Word Clouds & Mental Health

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Whether or not you or a loved one struggles with a mental health problem it is important to understand them. To understand their impact on individuals, families and communities.

Because my son has OCD I had first hand knowledge about OCD and it’s impact on him and our family. That is what lead me to write Mr. Worry: A story about OCD. And that lead to I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette syndrome.  Through my books I’ve been able to interact with individuals and families with these disorders.

This summer I was honored to be asked to participate in the International OCD Foundation’s virtual summer camp for kids. I was amazed! They create a wonderful virtual camp for kids from all over the world. They were able to listen to speakers and interact with each other and amazing volunteers.

My part was small. I read Mr. Worry and then took questions. I was awed by the questions and insight these elementary age kids had about themselves and OCD. While I didn’t get to see any, my activity was for them to make word clouds about themselves because it is important to realize that you are more than your disorder.

Try making a word cloud. Think about words that tell about you. Or make one about feelings you have, people in your life, things you’d like to do.

A Rewrite for the Illustrator

This month I’m looking at how authors think about illustrations as they write. I CAN’T STOP: A STORY ABOUT TOURETTE SYNDROME leans more toward the illustrated story side of the spectrum. You could read the text and know what is happening without the pictures. But the pictures help bring a challenging subject to younger readers.

I am not an illustrator. So, I look forward to the sketches to see how an illustrator “sees” my story. For this book the illustrator, Meryl Treatner used models for her illustrations. When I received the sketches there were many things I liked, but I felt that some of the children looked older.20210615_144252 As written the final pages of the book took place during recess. The text was:

One day at recess, Nathan and Josh saw some kids whispering and laughing. “Those kids better stop.” Josh was mad.

               “This is a funny tic.” Nathan laughed. “I call it ‘the chicken’.”

               Josh smiled. “It does look like a chicken, but they shouldn’t make fun of you.”

               “They don’t bother me,” Nathan said, getting in line for the tornado slide. “Not with a friend like you.”

The final page showed Nathan going down the slide. The text:

               Nathan sat at the top of the slide. “Look out below!” He closed his eyes and pushed off. He was a marble rolling down the slide, heading for the bowl. He knew that the tics were part of him, but they wouldn’t always get in the way.

               “Watch out, tics,” he thought. “You don’t stand a chance.”

The children who were making fun of Nathan looked too old to be in elementary school. The editor did not want to ask the illustrator to redo those illustrations as she would have to pay new models, so I was asked to rewrite the ending.20210615_144243

               One day on the way to the soccer field, Nathan and Josh saw some kids whispering and laughing. Josh was mad. “Those kids better stop,” he said.

              “This is a funny tic.” Nathan laughed. “I call it ‘the chicken’.”

               Josh smiled. “It does look like a chicken, but they shouldn’t make fun of you.”

               “They don’t bother me,” Nathan said. “Not with a friend like you.”

The final spread showed Nathan kicking a soccer ball.

During the game, Nathan took a shot and watched the ball fly into the net. As the kids cheered, he grinned.

               He knew that the tics were part of him, but they wouldn’t always get in the way. Watch out, tics, he thought. You’re not the only moves I can make!

At first I wasn’t happy that I was going to do a rewrite, but making a book is a collaborative effort. So  I did a minor rewrite to accommodate the illustrator, and once I did, I decided it made for a stronger ending anyway. What do you think?

How do you feel about self-promotion?

When I started writing for children I naively thought if I write it the readers will come. But in today’s world there are so many things competing for our time and our children’s time that self-promotion is necessary for survival as an author.

Self-promotion makes me uncomfortable. For me it feels like selling. To sell something you are saying my thing deserves your attention and money over someone else’s thing. But what if the other thing is better? I wouldn’t want to steer you wrong😉. That’s why I couldn’t sell Amway eons ago, but instead watched as friends made a fortune! And I wasn’t very good at encouraging my kids to sell stuff for school fundraisers.

When I started writing for children I naively thought if I write it the readers will come. But in today’s world there are so many things competing for our time and our children’s time that self-promotion is necessary for survival as an author. And so authors seek followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites. We are pushing our books and our expertise, hoping to connect with readers, writers, publishers, teachers, bloggers… We both support and compete with each other. I find it much easier to say something wonderful about a fellow author’s book than my own. I’d rather review someone else’s book than ask for someone to review mine.

BUT my books are worth promoting. They do offer something to readers, parents, teachers.

So here it goes! (although I am going to let the reviews speak for me!)

“I have a son 9 years old diagnosed with OCD 6 months ago. We have had a terrible time to get him to even go to therapy much less open up and participate. He has had much embarrassment and shame. I got him this book and at first he would not let me read it to him. Finally after much thought he decided to go for it. After reading this book he totally opened up to me and we talked for over a hour about his OCD. He said for the first time he didn’t feel alone. He read this book 6 times the first day and even slept with it. He couldn’t quit talking about how it is the best book he ever read. We were able to use this little boys struggles and compare them to my sons. It was like the first time that someone actually understood what he was going through. I was hesitant to buy it because it seemed to be for younger kids, but I sure am glad now!!”

“Reading this book for the first time with my son, was like reading his own story. We are fresh on this path of understanding, and for us, it is important he knows he is not alone. This book made me realize just how much he does that is not under his control. He also recognized himself in the story. Very good first step.”

“AND It changed my life. I might have my husband read this to me before bed. If I had this as a kid I probably would have turned out normal.”

“My son has PANDAS, which is an autoimmune response to strep throat. When he acquires strep he present OCD symptoms. Our lives were hell for 3 months until we bought this book. Mr. Worry helped my son overcome his compulsions and obsessions. I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who has a child with OCD or anxiety issues.”

This book is a must for anyone who has or knows of a child with Tourette’s Syndrome. My 8 yr old son, who has Tourette’s, brought in the book to his 2nd grade class. His teacher read it aloud and then the class asked my son questions. The book went a long way in helping overcome the social obstacles that a child with Tourette’s will surely face, and clearly explains that some behaviors are truely out of the child’s control and why. I would recommend this book highly for children, parents and teachers alike!

“We love this book. It has helped my son to relate to a character in a book and realize that he isn’t the only one who has tics. It’s also helped his brothers to stop teasing him and get so aggravated when his tics become annoying.”

“I am a social worker as well as a mother of a child just diagnosed with Tourette’s. This book was wonderful! My son has been trying to understand what is going on with him and this book was very useful. It explains Tourette’s to the child as well as the adult. One thing I loved about the book is it shows the boy in the story having new tics. This allows for readers to understand that tics change as well as showing many types of tics. One example was the boy in the story began to spit, a tic my son has and gets made fun of for. My son’s face lit up and he felt less “weird”. My son and I are going to do a presentation at his summer camp so others understand why he does what he does, I will be including this book.”

“Youngsters will enjoy this tale because Grace’s kid-sized sass does not erode their family’s underlying strengths. Actually, caregiver trainers or parenting instructors can use this title to launch discussion on how active listening and flexible parameters underscore accountability in a kid-friendly way.”

“We enjoyed this book for many reasons! We read it to our grandchildren and they had a lot of questions which was exactly why you read great books. We had great discussions about why children may want to run away, getting mad, and communication being the key to not always getting your way! Also, the art work was spectacular!”

“What a charming book! I absolutely love the chat between the girl and her dad. He listens attentively to her, validates her feelings, and encourages her. Adding the yoga poses throughout the book is a major bonus. Thanks to the authors for incorporating yoga in an accessible and fun way. A gem of a book for young children!”

“I can see a variety of purposes for using The Day I Ran Away in the classroom, beyond just enjoying the book. Helping kids handle angry feelings is a good first logical choice. Everyone has moments when they’d just like to run away from the person or situation that is making them mad. Teaching how to write dialogue is another possible teaching point.  The Day I Ran Away is a great example of crafting a backstory, two sides of a physical space, and passage of time.”

“This book was a game changer for my foster son who had night terrors. Going to sleep was daunting and scary every night. We struggled for months before we found this book. After reading this book he was able to make a plan for when he woke up scared. He memorized the words and was able to help himself calm down before bedtime. Holly Niner writes such great books with the emotional health of kids in mind. I am so thankful that we found this book!”

“Super cute book and I love that a fellow speech language pathologist wrote it! Beautiful illustrations with an engaging story! Great for language lessons!”

“Lovely story that teaches how to approach the unknown with a spirit of problem solving & thoughtfulness instead of fear.”

 “LOVE this book and so do my grandkids. The story has so many things that kids love in literature. A very cute and smart mole, silly haunting monsters, repetition and a lot of humor. In addition, it has great problem solving and predicting components that teachers will love. Great addition to any teachers or children’s library.”

“This book is a great one to get students thinking about problem solving when things aren’t going well among classmates. How can you keep everyone happy when you are all so different and you all like different things? And if you are a parent who wants a new bedtime read, No More Noisy Nights certainly lends itself to that… put qualms about noises that go bump in the night to bed with the friends in this book.”

Now ONE more thing that makes me uncomfortable!

If you’ve read any of my books I’d be grateful if you found the time to write a review. Reviews do help new readers find their way to my books!

Picture books & issues

Picture books are a wonderful resource to explain or begin discussions about difficult subjects. Last week’s post was about the personal experience my family had with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that lead to the book, Mr. Worry: A story about OCD.  In writing, Mr. Worry, I hoped it would be a resource for families and schools. It is rewarding when I hear from a family and they tell me that upon reading the book, their child was relieved to know they were not the only one or that they read the book to a classroom and their child’s peers are now more understanding.

I cant stopI hear similar stories about I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette Syndrome.  Tourette syndrome is another disorder that is not well understood and often, poorly portrayed in the media. Children with Tourette Syndrome are not intentionally making sounds or movements. When I talk with students about Tourette’s, I ask them if they’ve ever had a mosquito bite. Of course, all the hands go up! Mosquito bites itch. I ask them what happens when they try NOT to scratch it? That’s right, eventually you have to scratch it. That is Tourette’s. Just because a child doesn’t always have tics, doesn’t mean they are doing them intentionally. They have to do them.

I received an email from a gentleman that had Tourette Syndrome, but was not diagnosed until, as an adult, he read my picture book. He recognized himself in it and sought a diagnosis. He wonders how his life might have been if he’d had the help as a child.

At times children are frustrating to parents and teachers, but sometimes we need to step back, remove the emotions and look objectively for what might be the cause of their behavior. They deserve this because we are the adults and they were entrusted to our care.

Build a library of books that can be used to start discussion and build empathy for others. You’ll find many publisher’s lists include wonderful picture books about issues children may deal with. Here’s a link to the line of books at Albert Whitman-Issues .

Tourette Association of America

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: