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Posts tagged with: autism

Thank you, Sabrina

In this year’s Rita Awards ceremony, the audience watched clips of authors thanking fellow authors who had played an important role in their writing careers.

We’re all in this together.

When RWA called for submissions for this feature, I sent in an entry–to thank Sabrina Jeffries for all she’s meant to me. We were selected to participate, but our clip ended on the proverbial cutting room floor. Since I missed my chance to thank her at the RITAs, I’ll express my gratitude here today.

Sabrina and I write in completely different subgenres, so it might seem like we have little in common. But in our private lives, we share a strong bond. We’re both the mothers of autistic adults. Whenever we talk, the conversation inevitably turns to our kids. How are they doing? How are we managing? Autism is a spectrum of disorders, and parents of autistics have a spectrum of experiences. Yet we can always connect over the joys and challenges of being autism moms.

It’s inevitable that Sabrina and I write neuro-diverse characters into our books. My latest release has an autistic main character–and Natalie’s autism is a key part of the story.  It was Sabrina’s willingness to support me that led to my submission to We’re all in this together. 

Here is my entry to RWA:

I met Sabrina Jeffries through my local RWA chapter. She’s gracious to us all, but her generosity became personal for me last summer.

Sabrina and I were on the same flight to Orlando in July 2017 for RWA Nationals. As we shared a ride to the Dolphin Resort, we become engrossed in a conversation about something we have in common besides writing. We’re both autism moms.

Sabrina Jeffries and Julia Day

Sabrina Jeffries and Julia Day at RWA Conference – Orlando

For the entire drive, we caught up on each other’s children. Sabrina’s son—who is severely autistic—is thriving in his group home. My daughter, who has Asperger’s, was about to move to Connecticut for graduate school.

I mentioned to Sabrina that my next YA book would have a main character with Asperger’s. She offered to help, any way she could. We both laughed about that, since I write sweet YA contemporaries and she writes sexy adult historicals.

A month later, though, I contacted her. Would she read the manuscript and give me a cover quote? Her response was immediate. YES! And not only did she give me a lovely quote, she was willing to promote the book.

After Fade to Us released, there were some who questioned my “credentials” for writing it. I had been reluctant to talk openly about having a child on the autism spectrum, believing it’s my daughter’s story to tell. Sabrina was there for me again with these wise words to consider.

SJ: “Being an autism mom is part of your life, too. Can you feel comfortable sharing that your inspiration came from the experiences of your daughter and family? Can you publicly celebrate the success your daughter has had?

It was the perfect advice. With my daughter’s blessing, I’ve become more open on social media about being an autism mom.

Sabrina didn’t forget her offer to promote. She’s been amazing about getting the word out about the book on twitter, Facebook, and goodreads.

Her actions are exactly what RWA embodies for the community of romance authors. Sabrina has given generously to me through her words, encouragement, and support as I released a story so close to my heart. I can’t thank her enough.

 

Do you have an author who has helped your career? If so, join us in the comments and thank him or her.

Do you have a child or family member with differences? However you manage those struggles, please know that the writing community has your back. We are there for you, so find us in whatever way is comfortable for you! 

 

Julia Day  is an author of young adult fiction, including Fade to Us, a sweet YA contemporary with an autistic main character. She also writes YA magical realism as Elizabeth Langston. (Her book I WISH is free through August 9.)

Autism and writing what you know

I give a writing craft workshop called Write What Your Family Knows. The concept is partly about research, partly about a writer’s life. By mining my family’s interests or careers, I have instant access to a (mostly) inexhaustible source of expert information.

Do I want an alpha hero? Little brother is an Army retiree. Do I need a teen character to have a fun hobby? Just say “anime” to my baby girl, and I’m her captive audience for hours. These conversations are two-for-one; I get fabulous research and an opportunity to involve my family in my writing.

But here comes the tricky part. There is an ethical dilemma when using what my friends or family knows. Have they revealed something they might later regret if it appears in a book? Might readers assume that a character’s fictional belief or behavior belongs to one of my loved ones?

Which brings me to…autism.

Writing Fearless: A Christmas Tale

I admit it. I am guilty of studying tropes and trends, because I know that readers like them and my publisher expects them. And also, being familiar with tropes and trends is helpful.

But early this year, when my publisher asked me to write yet another Christmas novella for the 2015 holiday season, I was less than enthused. Honestly, if I had to write another:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5f/The_Gift_of_the_Magi.jpg

 

 

a) Retelling of the Gift of the Magi (I did that in my novella I’ll be Home for Christmas),

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.sheeplaughs.com/scrooge/scrooge_stewartDVD.jpg

 

 

b) Take on Scrooge (I did that in my book Last Chance Christmas), or

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://thegirlbehindthereddoor.com/assets_c/2014/12/nativity-thumb-500x321-3681.jpg

 

c) Baby in a barn story (I did that in my novella Silent Night)

 

 

 

I. Would. Scream.

(Did I mention that the publisher made this suggestion in January, right after I was thoroughly Christmass-ed-out?)

http://www.dialogtech.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/grinch-thumb-525x325-23201.jpg

I expressed these negative feelings to my husband on our daily commute. I railed against Dickens for having written the quintessential Christmas Novella of all times. I ranted about Scrooge — about how he is such a powerful icon of the season that he’s everywhere, in every story you read.  I mean, even It’s a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas have Scrooge archetypes messing up Christmas for everyone.

“Not gonna do it,” I said.

Then my husband said, “What if you wrote a story where Tiny Tim was all grown up?”

And I said, “Okay, if Tiny Tim is a grown up, who’s Scrooge? A little kid?”

And he said nothing.

Did I mention that he’s a whiz at knowing when to shut up?

The next morning, this idea of turning Cindy Lou Who into a tiny-sized Grinch was still rattling around in my head. So I Googled the words, “Kids who hate Christmas.”

I got the usual listing of posts about greedy kids, even greedier grownups, and people ungraciously mouthing off about Christmas gifts they hated. But once I got past all that crap I stumbled across several heartbreaking and utterly inspiring articles and blog posts about and by parents whose children either have autism or who are on the Asperger’s spectrum.

For many of those special kids, Christmas is a nightmare. For their parents, Christmas can be a difficult obstacle course that requires love and patience and even more love.

A story began to form in my mind, but I didn’t think I was courageous enough to write it. The courageous ones are the parents of these special kids, and I didn’t feel as if I had any authority to write about them.

I put the story idea aside. I worked on a dozen other ideas all of which had some well-worn Christmas trope that failed to inspire. I dithered. I procrastinated. I complained.

And then I sent an email to my BFF and critique buddy, Caroline Bradley, who just happens to be the mom of a child on the Asperger’s spectrum. I didn’t contact Caroline to seek information about Asperger’s– not at first. At first it was just to have a conversation about whether I was brave enough to take on this topic.

Bless her, Caroline was more than enthusiastic. She told me that if the story had captured my heart, then it shouldn’t matter whether I was qualified to write it (that’s what research is for) or whether it was the usual trope (sometimes you have to stop listening to the marketing people). In short, she told me to be brave, write fearless, and tell a good story – words I hope to continue to live by.

I started by asking a lot of questions of a lot of parents and siblings of autistic kids.  I did my research. And then something magical happened, when I had finally stopped telling myself that this story was beyond me, I discovered that it was actually inside me.

The story arrived fully formed in a matter of days and needed almost no revision.

This experience has convinced me that when I dig deep, stretch my boundaries, and tell a story from deep inside my heart, the writing is never a problem. It’s when I back away from the hard stuff – that’s when the writing becomes impossible.

midnight clear coverA Midnight Clear, a Christmas story of a single mom with a special needs child goes on sale today. Here’s an excerpt.

So, tell me, have you ever had a story present itself that you thought you weren’t brave enough to write? Did you write it? What happened? Was it hard or did it turn out to be easy?

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