experience. I tried everything. I sold on eBay for the first time. I sold some extra cards from my small company that went on hiatus. I endeavored to sell books, coins, stamps, ties, you name it. I communicated with several pawn shops and book stores all over the internet; most people did not get back with me. I submitted applications to many grants to no avail. Once again, my aspiration of making a difference in the lives of people around the world (as well as ending my despair and loneliness) still seemed like a far reach. I took action and applied for a summer job at the county fair.
The summer of 2018 was one of my most fun summers. I was a carnival ticket seller at the local county fair, earned the scholarship award, and made enough to be a published author. I mailed the sign contract with the first installment, and my second installment five months later.
The pain did not end there. More wait lied ahead. My publisher said that it would be ready by mid-February, but it was not. He said that the process was abnormally longer than normal. Ultimately, on June 13, 2019 – 13 days before being officially published – I got the package containing 25 free copies of my first book. I opened that package in awe. After my whole entire life, I saw a book that I written all myself! Flipping through the pages, I thought to myself, “I written this…I written this.” My family, friends, and I cannot be any prouder.
I went around surprising my close friends and groups first. Once it was on Amazon, in July, I officially launched it on social media, where it started going all around the world. Even an ABC7 anchor shared it on her Facebook page. I did tons of Google searches and found it selling on over twenty additional websites, such as Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Mighty Ape, IndieBound, and even eBay. It is a humbling experience
If there is anything I learned, it is patience and standing on God’s promises. Just because my past did not seem promising does not mean it will never happen. Just do not give up. I do not allow difficulty to stand in the way as some formidable obstacle.
Whatever I put in my heart, I will try my best to get it done. If I can do that, so can you! Writing a book is a process. I am the sole writer, but I must not forget the team: the editor, the cover designer, the agent, and the publisher. I must always go into writing knowing that there will always be drafts. I cannot just write something in one setting (I tried many times in this whole process). I have to allow myself to shut off the laptop for the night. Then, give it a little time and go over the entire work. A person may need to do that a few times before it feels right. Then let the publishing house read it and have them offer their critiques. Work with them and not against them. Take some of their advice. Try and smoothly blend ideas together. For a little additional information, what I did after my first draft back in 2013 was give it to a few close friends whom I could trust. I allowed them to read it and report to me what they thought.
I, Matthew Kenslow, went from hearing “Go Away! You’re not our friend!” and other forms of name calling to hearing “One of the best new Autism books,” by BookAuthority (BookAuthority has been featured on CNN and Forbes). I went from a person being picked on (no matter what age I am) to a worldwide-distributed author of a book that’s making a difference to so many. Little did I know how much support I would gain via YouTube either – with over 340 subscribers and over 115,000 views … thus far.
It is my love, joy, and passion to write, as well as volunteer for others. My book includes what is stated in the previous paragraph and more. These are the things I partake in to not let Autism/Asperger’s tear me down. I still have challenges I face that I also articulate in my book, but I am not letting those stop me either, as I endeavor to minimize them as much as possible.
And let this be quintessential proof that anybody can do whatever they set their heart and mind to do – despite having a quote-on-quote “incurable disability”.
My name is Matthew Kenslow from California. In June of 2019, I became a royalty-published author at age 23, fighting against my lifelong battle of autistic discrimination from firsthand trials. “Juggling the Issues: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome” (ISBN 9781581697117) is being sold in multiple countries worldwide. It has just been ranked: #43 of 74 “Best Autism Books of All Time!” and #9 of 16 “Best New Autism Books To Read In 2020”.
I never allowed Autism/Asperger’s to have the prerogative to slow me down! I earned a degree in chemistry, juggle for elementary schools since I was in high school, and play piano for seniors on Sunday mornings. Whether in elementary schools or at Royal Rangers, I encourage children to never give up on their passions; if I can do it, so can you!
I am in my 20th year in the lifesaving, international ministry, Royal Rangers (year #7 as a commander). In 2013, I earned the Gold Medal of Achievement, which is equivalent to the rank of Eagle Scout. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in biochemistry at Vanguard University. After, I plan to get teaching credentials and teach middle-school mathematics and science. I see potential in that age group. I aspire to inspire them that they have a calling and a purpose, and that they do have the capability of understanding and learning the material.
I have been making a difference to hundreds if not thousands of children in my community alone – encouraging them that they have a purpose. One of my long-term goals is speaking at all the schools in my district and adjacent districts. Both my book and story were on a Spanish radio program in Panama for nearly 7 minutes.
I believe many people around this globe will understand more about us (it’s not about me) from my firsthand perspective. I utilize personal experiences as real-life examples to articulate what it is like for people to juggle these issues on a day-by-day basis.