Regarding the subject of grief and loss and intrigued by how author Jewel Sample handled the issue of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in her new book, Flying Hugs and Kisses, I contacted Sample and requested an interview.
Here’s what Jewel Sample had to say:
Q: Hello Jewel. Congratulations on your recent success and publication of Flying Hugs and Kisses. Can you share where the idea for your story came target=”_new” from?
The idea of writing a story about grief and loss and the issues surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) came out of a need of my grandchildren. When our infant grandson, Brennen succumbed to SIDS it was difficult for my grandchildren to understand his death because SIDS is a medical mystery. SIDS remains a medical mystery today. It is neither predictable nor preventable. Doctors are not sure what causes a baby’s body to shut down. As a result of not having a reason for Brennen’s death, it was very difficult to explain. Our family found there are many mixed messages about SIDS. It was a time of ambivalence. In order to move forward in our grief process, my grandchildren needed accurate information. They also needed help in creating meaningful memories about Brennen’s life.
Q: How long did it take you to write “Flying Hugs and Kisses?”
“Flying Hugs and Kisses” took about 18 months to bring it from the rough draft notes to the published manuscript. How long before it was published. From the time I submitted my manuscript until it was ready for readers was about seven or eight months. Five of those months involved working with my illustrator, Lori Pandy Kiplinger.
Q: Please explain what the National SIDS/Infant Death Resource Center is and how did it happen that “Flying Hugs and Kisses” was selected as a resource for grieving parents?
…It is my understanding the resource center was birthed out of our legislators’ identification of SIDS as a cause worthy of attention through the passing of several pieces of legislation, including the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Act of 1974. This legislative act placed the responsibility of SIDS research upon the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and designated the establishment of counseling programs through the Office of Maternal and Child Health-now the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Later the Public Law 96-142 enacted in 1979, “established a national clearinghouse for the dissemination of information on SIDS to health care professionals, community service personnel, SIDS parents and the general public.” (http://www.sidscenter.org).
Today, the NSIDRC is “dedicated to educating parents, families, caregivers and professionals on the latest information on SIDS research, reducing the risk of SIDS and providing support resources for grief and bereavement.” I knew NSIDRC was an entity that valued up to date and accurate information, so I sent them a query letter about reviewing my book in hopes it would become part of their resource list. It is my understanding that part of the book review process is meeting the agency’s scope of SIDS and infant death concerns. For example, is the topic related to SIDS or infant death issues, does the book disseminate correct information, and is it beneficial to the public. If the book meets these criteria, then it will most likely be added as a resource.
Q: What is your secret for success?
The one thing I found that helped “Flying Hugs and Kisses” become a success is the fact that it meets an individual need to help children understand grief and loss in a sensitive and compassionate way. The level of success the book reaches is up to God. I have just let go and excitingly watch for God do His work with the book. It truly has been an amazing experience.
Q: What inspires you?
Wow, this is a hard question. I would say children are my main inspiration when writing children’s stories.
Q: What motivates you?
For “Flying Hugs and Kisses” my motivation was to please a grandchild who wanted their own story to read at their house. They wanted a story to help them feel comforted while experiencing their own grief and loss of their baby Brennen.
Another thing that motivates me to write is my need for accurate information, strong family values in story characters, and learning about new things. I want my stories to have some characters that show characteristics of integrity, kindness, and respect for others, but most of all a sense of resilience. I must also say, my husband, my friend and strong supporter of my writing efforts is the real wind beneath my wings. Without his encouragement, I doubt if I would have taken my writing efforts to the level they are today.
Q: Do you have a family?
Yes, my husband Chuck and I will celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary in December, 2007.
We have one pet. Precious is a sheltie and cocker mix, who has been in the family for about 15 years now.
Chuck and I share three sons, two daughter-in-loves (don’t care for the “in-law” word), and thirteen grandchildren. The grandchildren range in age from seventeen years through 22 months.
Q: Are they supportive of your writing?
At first, I did not tell anyone besides Chuck, about my story until I had finished the final draft. Then I shared it with my older grandchildren because they were interested in learning about how to write a story and became my best critics. Publishing a story was a dream to me. When the rest of the family and friends heard I was going to be published, they cheered me on!
Q: What is your typical writing day?
Each morning I pour my self a cup of motivation, called very weak coffee. Then read a passage from the Bible. Sometimes I write a paragraph about what I gleaned from that passage or about what I discovered about living a Christian life. Then off to my computer to first look at emails, unless I have set a deadline for myself, then to writing or editing what I am working on. I try to put in at least six hours a day to writing. I do not always get to do that because my priorities are first family related activities then writing. I just won’t say no to Gramma play dates and family fun with Chuck.
Q: Do you believe in Writer’s block?
Yes, I believe in writer’s block, but I tend to call it more resistance to move forward with the story. If so, how do you get through it? To me writing “Flying Hugs and Kisses” was difficult because of the nature of my topic was about the finality of loss and death. It was tough writing about personal grief and loss. I got through each brain block by taking breaks and telling myself I was not in a hurry to get to the last page. I had to be patient with my own process as a new writer. When I found myself resisting to continue the story process, I would take time to figure out why it had become difficult. Sometimes it was just the overwhelming sense of the grief I felt for my adult children, my grandchildren and myself. Other times it was due to inexperience as a writer and struggling to put the sentence structure in simple understandable form. I also did not intend to submit my story for publication; it was just a story for my grandchildren to enjoy. Therefore, I did not feel the pressure of a deadline or trying to make it perfect.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to write? Do you write with notebook and pen? Or do you type directly to a computer?
More often than not, I find myself writing in my computer room, clacking away at the key board. Before computers, I wrote wherever I happened to be, like in the car on a trip or sitting in my backyard under a shade tree. I still do that from time to time if I have thoughts about something or an experience that I do not want to forget about, I jot it down in my little notebook. But I hate trying to decipher my handwriting and transcribing, so my computer has become my best buddy these days.
Q: Do you have a home office?
Our family computer room is my office, which I share with my husband, Chuck who answers more to Grandpa these days. My writing surroundings are shelves of books, small mounds of paper that need to be filed and comfort items such as my children’s framed art work from their childhood days, antique dolls, antique toy cars, and a couple of clocks (one works and the other clock is an antique that never gets wound).
Q: Do you have a favorite writing tip or some writerly advice you wish to share with other writers?
As I was contemplating this question and the huge mission that God had placed before me, I remembered my favorite Bible scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV) “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” To see my hope for successful book sales come to fruition I had to learn a big lesson.
One of the big lessons I have learned as a new author, is once your book is published no matter who publishes it, there are some things publishers cannot do by themselves. An author must learn to promote their book with their name, talking about their personal experiences, and their signature, in order for their book to have a decent chance in the business world. Promoting one’s book does not have to be expensive; however, there is no such thing as free marketing or book promoting.
Thank you, Jewel Sample, for your time. And best wishes on future writing