Welcome Jolene, let's jump right in with our interview
How did your writing journey start?
Writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. For years, I assumed everybody liked it, too. I couldn’t figure out why people assigned writing tasks to me. I was constantly appointed secretary of committees I was on, asked to write curriculum at school, and asked to write plays for church. Until I realized my ability to write was a gift, I thought the other people around me were lazy!
I started writing intentionally when my kids were young. My father was in a nursing home, his mind and body ravaged by a long struggle with multiple sclerosis. I wanted my kids to know more about Dad, so I started writing stories about growing up with him. People read the stories and started suggesting I try to publish them. I finally went to a writing conference, hoping an editor would say the stories weren’t publication quality, so people would quit bugging me. Instead, the editor said I should try to get them published.
The book about Dad still hasn’t been published, and maybe it never will be. But writing it served several important purposes. The book showed Dad to my children in a new light. Writing that book made me take writing seriously for the first time. And the discussion with the editor I led to the publication of Different Dream Parenting: A Practical Guide to Raising a Child with Special Needs (Discovery House Publishers, 2011)
What was the inspiration (motivation) behind the book? (Why did you write the book?)
Our son was born in 1982 with a life-threatening birth defect. He was life-flighted to a hospital 750 miles away and had surgery before he was a day old. Over the next 5 years he had 7 more surgeries. I had so many questions about why God allowed this to happen, but couldn’t find books to answer them. Over the next twenty years, even after the surgeries and medical procedures that corrected our son’s condition were over, my search for parenting resources yielded scant results. Eventually, I sensed God nudging me to come alongside young parents by writing a book to answer their questions.
What would be your number 1 piece of advice for any parent go through a medical situation with their child, whether it be a chronic condition, a syndrome, cancer, or something else?
I advise them to step back and keep things in perspective. The situation you are in may not what you expected, but just because it's different doesn't mean it is inherently wrong or bad. It is different and will require an adjustment period, a great deal of education, and learning to become an effective advocate, but the situation can be positive. You can and will adjust to the different dream of your child's life. It is the life your child has been given and the life your child knows. Your attitude will greatly influence your child's perception of that life. If your attitude is one of thankfulness, hope, and peace, your child's will be much more like that too. If you're having trouble maintaining a good attitude, look for parents of kids with special needs who have hope and perseverance. Create a support network to encourage and embrace you. No way should you be Lone Ranger parents!
What do you hope this book accomplishes?
First, I hope it answers the faith questions parents wrestle with when their children are suffering. And I hope it helps them realize they are not alone. There are many families like theirs in the world, and many people ready to support and encourage them.
Who (or what) is your greatest encourager when you write and why?
My husband Hiram is my number one encourager. He’s a nurse and frequently sees families who need resources and support. I’m not sure which one of us was more excited when we realized it was financially feasible for me to leave teaching to write and speak full time.
A time management workshop I created for parents of kids with special needs has proven to be very popular. I’ll be presenting it at the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (IFAPA) annual conference (http://www.ifapa.org/training/ifapa_conference.asp) in March of 2013 and again at the 2013 Accessibility Conference (http://mbctysons.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=95386) in McLean, Virginia in April.
Any tips for upcoming authors?
First, take yourself seriously as an author. Call yourself a writer even if the words stick in your throat at first. Until you consider yourself an author, no one else will. Second, learn about your craft. Read books about writing. Join a writers’ critique group, online or in person. Third, attend conferences that offer writing workshops. You’ll learn more about writing and make connections with other writers and professionals in the field. Fourth, dedicate some time each day for writing and just do it. Finally, continually ask God for guidance. His answers may come slower than you like, but they will come. While you wait, keep writing. Because the waiting time isn’t waiting at all. It’s preparation for opportunities God has in store for you. Use your waiting time well.
How can readers connect with you?
They can visit www.DifferentDream.com where I blog about special needs parenting every weekday. Or visit www.jolenephilo.com where I blog about life along our little gravel road, share recipes, and whatever else comes to mind.
Other places to find me are:
What genre is your book?
It’s a non-fiction parenting book.