Q. Are you famous? Or rich?
A. No. No.
Q. Did you like to write even when you were a kid?
A. Yes, I did. When a teacher assigned the class an essay to write, most children groaned, but I was secretly glad
about the assignment.
Q. Were you good at everything in school?
A. No. I passed physical education only because I had good attendance and always remembered to bring my P.E. uniform.
In college I had to take a music class to become a teacher. That was a most painful experience for the poor music teacher!
I think he retired soon after.
I doubt that anyone is good at everything.
Q. Do you ever write funny stories?
A. Yes. I think it's important to laugh.
Q. What story that you read made you laugh the most?
A. That's easy! S.O.R. LOSERS by Avi. I could never read it to my children because I laughed too much. So
they read it themselves, and laughed, too.
Q. What's your favorite not funny story?
A. Perhaps ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell. I couldn't wait to finish reading that book. But when
I did finish, I was sad there was no more to read.
Q. Why did you write "Jessica"?
A. I wrote HOLD ON, JESSICA, DON'T LET GO for myself and to help young people who might be in similar situations.
Q. Was "Jessica" a true story?
A. Jessica is a fictional character, but unfortunately her story is far too real for too many young people.
Q. What is your favorite story that you wrote?
A. That's hard. You're asking me to choose among my "children." My favorite published story might be "Pop, the Reluctant Dieter," which was humorous and appeared in a magazine. My favorite serious story might be "When Mommy and Daddy Fight," which
is one of the stories in my book, Apartment Horse and Friends.
Q. Have any of your stories won big awards?
A. Many have won everything from first place to honorable mention in various contests. I suppose the biggest winner
would be "Apartment Horse," which won third place out of over 3,000 entries in a national contest by Children's Writer.
Q. What's the nicest thing someone ever said about your writing?
A. When I spoke at a school authors fair, a student said, "Your writing sure shows you know how kids think and feel."
I also felt most gratified by what the Department of Defense said about Hold On, Jessica, Don't Let Go when they chose
to use it in a Substance Abuse Project.
Q. What should I do now if I want to be a writer someday?
A. One thing you should NOT do is wait until the last minute to do your school writing assignments. You need time
to edit and rewrite. Your first draft needn't be perfect, but you should never hand in a first draft.
Q. Are you just saying that to make our teachers happy, or do you really write your stories
over and over again?
A. I'm all for happy teachers, but yes, I really do. All writers rewrite.
Q. Does "Jessica" have a happy ending? What happens to her?
A. No fair! You don't want me to ruin it for everyone who hasn't read it yet, do you? :)
Q. When did you start reading books? And when did you start writing?
A. I began reading in the first grade. My small one-classroom country school*
didn't have a kindergarten. However, the school had a library room, from which I began borrowing books as soon as I could.
I made up stories to tell my brother and sister on our walks to and from school. I loved it when my teachers gave writing
*(See end of page for link to photo of school.)
Q. My mom said Jessica is a POD book. I think it is a very good book. Why did you publish it
that way instead of with some big company?
A. Thank you. Good question. (POD, in this case, stands for "print on demand," which means usually books are not printed
until they're ordered.) After I wrote Hold On, Jessica, Don't Let Go, I found that I couldn't make myself submit it
to traditional publishers, and so poor "Jessica" faced the prospect of remaining on my computer forever.** Then I received
an offer from a POD company to publish my book. (I hadn't even heard of POD before.) However, that company later decided this
book wasn't long enough for them to do. Because I then believed that POD was a good way to publish this particular book,
I found another such company to work with, a company that was willing to publish shorter works.
**Perhaps I couldn't submit it to any traditional publisher because the story was too personal. Some people have
little experience with a problem such as alcoholism and so rely on stereotypes. A few people, to whom I read the first few
chapters that I'd written, insisted, "Things wouldn't happen that way." However, others, who had more experience with this
subject, felt differently. One person said, "I so identify with how Jessica felt and what happened! It was just like my life,
except both my parents were alcoholics and we were rich." In spite of that validation, after the story was finished,
I suppose I feared some editor might also tell me, "Things wouldn't happen that way." Publishing with a POD company gave me
total control over what I wanted included in this story.
Q. You should have an advice page on this site. You could help kids. We could send in questions
and you tell us what to do. Lots of us have hard lives with alcoholic families. We need help with lots of stuff.
A. Yes, I know many young people have hard lives. My heart goes out to all. That's one of the reasons I wrote Hold
On, Jessica, Don't Let Go about a girl struggling with these issues. Please visit the "Help for Kids" page on this site.
Helpful books for young people are listed there. Also visit the Alateen site, which is especially for young people who must
deal these problems.
Thank you for your suggestion, but I'm not sure I'd be qualified to answer specific questions. A counselor
you can talk with in person would be better for this.
However, here are a few things to remember.
1. The problems of the adults in your life are not your fault.
2. No matter how much you may want to, you can't solve their problems, nor should you expect yourself to be able to do so.
3. You can love a person while hating his or her actions.
4. Asking others for help when needed can be difficult because of the understood rule of secrecy in dysfunctional families
that "problems in the family stay in the family." You are NOT disloyal to your family if you request needed help.
5. Make plans for your future. Even though you are discouraged at times, be determined that you will not go down the same
road of addiction.
6. Be aware that even after you are grown and have left home, these experiences can continue to affect your life and that
professional counseling can help you sort things out and have a better life.
Q. How do I relax when parents are fighting?
A. I know from experience it isn't easy. It's the problem a young person has in "When Mommy and Daddy Fight," a story
included on the "Stories" page on this site. See the "Help for Kids" page for titles of helpful nonfiction books (which can
be found on Amazon.com) and recently added ideas that have helped some young people with this problem. Best wishes.