I just completed my 20th year as an educator. I teach 9th grade English in a small rural district in East Texas. I have a real connection with kids who don’t quite fit in; I have a very empathetic heart, and I’m always open to listen to those kids who, it’s pretty clear, not many others in their lives are listening to.
In addition to teaching, I am also a professional writer. I write primarily contemporary Young Adult fiction—“problem novels” for teens—but I know that adults read my books as well. A lot of therapists and “helping people” use my books with their clients, too. I write authentic, gritty fiction with a heart—I tell the truth without looking over my shoulder, and I do so, I suppose, because I spent so many years not being able to speak the truth. More than anything, I want the work I do to inspire hope and the belief that working on recovering from trauma is worth it, even when it is very hard, and I guarantee, there are times it will be hard.
I drew on my experiences as a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse to write my first 3 books, The Patience Trilogy. I actually wrote them over the course of the six years I was in therapy, and the plotline very much follows my own shaky steps through the recovery process, even though the books are fiction about a 15 year old girl just beginning to deal with her trauma. Writing the books was, at first, a “therapeutic assignment.”
I had been sharing poetry and essays with the clinical psychologist who was treating me, and he suggested that I try writing a novel. After four months of trying to pull myself out of my own head enough to see the recovery experience through someone else’s eyes, I asked myself, “What if I had gotten out of my house when I was 14, instead of remaining in it until I married? What if it happened to someone else?”
Doing that—getting out of my own head—was the ONLY means I had to stop spinning on one question: WHY? WHY was I sexually abused as a child, and WHY does my mother not want to deal with it?
My first book—that therapeutic assignment—was Courage in Patience, and it is the first book in The Patience Trilogy. I modeled the main character, Ashley, after myself as a broken child, and her stepmom, Beverly, is very much like my “teacher” self. Ashley’s therapist, Dr. Matt, is patterned closely on my (now-former) therapist, Dr. Matt Jaremko.
Many years after I completed therapy, the very same Dr. Matt Jaremko and I co-authored a book about trauma recovery, called Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt- Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD. It’s as if my journey came full circle, as I penned a book with the very person who guided me to recovery, and the fictional storyline we use to teach about trauma recovery includes the characters of Dr. Matt and Ashley (she’s aged to 19) from The Patience Trilogy.
In addition to PTSD, I also have an eating disorder—Binge Eating Disorder (BED)—and, in an effort to address a relapse that lasted a few years—and the shame I felt at regaining about 75 pounds of a 100 pound weight loss when I first entered therapy, I wrote a book called Big Fat Disaster about a very overweight teen girl who suffers from BED. She wants more than anything to be loved and accepted the way she is. This book is on the Spirit of Texas-High School Reading List, and it received a starred review from Kirkus.
I am very proud of my writing career; I never would have become a professional writer—at least I don’t think I would write the sorts of books I do, engineered to provide hope and reach out to others so they know they are not alone—had I not entered recovery to deal with the absolute river of shit that my childhood was. I am a very happy person, and I’m really glad I didn’t act on the suicidal feelings that grabbed on and held tight for a while when I was in the “dark days” of therapy.
Connect with me on twitter and my website.