Tag Archives: Autism

He Ain’t Heavy…

This post originally appeared on The Jaunty Quills , but I thought it was good enough to post here too.

As a writer I love getting emails from readers. Who doesn’t?!  It really is one of the unexpected pleasures of the job.  But what was even more unexpected was the subject of so many of the emails that I have received this year. His name is Walter, and he is a character in my first book, Dangerous Curves Ahead. A lot of readers have really connected to him. And that surprised me. Walter is not my hero, or some other hot guy in the book. He’s my heroine’s father. A sixty year old college professor/ scientist with a vast knowledge of useless information and an awesome collection of ties.  Walter also has Asperger’s. If you don’t know what Asperger’s Syndrome is, it’s a part of the Autism Spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties with social interactions.  I’ve gotten so many emails from women who have someone like Walter in their lives.

The question I get most from them is how could you have written Walter so accurately?

The answer is simple. I can write Walter so accurately because I have a Walter in my life and his name is Jason.  Unlike Walter, Jason is no brainy science guy. He’s just my big brother who loves chocolate cake, bouncy balls and visiting Disney World. Jason has a more severe form of Autism than Walter. He’ll never live alone or drive a car. He’ll probably never have a family of his own, but that doesn’t mean his life is empty.

It’s hard to explain what it was like to grow up with an older sibling that isn’t “normal”. It’s different experience than a parent raising child with a disability. I didn’t go through the grieving process. I didn’t have to put in all the work that my parents did to make sure my brother had a full and happy life. I was simply born into a world that built so much around Jason. It’s a nice world but, as a sibling it was hard to know my place at times. I had no brotherly guidance, no one to scare boys away, none of the typical big brother experiences that my friends had. Instead of my brother going first through the world, my parents looked to me for all the major milestones. I was the first to read and write and navigate social pressures. I was the first to drive a car and go off to college. And I wanted to do everything so well because I knew Jason couldn’t.

It wasn’t easy having a brother who covers his ears when things get too loud, and talks to himself, and spends so much time staring off into space. It’s was annoying constantly apologizing to people when he bumped into them because he has no awareness of his body. And it was annoying that the only thing he ever eats when we go anywhere is a hamburger. As a kid the only thing you want to do is fit in, be like everyone else. But it was hard for me be like everyone else when my brother is like no one else I know.

I think I once said to him, “If you’re going to be Autistic, why can’t you be cool like Rainman and count cards?”

To which my father replied, “I know. You could at least help me pay off this mortgage.”

Some people might be horrified at that exchange, but that’s the way it is in my family. Yes. He’s different. And maybe he won’t do all the things I got to do, but he’s NOT to be felt sorry for. He’s not to be treated less than. We joke and tease because that is what our family does. That’s how we show love. Autism is a huge part of who Jason is but Autism is not all he is.

He’s the oldest of five kids and he knows it. He doesn’t let us boss him around, and if we try to he says, “Go ahead with your own life. Leave me alone!”  (Which I didn’t realize that he got from a Billy Joel song till I was older. How awesome is that?)

He’s a pretty smooth liar. He once called me the B word. (I probably deserved it.) And when I asked him to repeat himself he said, “I said pitch. Pitch the ball.” (No, he didn’t.)

Jason is also incredibly sweet. He likes to squeeze my nose to show me affection. He makes sure I don’t go more than three weeks without visiting him and when I see him he always tells me I’m beautiful.

I love him. Probably a little more than I love my other brothers and I’m protective of him. Because he is different, because so many people just don’t understand him, I go out of my way to make sure no one takes advantage of him.  It’s not a position a lot of little sisters find themselves in, but I don’t mind because I know if he could, he would do the same thing for me.

So, I may not have had the big brother experience that most people have had but, having a brother who is different has shaped who I am. He’s made me more patient, more understanding and more open than I would have been if I didn’t know him.

Plus he helped me write Walter . And Walter is a pretty cool dude.

So what about you? Do you have a special relationship with one of your siblings?

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Some Stuff You Never Knew

Casey Wyatt awarded me with the Sisterhood of World Blogger Award. So here’s 7 things you probably don’t know about me.

1. My oldest brother is Autistic and probably one of the sweetest people on the planet. He’s the only person in the world I would get into a fight for. I almost knocked a girl’s teeth out when I was sixteen for pointing and laughing at him. As for my other brothers feel free to pick on them all you want.

2. I don’t like eggs. I find them gross. It’s the texture. On occasion I’ll eat egg salad or maybe a deviled egg. Heck, I might even eat a one egg omelette if there is enough cheese and meat and veggies to overpower the egg taste but as a rule I dislike them greatly. Oh and flan makes me want to yak as well.

3. I’m extremely claustrophobic. Long plane rides freak me out for this reason. All those people trapped in an aluminum can with NO WAY OUT. Last year my friend offered to drug me on our flight home from Florida. I was in the middle seat. THE MIDDLE SEAT and we were stuck on the runway for an hour.

4. I car dance. My mother hates it when I do because it usually involves me taking my hands off the wheel and fist pumping like I’m a cast member of the Jersey Shore.

5.I like sushi. I’m not really into the raw stuff. But I love eel. My friends, however, do not. In fact they won’t even come with me to eat sushi.(BAD FRIENDS) Not even california rolls which is sushi -lite. I also am dying to try Indian food too but again my friends don’t want to. If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll pretty much try anything once. Except bugs. I won’t eat a bug. EVER. I once almost drank a bee that landed in my soda can. Shudder. I don’t want to think about it.

6. I’m dying to go to the Sound of Music sing-along. I know all the words and come on who doesn’t sing along when they see that movie. It takes place every year in NYC. I missed this year’s. Anybody want to join me next year?

7.  I sleep with TV on which is odd because I’m a light sleeper. But I need the noise to lull me to sleep.

I’m supposed to pass this on to 7 other bloggers but I don’t know that many other bloggers so I’m going to pass it on to 7 people I want to learn more about.

1. The Rock AKA Dwayne Johnson. I would like to get to know this man a whole lot better. If you see him please tell him I love him.

2. Adele. She and I are best friends in my head. I would love to go shopping with her and then bitch about men over drinks. After that we could finish the night with some karaoke.

3. Paula Deen. I love her. I wish she was my grandma.

4. Angelina Jolie. Just because I want to know if she really takes herself as seriously as seems to.

5.Graham Norton. He’s a British talk show host. You can find his show on BBC America. I think he is one of the funniest people on the planet.

6. Oprah. I want to know if she misses her daily talk show. I do. I’m not digging her network that much.

7. Madonna. Doesn’t she know that she looks a little crazy now? Keep your clothes on, honey. If my mom can’t strip on stage neither can you.

Your turn! Who are some of the people you would like to know more about?

So What’s Your Book About?

Last weekend was the first time I saw any of my extended family since the news I was going to be published came out. I knew in the back of my mind they would be curious about it. But I pushed those thoughts away hoping they would all enjoy the free alcohol too much to ask. I was wrong.

I’m not one to talk about my writing to people who aren’t writers. Because, frankly, they just don’t get it. In fact I was hesitant to start calling myself a writer unitl recently.Different people have different definitions of what WRITER means. For me it means being able to show what’ve I got to the world and get paid for it. But I digress. When my mother’s friend asked me about my road to publication I was fine. It was a fairly easy question to answer. Query letter→ Agent→ Contract. But then came the dreaded question….

What’s your book about? I’ve never been able to answer this question smoothly. When my father asked I actually said I DON’T KNOW.

“What do you mean you don’t know? You wrote it. Didn’t you?”

Of course I had written the book. It is something I labored over for five months. The characters are people I grew to love. So why couldn’t I share their story?

I’ve never pitched a book before even though I have lorded over the pitch sessions for two years at my local conference. I’m still amazed at how people do it. A few minutes to condense months of hard work into a few lines. I’m not suggesting that other people shouldn’t do if they find the thought terrifying. They should go for it. I just knew that I couldn’t. If I couldn’t eloquently tell my mother what it was about then I had no hope with an agent or editor. And thankfully I didn’t have to.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever get out pitching my book. The publishing process is full of pitches. Most importantly to the reader. I know I have to get better at this. My family party was my first chance. It was horribly pathetic. My first attempt went something like this.

“Um… It’s about a lawyer who um, quits her jobs, dumps her boyfriend and opens up a boutique and starts a blog.”

GAG! Even I wouldn’t buy that book. And while that generally is what the book is about there is so much more to it. It’s about body image. And the complicated relationships between sisters. It’s about being adopted and feeling like an outsider. It’s about self-worth and confidence and friendship and trust. And about learning to love yourself while falling in love. Throw in a father with Asperger’s and a hippie feminist man hating mother and a hunky cop and you’ve got yourself a book. Oh and did I mention it was funny. Or at least I think so. And it’s called FAT BOTTOM GIRL. At least for now. The publisher might want to change it.

Can you slap that on the back of a book? Probably not. But it’s the best I can do for now. I’m working on it. I promise.

And if anybody is remotely interested here are the first few lines from the book.

Big Fat Fattie and Other Words for Fat

Plus Sized

Zaftig

Big

Overweight

Plump

Chubby

Portly

Fleshy

Curvy

Chunky

Heavy

Rubenesque

 

“Ellison? Is that you, honey?”

 Not today. Please not today. Ellis Garret shut her eyes and prayed hard as she stood in line at Hot Lava Java. Really, really hard. Maybe if she appeased the right god she would be spared the torture that was Mrs. Agatha Toomey.

Jesus? Buddha? Zeus? 

“Ellison? Yoo hoo!”

Are you there God? It’s me, Ellis. Can’t a girl get a miracle here?

“Ellis!”

Apparently not.

All she really wanted was a cookie and not just any cookie, but one of those super big Black and White cookies with the yummy icing and the oh-so-soft cake-like bottom. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be eating delicious giant cookies. It was only Tuesday. Cookies—any and all junk food were off-limits today. She was supposed to be good on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and everyday that didn’t start with a Sat or a Sun.  Thou shall not eat high-calorie snacks on weekdays.   

“Yes, Mrs. Toomey. It is me,” Ellis said, plastering a smile on her face that she hoped looked genuine. She turned to face the annoyingly slender woman holding a cup of green tea. Is that you? Mrs. Toomey asked the question as if she didn’t know. Well, duh. Ellis wasn’t one of those girls who was easy to miss.

 “I’m a little surprised to see you. What are you doing here?” Mrs. Toomey looked Ellis up and down with her judgmental eyes, seeming to know already why Ellis was there. Fat girls shouldn’t eat cookies.

Today I’m seeking advice. Help me to understand how to pitch my book. How to make it sound so great that people can’t help but to buy it. How do you do it? Like pitching? Hate pitching? Avoid it like the plague? Any and all comments are welcome.