This interview was published in the blog The Writer’s Life.
Welcome to The Writer’s Life! Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process. Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning? When did you come up with the idea to write your book?
My family and I have vacationed on Sanibel, an island off the Gulf Coast of Florida, for more than twenty years. Five years ago, we decided to take a kayaking trip in Tarpon Bay. The guide would occasionally call out to our group of twelve to take a break, and we paddlers would huddle together in our kayaks and listen to a mixture of history, fun facts and environmental insights of the bay. On one such break, against a background of red mangroves, he explained the ecological importance of the tangled trees. While I gazed at the trees before me, I listened to the guide talk about the destruction of the mangrove forests by developers and all the ways the trees contribute to a healthy ecosystem. It was then that the idea of a tiny critter
who saves the red mangroves popped into my mind. When our vacation ended and we arrived home, I transcribed some notes I had made and started to research the red mangrove habitat. When I discovered that most of the characters I had created for my story did not live in the red mangrove habitat, I researched further and found that salt marshes are usually sandwiched between freshwater marshes and red mangrove forests. I simply moved my characters to a different environment, and their new habitat would provide the proper setting for Elanora, a northern chipmunk who is transported to a salt marsh in southwest Florida.
Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?
My first book, From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Go: My Love Affair With ABA and How Being a “Bad Mom” Helped My Daughter With Autism Succeed, is a combination biography and autobiography. It chronicles my daughter’s early symptoms of what would later become the label of “autism,” my
decision to create and implement a home behavioral program, and her many successes as she learned how to learn. While writing the book, I was finally able to reconcile myself to the fact that not only did I make plenty of mistakes in the 1990s when my daughter and I began our journey through the autism maze, but she and I accomplished so much more than I realized. When the book was finished, I was shocked at how many of my recollections had been previously suppressed. And when it was finally published—when I realized that everyone would know what I know: that my daughter is accomplished, smart and a delight—I was surprised at my profound feeling of elation in what she achieved. I held in my hand a summation of most of my daughter’s life,
and it was at once satisfying and distressing. Satisfying because I believed I had successfully captured her innate courage and distressing because I asked myself once again whether I could have done more for her. In the end, the book was my catharsis, and I hope that parents of children with autism find our journey enlightening.
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
Absolutely! My first attempt to find an illustrator for Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery did not work out as I felt the final product failed to capture the essence of Elanora and the other characters. I was lucky to find Lori Taylor, a talented Michigan illustrator, and her cover and character sketches brought the book to life.
Next up: Part 2