As many of you are already aware, I(Lillian) love to bring in other writers onto this blog to share their thoughts on greening the industry, writing consciously and in support of literacy - among other things. And today I have the pleasure of announcing our guest - Annie Eskeldson, author of Ashi's Gift. This married mother of two also has a degree in Biotechnology and also studied Chemistry. Annie's Autistic daughter brought challenges, yet also brought an opportunity to Annie to share her story and experiences, helping others in a similar position.
"I knew the day she was born that there was something different about her, I didn't know at the time that it was Autism," Annie explains, "but I knew something about her was definitely not typical. By the age of about 16 months she was diagnosed with Autism. We were lucky we had a pediatrician experienced in this area. We have also been blessed that I have always been able to stay home with her. Since I had known something was not right in the beginning, I had begun to work with Ashi in special ways and learned to pay very close attention to her behaviors, her characteristics, her mannerisms, and in this way began to learn about her needs and wants and later of course, her gifts. My children's book, Ashi's Gift is a short narrative of this journey, but it is told through the eyes of Ashi - beginning about the age of 2." Find out more about this author at: http://www.authorannie.com/
Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in writing? A: I have provided about 50,000 hours worth of therapy and homeschooling for our autistic daughter, Ashli-Meghan. We had very bad experiences with nearly every so called "professional" and so called "therapist" in our area. We left those "experts" behind and have
happily moved forward without them. My daughter has worked so hard, she has come so far and she is my inspiration for writing. One other inspiration was that we couldn't find hardly any children's books about Autism. Now my book is in our Public Library!
Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?
A: My only goal with my writing is that my book will land into the lap of a mother or father who is in desperate need of hope and healing. My books are unique in that they provide an autistic character, Ashi, who an autistic child can relate to. Also, as Ashi reveals the feelings of her Mommy, she provides great comfort to the reader as they read the book to their child. It is to inspire hope, healing, a chance to laugh when they know others are going through the same struggle. It is to give strength to go one more day. Also, very subtle therapy hints can be picked up on.
Q: Can you tell us what editors typically look for in a query letter or project proposal?
A: I am not an editor; however, I received several responses from my query letters I sent to publishers. I think the reason is because it was obvious my writing came from a place that is real, a situation that is tough, and is highly charged with emotion for both the writer and the reader. My story also is not just a story about our experience. It is one that any family with a child on the Autism Spectrum, or PDD spectrum can relate to.
Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
A: I am a homeschooler. My daughter, while autistic, is exceptionally bright. We homeschool because, and this is very important, we do not want her in public school, medicated and in the resource room. My daughter can learn just as any child her own age, and is actually very advanced, but she cannot function in a typical classroom. She completed the 2nd grade at age 6. The very best classroom in the world can be the worst place for an autistic person. I address these issues in my 2nd book, Ashi- In a Class all by Myself, to be released in the Spring. In addition to homeschooling 6 - 8 hours/day, my husband and I own a donut shop for which I do all the accounting. We also have a baby who is 11 months at this time. And of course, I write.
Q: What gave you the idea for this book?
A: I had considered writing about our challenges with Autism some time ago. As you can see from the above question, I am generally pressed for time. However, one morning when my son was about 4 months old and had gotten me up at 3 am to nurse, I just felt something come over my heart that said, in my mind, "Get that book written!" I began that very morning. Today, it is 7 months later and I have a published book, I have my second book just being finished, and a third is in the wings.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your non-fiction books?
A: My biggest challenge and another reason for waiting so long is because I cannot draw. I am extremely analytical and just cannot draw a picture to save my life. After researching, I found that illustrators would do that part for me - duh! But I didn't realize it at the time. Just by chance, my Mom put me in touch with Susan Sader, a young lady who goes to her church. Susan is a fabulous artist gifted in realism. To put the icing on the cake, Susan has 2 autistic brothers. So when I explain to her what I need in my pictures: the facial expressions, the hand movements, the behaviors etc. she completely understands in a way that no other artist would be able to because of her experience with her brothers. To date, she and I have not yet met; but, looking at her drawings and my writing, I don't think anyone would guess that. It is a match made in Heaven. And there is no doubt that it has always been intended for me to go through this struggle in order to turn back and help others.