Where am I Sleeping Tonight? (A Story of Divorce), Boulden Publishing, 2008 is a book for elementary students about shared custody. Mark and his younger brother Evan have confusing living arrangements, ever since their parents’ divorce. This shared custody agreement, two days at one house then two days at the other, leaves them feeling confused, frustrated, and even a little angry with their parents for getting a divorce. But with time, effort, and the assistance of Mark’s parents and teacher, Mark starts to come to terms with his parents’ divorce, and decides he wants to be someone his younger brother and others can count on.
Tell us something about yourself.
I taught fourth grade for 35 years. I was one of those dedicated passionate teachers who thought about teaching 24/7. I retired in June of 2009. When I started writing 9 years ago, it was wonderful to be able to share my journey of becoming an author as well as the writing process with my classes. Now it is the writing that allows me to continue communicating with children.
What inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for this story came through my experience as a teacher.
Over the years, more and more of my students experienced the pain of divorce. This touched me. But there was one boy who had a schedule like the main character, and I had to write this story. I think I also wanted to get across the fact, as I did in my classroom, that you always want to be someone who can be counted on, that no matter what goes on in your life, you need to be responsible. I believe that responsible and caring citizens can make the world a better place.
How did you choose the title?
I had two other possible titles before this: If It’s Wednesday, It’s Dad’s Day, and Shared Custody for Us. Oh, I am so glad I didn’t stick with either of them! I don’t remember exactly how Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? came to me, but to make sure perspective buyers knew it was about divorce, I added A Story of Divorce to the title. Very often I wake up from sleep with sentences, titles, ideas. I keep note paper and a pen by my bed so I make sure not to forget my thoughts, and then I can get back to sleep!
So the title might have to come to me floating in on a dream.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I didn’t know! I worked with children on their writing for years. I had writing workshops and conferenced with each child individually to give them feedback on their work. Well, when I started writing, I certainly had empathy for my students. Getting feedback, at first, was not easy. Writing just came to me one day on the beach when I was fifty years old. I needed to write. I went to the car and got post-its and a pen and started my first story. Until then, I had always found writing a difficult skill. It is difficult…lots of skills are needed to do it well.
I stepped into the life of a writer, joining SCBWI, becoming passionate about the craft, reading many books on writing and joining critique groups. I stuck to my new path and never looked back.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really. I worked in an environment with a tight schedule for 35 years. My life was led by the ringing of a bell and multiple subjects needing to be fit into a six hour day. I am not ready to repeat that obligatory scheduling. I want to write when it’s good for me. But I’m pretty self-disciplined, so I don’t worry about not getting work done.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
I often use the names of former students and people in my life. In this book, I used the child’s name who inspired the story, but as the younger brother. I’ve also looked up names on the web, for example, when I needed Spanish names for something I was working on.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learned patience, which is not always easy for me! Everything seemed to take so long, from getting the contract in the mail to the publisher finding the illustrator. I like to take care of everything that comes my way immediately. So this has been quite the lesson for me. And to stay in the world of publishing, you need patience, so it’s been an important lesson.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I love to read books that are beautifully written. I appreciate the craft. I read both adult books and children’s books. I try to take out from the library every picture book that wins awards so that I can see both what is valued in the industry and what’s being done in the publishing world. There are too many amazing authors out there to list only a few.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m working on lots of books! I usually work on a few at a time and a add new one to my “working on” folder as a new idea sprouts in my brain. Sometimes it is hard to keep on top of the approximately forty stories that I’m working on. I tend to write from the heart of a teacher and deal with issues I feel need to be dealt with. I’ve written about a gay brother coming out, a gender identity issue, fear of flying, the holocaust, and some other difficult issues…and these are all for a picture book format. Bibliotherapy is a wonderful tool that can open up topics to children that they might not otherwise discuss.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Children in elementary school, elementary school counselors, and parents, who are in a shared custody situation, would want to read this with their children.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?